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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Dante Allen, 23, of Asbury Park, rejected the state's plea deal of 15 years in state prison.

    A man accused of attempted murder in an exchange of gunfire with a police officer in Asbury Park that left a young girl with a graze wound rejected a plea deal of 15 years in prison Monday and will instead go to trial.

    Dante Allen, 23, of Asbury Park, faces up to 36 years in a state prison with at least 85 percent of the sentence served before parole eligibility when he heads to trial in August.

    "I have to prove my innocence," Allen told Judge Leslie-Ann Justus in Monmouth County Superior Court. "I'm not guilty of first-degree attempted murder. The thought of hurting anyone never crossed my mind."

    At approximately 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2015, Allen was observed by an Asbury Park police officer in front of a deli having a conversation with another person, authorities said.

    When Allen saw an officer in the area, he immediately said goodbye to his friend, pulled his hood over his head and walked away, according to authorities.

    It appeared as he was walking away that he was "clutching something" on his left side under his sweatshirt, authorities said.

    "While Allen walked, his right hand swung freely but his left hand was clutched to his side," a report by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office noted.

    This led the officer to believe Allen was holding a gun, the report said.

    When the officer stopped Allen and asked him for his identification, he allegedly kept his left hand in his sweatshirt pocket as he took his ID out of his pocket, authorities said. The officer asked Allen to show both hands, but he did not comply, according to authorities.

    The officer then reached his hand toward the pocket and felt a gun, authorities said. Allen swatted the officer's hand away and took off running on Springwood Avenue, according to authorities.

    As Allen ran through a dirt field, he allegedly turned towards the officer and fired his gun at him, authorities said. The officer returned fire, striking Allen in the leg.

    During the exchange of gunfire, a girl who was 8 years old at the time was grazed by a bullet in the forehead as she watched television in her home on Borden Avenue. The girl was taken to a hospital where she was treated. The injuries were not serious.

    Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a statement on Jan. 22, 2016, the bullet that struck the girl came from the officer's gun. A detailed report released by Gramiccioni also cleared the officer of any wrongdoing and concluded his use-of-force was justified. 

    "We have recovered a video recording that clearly indicates Allen was the first one to fire shots at the officer," Gramiccioni said in a news conference on the day the after the shooting.

    He said in his use-of-force report that a witness sitting on her front porch said, "the bad guy shot first and the officer shot back."

    Allen's attorney, Paul Zager, said after Monday's brief hearing that his client "is a nice young man standing by his convictions that he had no intent to hurt the officer."

    Allen told Judge Justus that he thinks a plea deal of eight years with parole eligibility after 85 percent of the sentence is served is fair.

    Along with the 36 years in state prison, Allen is facing an additional five years for violating probation. Prior to the shooting, Allen had pleaded guilty to a heroin possession charge and received a sentencing of one year of probation.

    Justus told Allen the additional five years could run consecutively to any sentence he may receive for the attempted murder and weapons charges.

    The trial is scheduled to start on Aug. 20. 

    After Justus asked Allen one last time if he's rejecting the state's final plea offer, he responded: "I'm just taking a big shot."

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Where do you need to be on the first weekend of hoops season?


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    A breakdown of players to watch in every girls basketball group in 2017-18.


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    Who are the top players in Group 4?

    The boys basketball season gets under way on Friday, Dec. 15.

    In preparation for the 2017-18 season, NJ.com took a look 44 of the top players to watch in Group 4 heading into the 2017-18 season.

    Who do you think will have the biggest impact in Group 4? Let us know in the comments section below.

    Jamal AndersonHightstown, Sr., Guard: Anderson is coming off a season that saw him average 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.2 steals per game. He is heading into the season 112 points away from the 1,000-point mark.

    Mattias Arrindell, Piscataway, Sr., Guard: Piscataway is a good shooting team and Arrindell is no exception to that. He hit 15 3-pointers last season and finished second on the team with 11.5 points per game. He could tear things up alongside fellow senior Jordan Davidson this season.

    Derek Astarita, Sayreville, Guard, Sr.: The captain and team-leader will be huge for Sayreville this season. On a team that lost a lot of key scorers to graduation, Astarita will need to build on his 4.1 point per game total if Sayreville is to return to the sectional semifinals.

