By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
William Wishart is the head coach of the Shore Regional girls’ varsity basketball team and the Chief Operating Officer of the 5th Annual Blue Devil Holiday Invitational basketball tournament. It is a four-day tournament that has two brackets, blue and white with six teams in each. Each division is independent of each other and will have individual championships.
Shore was the top ranked team in the Blue Bracket, which also featured Hightstown, Long Branch, Hamilton West, Freehold Borough and Raritan. Thursday, December 28, Shore played Freehold Boro in the semifinals of that bracket.
The Devils entered the game with a 2-2 overall record and are in the B Central division of the Shore Conference. While the Patriots, who play in the A Coastal division, were 1-4 overall.
The first eight minutes were an exciting game as both teams were playing fast aggressive basketball. When the first quarter ended, both the Devils and Patriots were deadlocked at 11. Only two players scored in those opening minutes for the Blue Devils. Junior guard Reese Fiore, who has only one speed and that is fast, had seven points. Conley Smolokoff, one of only two seniors on the team and co-captain, had four points.
During the second quarter the hot hands for Freehold Borough went ice cold, as they only scored two points. Shore also had a dip in offensive production, as they added just nine points, all of which were scored by Sophomore guard Ava Coyle. Going into the halftime break, Shore had a 20-13 lead.
The third quarter was tight with Shore edging Freehold Borough 14-10. This time, the Blue Devils spread out the points as four players scored. Coyle led the way with six, Kimi Sayson, junior transfer from Long Branch, had four, and Grace Ascolese and Smolokoff each had two.
Freehold Borough was applying full court pressure on the Blue Devils for most of the game forcing six. Wishart had his squad using half court pressure, which resulted in 20 turnovers against the Patriots.
Fourth quarter had Freehold Borough getting their highest offensive production outscoring Shore 23-19. Leading the Blue Devils in scoring was Coyle with 16 points. She also had three assists and three steals.
Getting a double-double for Shore Regional was Fiore, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. She also had two assists, one block, and three steals. Fiore is not the biggest player on the court, but she sure plays like it. Unfortunately, that type of aggression can lead to some personal fouls, and during the 53-46 win over Freehold Borough, Fiore fouled out of the game.
Smolokoff was close to a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds. She had four steals and two assists in the victory. Sayson finished with seven points and four assists, while Ascolese, Angela Christopher and Antonette Russo each had a basket.
The Devils will be playing Hightstown on Saturday, December 30, at 2:00 p.m. in the Blue Bracket final at Shore Regional. The White Bracket final will feature Ocean Township taking on Howell at 4:00 p.m.
Visit www.Facebook.com/TheLinkSports for additional photos of this and many other games.