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Mar 14, 2023

Fair Haven Wins Mid-Monmouth Basketball League Championship

By Tim Morris

Fair Haven captured the Mid Monmouth Basketball League championship for the second straight year.

Once was not enough for the Fair Haven eighth grade boys’ basketball team. Last year, the young cagers made history, becoming the first team in 40 years to win a Mid-Monmouth Basketball League championship. With everyone from the championship team returning for 2022-23, repeating was all that mattered, and they achieved that goal, defeating No. 1-seeded Marlboro, 56-44, in the championship game.

“They are the most determined group you’ll ever see,” said Head Coach Chris Grier. “They were going to find a way to win. They are a resilient bunch.”

Unlike the smooth ride last year when Fair Haven went through the youth league season undefeated (16-0), this championship run was not without its perilous moments.

In the semifinals, Fair Haven trailed Neptune 28-22 with just 1:40 left in the game. The went on to outscore Neptune 7-0 from then on, winning the game on a gutsy three-point shot at the buzzer. Getting the ball back with 18 seconds and trailing 28-26, Greer called for two plays: one of which was a three pointer. When the plays were run, the three-pointer was the open shot, and it went down, giving Fair Haven a thrilling 29-28 win.

“Neptune was long and athletic,” Grier explained. “We couldn’t get anything inside. The three-pointer was the best option.”

Another challenge awaited Fair Haven in the final. They were up against a Marlboro team that had thrashed them, 69-35, in the season opener. Fair Haven was eager for a rematch because this time, things were going to be different.

“We stressed defense and taking away their running game,” said Grier. “We were going to play at our pace. Marlboro wanted it to be a game in which they scored 60 to 70 points, and we wanted it to be lower scoring. We wanted to break the press with five guys and play half-court man-to-man defense. Every kid embraced their role. They are the best.”

Forcing Marlboro to play at its pace paid off as the top-seeded Marlboro grew frustrated, and it allowed Fair Haven to pull away to a double-digit win in the fourth quarter. Marlboro finished the season 10-2.

Grier said that through the back-to-back championship runs, Fair Haven’s greatest strength was players accepting the team concept and everyone competing for each other.

“They played together,” Grier simply said.

The Fair Haven eighth grade champions are Ben Gredell, Ben Padula, Brody Mauro, Casey Moore, Cole Hogan, Cole Spoonier, Danny Sullivan, Henry Schirick, Jack Kingery, Jack Crossan, Keegan Kearns and Will Grier.

Dennis Sullivan was the assistant coach and Rocco Ruscigno the manager.