    Tyrek Battle-Holley, Dickinson, Sr., Guard: Dickinson fell to Columbia in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 tournament last season and is hoping Battle-Holley can led them out of the first round this season. He averaged 21.1 points, hitting 49 3-pointers in the process, and grabbed 8.2 rebounds per game last year.

    Greg Billups, Freehold Township, Jr., Forward: Billups is the only player back from last year's Freehold Township squad, which battled to the Central Jersey, Group 4 final. He averaged 6.2 points per game last season.

    Naseim Brantley, Howell, Sr., Guard: Howell may be moving from Central, Group 4 to South, Group 4, but will be in good shape with Brantley back. He led Howell with 16.8 points per game last season and will head a strong group of returners.

    Ji'Ayir Brown, Trenton, Sr., Guard: Trenton fell to Freehold Township in the Central Jersey, Group 4 quarterfinals and will hope to advance even further this season. Brown led Trenton with 12.6 points and 4 steals per game. He also had 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season.

    Hassan CeesayNewark East Side, Sr., Guard: Ceesay helped key East Side's run to the North 2, Group 4 final. He averaged 11.5 points per game and will be a crucial force alongside Shamir Johnson.

    Jaylen Colon, Paterson Kennedy, Sr., Guard: Colon led Paterson Kennedy with 16.3 points per game and knocked down 29 3-pointers last season. He has great ball control and even better footwork. Defensively, he is armed with active hands and will likely be matched against every squad's top guard. He can pull up, drive the lane or pass to open shooters on the perimeter.

    Kadian Dawkins, Rancocas Valley, Sr., Guard: Dawkins will be the head of a very strong Rancocas Valley team looking to make some noise. He was the key offensively last season with 12.2 points per game last season.

    Nazim Derry, Atlantic City, Sr., Guard: Derry will lead a pretty strong Atlantic City squad into this season. Derry is the team's top scoring threat back after putting in 10.4 points per game last season.

    Dylan Deveney, Shawnee, Sr., Forward: Deveney was an intricate piece in Shawnee's run to the South Jersey, Group 4 championship and Group 4 semis. Deveney averaged 16.6 points and surpassed the 1,000-point plateau last season.

    Anthony Dicaro, Cherokee, Jr., Guard: Standing at 6-1, Dicaro provides Cherokee with some size at the guard position. He can hit deep threes and uses his great vision to help run the point. DiCaro was Cherokee's leading scorer with 11.1 points per game last season. He helped key Cherokee's run to the South Jersey, Group 4 semis.

    Tommy DrubulisScotch Plains-Fanwood, Sr., Guard: Drubulis heads a Scotch Plains team that returns four of its top six scorers. He led the Raiders with 8.9 points and was second on the team with 34 3-pointers last season.

    Jake Dubois, Southern, Sr., Guard: DuBois is a primary ball handler and Southern’s returning leading scorer. He averaged 15 points per game last year and has 635 career points.

    Stephan Gabriel, Columbia, Sr., Forward: Gabriel keyed Columbia's run to the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals and will hope to take the team even further this season. He led Columbia with 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season.

    Aaron Gao, Bridgewater-Raritan, Sr., Guard: Gao's biggest asset is his deadly pull-up jump shot. He led Bridgewater with 14.8 points per game and sunk 49 3-pointers. Bridgewater returns another strong shooter in fellow senior Sterling White. The duo should give defenses fits this season.

    Danny Gaines, Colts Neck, Sr., Guard: Gaines will be tasked with leading Colts Neck's offense a season after averaging 17 points per game last season.

    Ross Gang, Millburn, Sr., Guard: Millburn was stunned by Union in the North 2, Group 4 first round last season. Gang will try to erase that early exit this season. He led Millburn with 16.9 points per game last season.

    Carl Gibson, Cherry Hill East, Jr., Guard: After graduating its top three scorers, Cherry Hill East will look to Gibson to lead the offense this year. He will likely serve as the team's point guard and has the ability to shoot as well. He averaged 7.7 points per game last season.

