St. Rose Makes History: A Two-Year Journey Culminates in First-Ever SCT Title!

St. Rose Makes History: A Two-Year Journey Culminates in First-Ever SCT Title!

St. Rose Makes History: A Two-Year Journey Culminates in First-Ever SCT Title!

It was a two-year odyssey for St. Rose, marked by last season's gut-wrenching losses and sky-high expectations this year. Finally, on Sunday, it all culminated in a glorious 32-minute coronation as the Purple Roses captured their first-ever Boys Shore Conference Tournament title!


Dominating Defense Leads the Way:

Shaking off an initial challenge from defending champion Manasquan, St. Rose cruised to a 48-27 victory at OceanFirst Bank Center, continuing their dominance over local teams this season. The victory wasn't just a trophy; it marked a pivotal moment for a program that rocketed to prominence since the arrival of the Hodge brothers from Belgium in 2022.


Sophomore Jayden Hodge, already coveted by major colleges, led the charge with 19 points, while his brother, Villanova commit Matt Hodge, chipped in 11 points, including a crucial 3-point play that opened the second half with a double-digit lead.


"It means a lot," said Jayden Hodge, reflecting on the emotional journey after last year's semifinal defeat. "We did our best and got the W, and we would like to come back next year and get the win."

Coach Brian Lynch, a three-time SCT champion as a player at CBA, expressed his elation: "So special to come back as a coach and do this... This is what drew me back into coaching in high school, to be a part of it. Our guys went through a lot of adversity last year and learned from it, and now we're walking away with a trophy. It says a lot about our guys and the character of the kids that we have."


Defense Shines Bright:

After a neck-and-neck first quarter, St. Rose began to pull away, with Jayden Hodge igniting the spark with a steal and slam in the second quarter. The lead ballooned to 24-16 by halftime, and by the third quarter, it was a commanding 38-18 gap. The game's defining factor? St. Rose's impenetrable defense. Manasquan managed just one field goal in the entire second and third quarters combined!


Panzini's defensive prowess neutralized Manasquan's sharpshooter Alex Konov, holding him scoreless, while Matt Hodge effectively contained Griffin Linstra, limiting him to only two points in the second half. "Coach always says lock in defensively and you're going to win games," Panzini shared. "It's about a want. You have to want it."


The Road Ahead:

St. Rose's sights are now set on the coveted NJSIAA Non-Public B state title, after last year's heartbreaking finish. They hold the top seed in South Non-Public B and begin their state campaign on Monday, February 26th. Meanwhile, Manasquan, the top seed in Central Group 2 and defending champion, starts their state play on Wednesday against South River.


With two more trophies within reach, Panzini confidently stated, "The goal this year was to win Shore Conference and then our sectional and then states. So now we have two more trophies to grab, and I know with this team we can take it."


This SCT victory marks a monumental achievement for St. Rose, solidifying their status as a force to be reckoned with. With their potent offense and stifling defense, they are poised to make a serious run at the state title and potentially claim the #1 ranking in the state. Go Purple Roses!


- Courtesy of the Asbury Park Press