OCEAN CITY – Charles Solomon caught the ball in the high post Saturday afternoon.
The St. Augustine Prep senior spun down the lane and soared for a layup. The crowd left out a collective “ahh!” as the ball dropped through the net.
Solomon didn’t have too many moments like that last season, but now the 6-foot-5 forward seems poised to emerge as one of the Cape-Atlantic League’s top players.
Solomon scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and had four assists as the Hermits beat Toms River North 70-63 in an Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend game at Ocean City High School.
“It’s always fun,” Solomon said, “to be up in the air.”
Tipoff Weekend annually features several of South Jersey’s top teams. St. Augustine is ranked No. 5 in The Press Elite 11. Toms River North reached the S.J. Group IV semifinals last season and is a perennial Ocean County power.
Solomon was a solid player and more of an inside force last season. The Monroe Township resident seemed much quicker Saturday. Solomon drove around taller Toms River North players and beat them to rebounds and loose balls.
“Charles was the difference (Saturday),” St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said. “He was just too quick for them. He was springy.”
In the third quarter, Solomon stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a two-handed dunk that again drew roars from the crowd.
Solomon said he called 2017 St. Augustine graduate Justyn Mutts for advice on how to jump higher. Mutts, now a sophomore at the University of Delaware, is known for his leaping ability. Mutts gave Solomon some plyometrics exercises to do. After two weeks, Solomon said, he began to feel a difference.
“It felt great,” Solomon said of the crowd’s reaction. “The difference was all hard work. We (graduated) some of our skill players. I knew I had a lot of weight on my shoulders, carrying this great program around.”
St. Augustine methodically pulled away from Toms River North. The Hermits then survived some anxious moments in the fourth quarter. The Mariners cut the lead to six points with 90 seconds left but could get no closer. Hermits Andrew Delaney and Kevin Foreman each sank two free throws in the final minute to clinch the victory.
Delaney, a senior transfer from Blair Academy in Warren County, scored 16 and grabbed five rebounds in his St. Augustine debut. His sophomore brother, Matt, scored 11 and had six rebounds. Shooting guard Cole Vanderslice contributed 10 points and had five assists for the Hermits.
“Traditionally, my teams have not been great out of the gate,” Rodio said. “We have to get better, but we’ll be OK as time progresses. Charles was the difference. If we can get the other stuff going, we’re going to be OK.”
Toms River North; 21 11 15 16 — 63
St. Augustine; 23 18 16 13 – 70
TRN – Baker 10, Spence 8, Vansprang 6, Duncsak 11, Hallenback 15, Schlosser 4, Marsh 7, Kazanowsky 2
SA – Kendrick 9, Solomon 22, Vanderslice 10, A. Delaney 16, M. Delaney 11, Foreman 2
3-pointers – TRN. Duncsak (3), Hallenback (2), Baker; SA. Vanderslice (2), A. Delaney, Kendrick
Records – TRN 0-1; St. Augustine 1-0