By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr
January 27, 2021
Darnell Tyler will have a big impact on the Long Branch High School boys varsity basketball team. The 6’9” Tyler is the new head coach for the Green Wave, and was the center on the team when they won back-to-back NJSIAA state titles in 1997 and 1988. They were also the 1997 Shore Conference Tournament champs.
After he graduated from Long Branch Tyler attended Manhattan College where he was a dominant force in the paint. He also played several seasons in the semi-professional Jersey Shore Basketball League for Sterns Trailer.
Tyler is a security officers at the high school and has been involved in the basketball program as a Freshman and JV coach. Last year the Green Wave varsity finished 1-21, one of the worst records in the history of Long Branch basketball. Jason Corley, Athletic Administrator for LB, said it was time for a change and Tyler was the man to rebuild the team.
“I make sure all the players are accountable for their actions,” said Tyler. He noted that discipline had been lacking, and players in the past were not always thinking team ball. “I work a lot on fundamentals, but I also need them to enjoy the game. So our practices always end with a fun activity. But if they don’t follow the rules, there will be consequences. That is why we have a few guys not playing in the opener against Red Bank Catholic.”
Only two of the starters from last year’s 1-21 team return for the Green Wave. Josiah Evans, who was the leading scorer and Mason Alexander. Seeing some action last year were Morgan Priester and Christian Rodriguez. One thing missing from the team is height. Long Branch has tremendous speed and great athletes, but lacks the big guy in the middle.
Thursday of last week, the Green Wave hosted the Caseys of Red Bank Catholic, which also had a rocky season last year. RBC was upset by a Monmouth Regional squad that had only four wins, lost two players to injuries and then bounced back to make the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time in 26 years and they upset Christian Brothers Academy and finished strong with a 17-10 overall record.
One thing was evident from the opening tipoff with the Green Wave, the Caseys had height and were able to take advantage of that, outscoring Long Branch 16-4 in the first quarter. Cyril Arvanitis, 6’2” guard, had five points, Alex Bauman, 6’4” guard, had six points, C.J. Ruoff, 6’3” forward, had two points, Gioacchino Panzini also had two points and 6’3” Zach Linkletter had a foul shot.
Morgan Priester, 5’10” point guard for Long Branch hit a deep three-point bucket and his twin brother Mehki Priester made one of two foul shots. That was it for Long Branch in the opening quarter.
Long Branch played great in the second quarter where they outscored the Caseys 12-6. Leading the Wave was 6’2” Mason Alexander, a senior forward, and Mekhi Priester both with four points. Morgan Priester and Rodriguez both had a basket.
Only two Red Bank Catholic players found the rim in the second quarter. Ruoff had a three-point bucket and made both his foul shots. Arvanitis made one of two foul shots. The Caseys took a 22-16 lead into the break.
Bauman came on strong in the third quarter for the Caseys. He scored nine of his game-high 24 to start the second half. In that quarter RBC bested LB 20-10. Ruoff had five, Maximilian Croke had three, and Arvanitis scored two.
Only two Green Wave players scored in the third quarter. Morgan Priester had seven of his game high 16 to start the second half. Rodriguez also hit a deep ball for three points.
Long Branch played their best quarter of ball to end the game. They outscored RBC 16-13 in the fourth quarter. Rodriguez had five of his game-high 10, Bruce Gooding, 6’ sophomore scored five, Morgan Priester had four, while Mekhi Priester and Alexander finished with one point.
In the fourth quarter Bauman scored nine, Croke and Arvanitis each had two points. It was enough to give the Caseys the 54-38 victory.
Two days later, both school played each other again, this time on the Caseys home court. The outcome was the same, except Red Bank Catholic won 83-35.
Click on the photo for the caption
Additional photos can be found at www.Facebook.com/TheLinkSports