    Mario Haklaj, Randolph, Sr., Forward: Randolph graduated a lot of key pieces from last year's sectional semifinal team and will look to Haklaj to build on a 5.6 point per game season. He was a solid player inside with good range and a jump shot to match. He is a good defender that clogs the lane with his active hands.

    Sam Johnson, Hunterdon Central, Sr., Guard: Johnson averaged nine points per game last season, but will need to improve on that total if he hopes to lead Central back to the a sectional title with Tucker Richardson graduated.

    Tavon Jones, Linden, Sr., Guard: Jones has been one of the top guards in New Jersey for quite some time and his senior season could be his best yet. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as he led Linden to the Group 4 championship.

    Dylan Kaufman, Marlboro, Sr., Forward: Kaufman averaged 12.1 points and six rebounds per game. He helped key Marlboro's run to the Shore Conference Tournament final last season.

    Rynell Lawrence, Millville, Jr., Guard: Few sophomores make the impact that Lawrence was able to last season. Millville's offense ran through him and he will be looking to step up even more this year. He averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2 steals per game to lead Millville in all four categories last season.

    Steve LeungMorristown, Sr., Guard: Morristown graduated its top four scorers and will be relying heavily on Leung to pick up the slack of those graduations. He averaged 4.9 points per game last season and is a pretty dangerous threat from 3-point land.

    Chris MannPhillipsburg, Sr., Guard: Standing at 6-6, Mann might seem like he should be a forward, but he has the speed and shot to excel as a shooting guard as well. He averaged 18.3 points per game and hit 17 3-pointers last season.

    DeAndrae McFarlane, Union, Sr., Guard: Union has some big-time replacing to do after losing its top three scorers. That will start with McFarlane. He averaged 6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last season.

    Jared Meyer, Old Bridge, Sr., Guard: With Kyle Parris and Rich Calandrino graduated, Old Bridge will rely on Meyer to lead the offense. He is the team's top returning scorer after averaging 6.4 points per game. He is a solid player inside and will need to continue improving on his play this season.

    Charles Murphy, Montclair, Jr., Forward: Standing at 6-3 and weighing 175 pounds, Murphy provides Montclair with size and strength. He averaged 13.5 points per game and hit 49 3-pointers for the Mounties last season.

    Mike Patterson, Williamstown, Sr., Guard: Patterson has been a three-year starter for Williamstown. He is an explosive scorer and playmaker that averaged 12.4 points per game last season. He needs 291 points to reach the 1,000-point mark.

    Jovany Perdomo, Egg Harbor, Sr: Perdomo is Egg Harbor's top returning scorer after averaging eight points per game last season. He is part of a deep returning group for Egg Harbor.

    Kemari Persol, Woodbridge, Sr., Guard: Persol ran the point for Woodbridge last season and shined behind his great ball handling. He is a ball-moving player that can hit shots on the perimeter. He is a good defender and averaged 8.7 points per game last season. This season, he should be a force alongside Hura Blaine and Curtis Nesbit.

    Holden PetrickToms River North, Sr., Guard: The 5-10, wing guard averaged 10 points per game last season. He was a crucial part in Toms River North’s run to the South Jersey, Group 4 final.

    Dan Pilsbury, Watchung Hills, Sr., Guard: Pilsbury is a great scorer and is coming off a season where he averaged 16 points per game and hit 29 3-pointers. He also pulled down 3.1 rebounds per game last year.

    Ryan Purcell, Middletown South, Sr., Guard: The two-guard has over 600 career points and averaged 17 points per game last season.

    Abdallah Saleh, North Bergen, Jr., Center: North Bergen won 22 games last season and battled to the North 1, Group 4 semifinals. It will look to improve on that success behind Saleh, who averaged 11.1 points per game.

    Joe Sampson, East Brunswick, Sr., Guard: Sampson is hoping to lead East Brunswick back to success in the GMC after averaging 11.2 points per game last season.

    Michael SchretterRidgewood, Sr., Center: Schretter was a huge part in Ridgewood's run to the North 1, Group 4 final last year. He will need to continue to use his 6-7 frame to be a force inside. He averaged 14.2 points per game last season.

