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Mar 11, 2022

Fair Haven Boys Capture Mid-Monmouth Basketball Championship

By Tim Morris

Photos courtesy of Thomas Pantaleon. Fair Haven’s seventh grade boys’ basketball won the Mid-Monmouth Championship and finished the season with a perfect 16-0 record.

After knocking on the door for three years, the Fair Haven boys’ seventh grade basketball team kicked it wide open, capturing the Mid-Monmouth Championship this winter. The boys not only made history by winning the youth basketball league title for the first time ever, but they did it in style, marching through the season with a 16-0 record.

“It was a great season with a great group of guys,” said Head Coach Chris Grier. “It was a very talent group of kids. They don’t back down from challenges. They took everyone’s best shot.”

Since forming the team as third graders, Fair Haven has been one of Mid-Monmouth’s best. They lost in the finals as third graders and made it to the semifinals the next two years. Last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the 2021-22 campaign began, the youngsters were ready to take the next step.

“Each player worked hard [over the course of 2020-21] to get to the top of the hill together,” Grier remarked.

With eight of the 11 players on the roster having been with the team from the start, that continuity was one of the keys to the team’s success. Grier made a note to point out that “all 11 were needed” to win the championship. While Fair Haven had talent and experience on its side, the squad had something even more important.

“They bought into the team concept,” Grier explained. “They played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. They care for each other off and on the court.”

The team concept made Fair Haven an unselfish group that put winning above individual stats. It didn’t matter who led the team in scoring from game to game; everyone contributed.

Fair Haven’s experience came in handy in the playoff semifinals when the boys faced their biggest test of the season. They let a big lead against Brielle slip away in the fourth quarter before they rallied back to eke out a 52-50 win.

Grier credited the experience the athletes gained as fifth graders when they were in a similar situation against Marlboro seeing a big lead disappear. This time around, facing a loss of momentum, the players maintained their aggressiveness and attacked the basket, helping them pull out the win.

“That showed how they’ve evolved,” said Grier of the fourth-quarter rally.

There was no need for a rally in the final as Fair Haven polished off its perfect season in style, beating Ocean 59-37.

“They made a big statement,” Grier said of the team’s performance in the championship game.

Throughout its perfect season, Fair Haven outclassed teams on both ends of the floor.

“They played very hard on defense,” noted their head coach.

Fair Haven mixed 1-2-2 pressure with man-to-man, half-court to box-and-one and triangle-and-two, Grier reported. Mixing defenses like that can only work with experience and a commitment by all the players to have each other’s back.

Offensively, Fair Haven was every bit as efficient. To start, with players up front at 6-foot-1, 6-foot-0 and 5-foot-11, they had big presence in the paint. Fair Haven had guards who could dribble penetrate and kick the ball out to an open shooter or set screens to free up shooters. The three-point shot was a big part of the offensive arsenal.

Not one to back down to a challenge as their coach noted, the Fair Haven team is ready to go after another championship next winter.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Pantaleon.

Fair Haven’s championship team roster consisted of the following players in 2021-22: Will Grier, Danny Sullivan, Brody Mauro, Casey Moore, Cole Hogan, Henry Schirick, Ban Padula, Keagan Kearns, Ben Gredell, Cole Spoonire and Jack Kingery. Gredell, Spoonire and Kingery were the three newcomers to the roster while the other eight have all been on the team from its inception. Grier made it a point to remark that the newcomers all bought into the team concept and were important to the team’s success.

Dennis Sullivan was the assistant coach to Grier.