Local teams gear up for runs at postseason, division titles BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer MIKE JONES Middletown North’s Marc Rosner is defended by Freehold Township’s Gerald Morris during the Lions’ loss in Middletown on Friday. After getting out of the gate at 0-4, the St. John Vianney High School boys basketball team has won four of its last six games and is looking to make a run at the NJSIAA Parochial A playoffs. To get in the Lancers will need to win at least five of the eight games remaining before the Feb. 5 cutoff. Teams must be at or above .500 at the end of play that day to qualify. “Right now we don’t have a large margin for error,” coach David Emery said. “The big thing is that our guys believe they can do what it takes to get in the state playoffs. Attitude is important, and they have a good one.” Emery’s team has been struggling offensively, but the return of junior center Matt Mullery has added points. Mullery, who is recovering from a torn ACL, is still seeing somewhat limited action but has averaged 12 points in his six games. Point guard Pat Dineen is leading the team with a 13-point average, and sophomore forward Eric Johannesen has been a bright spot as well, averaging nine points. Meanwhile, the Gantner brothers, Tim and Tony, have been providing a spark. Tim Gantner is a strong defensive presence, while Tony Gantner, a freshman, has played well in backing up Dineen at the point. “We’ve been playing well of late, but we’ll have to step our offense even more,” Emery said. “We’re 3-0 in games where we have at least three players in double figures in scoring. I’m using that to illustrate the need for balance.” To make the Lancers’ challenge even more difficult, nine of St. John’s next 10 games are on the road, including three this week: yesterday at Raritan, tomorrow in Manasquan and Saturday at St. Rose. “We’ll just have to come out strong and hope for the best,” Emery said. Notes… SJV is just one of three local boys teams that appear to be on the bubble with the state playoff deadline less than three weeks away. Both Holmdel (6-5) and Middletown North (6-5) will need to finish strong over the next couple of weeks in order to secure their spots in the postseason. And with a very strong finish, the Lions could find themselves in the midst of a five-team battle for the A North title. Ocean currently sits atop the division at 7-3 (4-2 in divisional play), coming off its 63-40 win over Ocean on Saturday. But Freehold Township, who beat Middletown North, 55-35, on Saturday is also 4-2 in the division, just one game ahead of Manalapan (3-3) and Howell (3-3). Marlboro (7-4, 2-4) also remains in the mix. Among the local boys teams that are virtually assured of postseason berths are top-ranked Raritan (10-2), who was humbled a bit by state power St. Patrick’s, 69-51, at the Battle of the Boardwalk in Asbury Park on Saturday; second-ranked CBA (11-2), who won its BOTB matchup with Neptune, 59-44; and Mater Dei, who a 8-2 (5-1 in the division), finds itself in a battle with St. Rose for the top spot in Class B Central. Those two teams will face off in Belmar on Feb. 1 in a contest that could well decide the division title. In girls action… Top-ranked St. John Vianney (7-3), Holmdel (7-3) and Middletown South (7-3) all appear to be good bets to be headed to the postseason. From there, however, the picture gets a bit fuzzy. Mater Dei (6-5), Middletown North (4-5) and Keyport (4-6) will all be fighting for their postseason berths over the next few weeks, as the regular season winds down. While North appears out of the A North divisional race, where Howell is running away with their 6-0 mark (10-0 overall), Holmdel finds itself in the driver’s seat for the public schools title in A Central. At 3-2 in the division, the Hornets are behind both SJV and Red Bank Catholic, but tied with Rumson-Fair Haven among public schools. The Hornets, who shocked RBC on Friday with a 40-37 win (led by freshman Kim Fiorentino’s 17-point performance), will travel to Rumson on Tuesday in a game which may go a long way toward deciding the division title.