    Andrew Sims, Lenape, Sr., Center: Sims broke out last season as he led Lenape to the South Jersey, Group 4 semifinals. Although Lenape lost some key players to graduation, it returns Simms, who led the team with 13.8 points per game.

    Romey TalleyPlainfield, Sr., Guard: Talley averaged 16.1 points per game and was Plainfield's leading scorer. He heads into this year closing in on the 1,000-point mark.

    Atiba Taylor Jr.Hackensack, Sr., Guard: After initially transferring to Patrick School, Taylor Jr. is back at Hackensack. He is as dynamic of a player as they come. Last season he led Hackensack with 19 points, 4.9 assists and 4.6 steals per game. He finished third on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game.

    Paul Woolhouse, North Hunterdon, Sr., Center: Woolhouse is a Carnegie Mellon recruit and is coming off a season that saw him average 9.7 points per game. If North Hunterdon hopes to have success, his play on the glass will be huge.

    Andrew Yoon, Bergen Tech, Sr., Forward: Yoon led Bergen Tech with 14.3 points per game last season. The senior is hoping to build on a solid 2016-17 campaign and propel Bergen Tech out of the first round of states.

    Richard Greco may be reached at rgreco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Richard_V_GrecoLike NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    Mario Figueroa has an extensive criminal history, authorities said

    An Asbury Park man has been convicted of armed robbery for threatening another man with a box cutter and taking his wallet, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday.

    A jury also convicted Mario Figueroa, 40, of weapons offenses, aggravated assault, witness retaliation and witness tampering following a two-week trial Figueroa partly missed after he was removed from the courtroom for frequent outbursts.

    Figueora robbed his victim at Main Street and Sewall Avenue in Asbury Park Oct. 21, 2014. Figueroa, who was spotted by patrolling police running from the scene, was arrested shortly afterwards.

    While he was in custody awaiting trial, Figueroa assaulted a witness to the robbery who had given a statement to police, leaving the witness with permanent eye damage. Figueroa also sent several threatening letters to another witness, authorities said.

    His most recent offenses coupled with his criminal history means Figueroa may face life in prison when he's sentenced. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

    Paul Milo may be reached at pmilo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@PaulMilo2. Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     

     

     


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    The final rankings of the season.

    FINAL FOOTBALL RANKINGS
    The Final 50: NJ.com's 2017 year-end high school football rankings

    GROUP RANKINGS 
    • Non-Public 
    Group 5
    Group 4
    Group 3
    Group 2
    • Group 1

    CONFERENCE RANKINGS 
    Greater Middlesex Conference
     Mid-State 38
    North Jersey Interscholastic Conference
    North Jersey Super Football Conference
    Shore Conference
    West Jersey Football League

    Jeremy Schneider may be reached at jschneider@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Schneider. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    With a new season about to kick off, there are plenty of unanswered questions.


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    A trip to the supermarket - part of growing up in New Jersey.

    I suppose I could write about the history of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Acme (pronounced Ack-a-Mee for many of us) or smaller supermarket chains such as United Service Grocers or National Self-Service Stores.

    But I'd rather write about the sensory experience of going to the supermarket as a child.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    If your mother brought you along for the trip to the supermarket as a child, you might remember the multitude of aromas in the store; the sounds of the mechanical cash register and the squeaky cart with the bad wheel mom always managed to choose. The sight of aisle after aisle of things you'd give anything for her to put in the cart ... and the things you tried to toss out of the cart when she wasn't looking.

    595e5ca499a25.image.jpgHe spent the next three years in his room. 

    If you were fortunate, you made it through childhood without causing a dreaded call for a "cleanup in aisle four."

    Maybe I'm over-embellishing, but I propose that riding in the folding seat of the shopping cart at the supermarket was as good as any amusement park ride.

    Is it the same today? I can't say for sure, but those people I know with young children don't make a weekly trip to the supermarket; they make multiple stops and pick up a few things each time. It isn't the same weekly pilgrimage.

    Here's a gallery of supermarkets from back in the day around New Jersey. And if the store you remember isn't in this gallery, there's a very good chance it's in one of the previous galleries linked to below.

    Vintage photos of supermarkets in N.J.

    A look at vintage food stores in New Jersey

    Vintage photos of supermarkets and food stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. supermarkets

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Get links to all the NJ.com all-star teams, final rankings and more in one easy to find location

    POST-SEASON AWARDS
    Team of the Year
    Coach of the Year
    Defensive Player of the Year
    Overall Player of the Year/Offensive Player of the Year

    ALL-STATE 
    • First Team: Offense | Defense
    • Second Team: Offense | Defense
    • Third Team: Offense | Defense

    ALL GROUP
    • Group 1: Offense | Defense
    • Group 2: Offense | Defense
    • Group 3: Offense | Defense
    • Group 4: Offense | Defense
    • Group 5: Offense | Defense
    • Non-Public: Offense | Defense

    FINAL TEAM RANKINGS
    NJ.com Top 50
     Group rankings: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | NP
     Conference rankings: GMC | Mid-State 38 | NJSFC | NJIC | Shore | WJFL

    CONFERENCE REVIEWS
    GMC
    Mid-State 38
    • NJSFC
    NJIC
    Shore 
    WJFL


    ALL-AREA TEAMS
    • Shore Conference: All-Shore | All-Division
    • Times of Trenton: All-County | All-Area | Prep
    West Jersey Football League: All-Division
    • South Jersey Times: All-Area
    • Bergen County: All-County

    STAT LEADERS 
    Season stat leaders 
    • Season heroes: Single-game leaders

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    The Christmas tree, with make-your-own clam shell ornaments, is an unexpected sight on the beach.

    As you walk along the beach in the wintertime, you expect a few things: a chill in the air from the ocean breeze, a quiet atmosphere, and very little company. But in the Jersey Shore community of Normandy Beach, you'll also find the unexpected: a Christmas tree, with decorate-your-own clam shell ornaments.

    Found at the beach entrance at 2nd Avenue, the tree has been set up each holiday season since 2012, after Superstorm Sandy. Longtime Normandy residents Sue Hofstetter, Kathleen Murray-Nolan, Jack Buzzi, and Rick and Janet Lill set up the tree as a way of saying "We are still here!" according to Murray-Nolan's daughter, Michaela Murray-Nolan.

    "We all rode out the storm in our homes and survived the days after together, and as the tree tradition grows each year, it reminds us of how far we have come," added Michaela.

    And it was also a way to "bring hope and bring the community together after the devastating storm," said Dana Perry, the daughter of Sue Hofstetter.

    Large, colorful lights are strung around the tree, which is topped with two large starfish. Next to the tree, an old Utz pretzel container -- containing permanent markers in 12 different colors and plastic zip ties -- hangs from a wooden post driven into the sand. At the base of the post is a bucket filled with clam shells. At the top of the post, instructions:

    • Get a shell
    • Pens and zip tie are in the jar
    • Do some holiday art!
    • Zip (tie) shell to tree

    Approximately 50 decorated shells have already been placed on the tree, some with messages of "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year." Many simply bear the names of those who have taken a few minutes to help spread holiday cheer. At least two Philly sports fans stopped by, with a "Trust the Process" shell decorated for the Sixers and "Go Birds!" written in green on another. The crew from Acme Piling Company -- working on a nearby home -- decorated a shell with their names, construction equipment and the message "Peace on Earth."

    And while many people enjoy this local tradition, the Christmas tree is appreciated by some for another reason: at night, the lights on the tree become a sort of beacon for local fisherman and others on the beach.

    "It's definitely helpful at night to know where you parked," Spiro Papakonstantinou said with a smile, on his way to the ocean to catch some fish.

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at lnichols@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @photoglori. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Which teams have what it takes to win a state title this season?


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    From the Jersey Shore to Bergen County, these are where people took Uber to the most in 2017.


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    Breaking down New Jersey's top teams entering 2017-18.


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    Mary Beth Chambers is ineligible to coach at St. Rose this season, the NJSIAA said.

    The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association upheld its ruling to ban Mary Beth Chambers from coaching at St. Rose this season when the association's three-person protest committee heard the case on Thursday in Robbinsville.

    Chambers, who was hired in June but also coaches on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit, was in violation of the 365-day rule, which prohibits coaches from having any contact with its high school players outside of the scholastic season.

    "The Protest Committee denied the protest and upheld the rule interpretation that Mrs. Chambers violated the NJSIAA out of season coaching rule and is therefore ineligible," the NJSIAA said in a statement released Thursday. "The school and coach have the right to pursue further legal action if they wish."

    Chambers allegedly violated the rule in April – before she was hired – when she coached a St. Rose player in the non-scholastic season. Coaches are allowed to have contact with their players in the summer months, but not in the spring or fall and new hires still must adhere to the 365-day rule, meaning no contact with any players in the year leading up to the hire.

    "The fact is the protest committee denied the protest," NJSIAA assistant director Larry White said when reached by telephone Thursday.

    The ruling comes down a week after St. Rose contended that the NJSIAA was influenced by outside pressure to change its initial stance after the Belmar school self-reported the violation in October.

    In a letter sent to St. Rose on Oct. 30, the NJSIAA accepted the school's self-imposed corrective action plan "in its entirety" with the inclusion of two undisclosed measures, but did not call for the firing of Chambers, St. Rose president Sr. Kathy Nace said last week.

    White argued that notion Thursday, saying the corrective action plan was agreed upon in that Oct. 30 letter, but not the status of Chambers.

    "The letter in October that talked about the matter being closed was about the corrective action plan," White told NJ Advance Media. "They sent a corrective action plan, it was approved. I sent two more bullets to the corrective action plan. They acknowledged it, they accepted it and once that was sent to me in an email, the corrective action plan matter was closed because we were all on the same page."

    A month later, however, a second letter came from the NJSIAA that mandated St. Rose terminate Chambers as its head coach for violation of the rule.

    The corrective action plan and the NJSIAA's ability to rule on a coach's eligibility after a violation are two separate matters, White said.

    Janine Roth is currently serving as the interim head coach for St. Rose this season. St. Rose, which won the Shore Conference Tournament last season, is expected to be one of N.J.'s top teams this year and will be among the contenders in a deep Non-Public A field.

    Brian Deakyne may be reached at bdeakyne@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianDeakyne. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.


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    The woman was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune following the morning crash

    A Freehold woman was seriously injured Thursday morning when her vehicle struck a deer on Route 33, the New Jersey State Police said.

    The 30-year-old woman was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune from the scene of the 7:45 a.m. crash on a westbound stretch of the highway near mile marker 20, police said.

    The woman's vehicle left the road in the crash. During her rescue and state police investigation, troopers closed westbound lanes of the highway for about 45 minutes in the area.

    The woman was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    A man in a vehicle gave 'gifts' to one of the children, police said

    Police in Howell are looking for a man who talked to two children - and gave them gifts - as they played in front of their home on Pitch Pine Lane in Howell Tuesday afternoon.

    The suspicious, 4:45 p.m. incident is being investigated as a possible child luring, police said.

    A man driving a black, newer model Hyundai Sonata stopped in front of the house and asked the children - ages 11 and 8 - if they wanted Christmas gifts. He handed the 11-year-old several items, including an "Amazon" gift card and coloring book.

    The mother then walked out of the house and her presence caused the driver to speed away, police said. The mother immediately called police but officers could not locate the suspect or vehicle.

    Police have the gifts the man gave the child.

    The man was apparently alone and was described as being about 30 years old with light brown skin. His car is believed to have Delaware license plates, possibly beginning with the letter D, police said.

    Pitch Pine Lane is in a development on the west side of Route 9 off West Farms Road.

    Anyone with information about the incident or the driver is asked to contact Detective Janet Benitez or Detective Nancy Carroll at 732-938-4575 ext. 2885 or 2884 or via email at jbenitez@howellpolice.org and carroll@howellpolice.org

    Anonymous tips can also be submitted through Howell police's tip line, at www.p3tips.com.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    The top teams in the state to start the year.


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    Can anyone threaten Bergen Catholic?


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    These 12 games will be must-see action during the opening weekend of the season.


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    The biggest questions entering the season.


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