Last week was the first time the Shore Sports Network Top 10 saw a dramatic change and for the second straight week, there will be a pretty sizable shakeup. Five of the top six teams from a week ago either held or rose a spot in the rankings, so this week’s overhaul comes in the bottom five of the top 10. This week marks the end of the first trip through the division schedule for most of the teams in the Shore Conference, which means the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA Playoff picture will gain a little more clarity with each week and really start to take shape two weeks from now.

While the top three teams in the Shore Conference remain unchanged, the No. 1 team solidified its spot with another big win and rolls into the second half of the season as the favorite to be the No. 1 seed in both the SCT and its NJSIAA sectional bracket.

 

1. Ranney (9-3, 5-0) Last Week: 1

Ranney’s week ended with a lopsided loss to Mount St. Jospeh of Maryland at the Hoophall Classic, but the week was still a good one for the Panthers. A 59-45 win over Mater Dei Prep gave Ranney the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the SCT and the B Central championship, although it did cost them junior Ahmadu Sarnor, who was ejected from the Mater Dei game, for Sunday’s game in Massachusetts. Ranney will be without Sarnor for a game against St. Rose on Tuesday and then get back to full strength Thursday against Point Beach.

Ranney junior Scottie Lewis. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

2. Mater Dei Prep (8-2, 5-1) Last Week: 2

After giving up the first 11 points of the game against Ranney, Mater Dei played the No. 1 team tough the rest of the way and should feel a little better about playing the Panthers the second time around in early February, when they will have the serviced of 6-6 sophomore Jamir Watkins. Watkins will make his Mater Dei debut on Tuesday against Point Beach, who played Mater Dei tough last year.

3. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-1, 4-0) Last Week: 3

The Bulldogs followed up their win over a ranked CBA team with a hard-fought win at ranked Point Beach a week later and did it with senior guard Jack Solano sidelined by a broken orbital bone above his left eye. A pretty loaded schedule is less loaded after the Bulldogs pulled out of a Valerie Fund Showcase game vs. Bergen Catholic, but they will still have a chance to solidify their standing as the Shore’s No. 3 team by continuing the roll through A Central and by beating Red Bank Catholic and Manasquan in non-divisional games.

4. Manasquan (9-0, 5-0) Last Week: 5

The Warriors continue to inch up the rankings as the last unbeaten team in the Shore Conference, this week climbing one more spot after wins over Wall and Middletown North. Manasquan has beaten every team in the division except winless Monmouth, which includes a WOBM win over Middletown South. If A wrist injury knocked sophomore Alex Galvan out of the rotation for several weeks, but other than that, things have gone well for Manasquan.

5. Christian Brothers Academy (5-3, 4-0) Last Week: 6

The Colts let one slip away against Rumson at the Boardwalk Showcase, but redeemed themselves with thrilling wins over Colts Neck and Neptune that gave CBA the early lead in the race for Class A North. It took double overtime to beat the Cougars on the road and a comeback from a 12-point halftime deficit to overcome Neptune, so this CBA team is starting to show the late-game toughness it was looking for to go with the junior talent.

6. Point Pleasant Beach (7-3, 4-1) Last Week: 8

The Garnet Gulls have played well despite missing two seniors that project to be starters once they both return – Mohamed Traore and Chris Pina. Point Beach’s best wins are over Irvington and Middletown North, but the Gulls also have losses against No. 1 Ranney and No. 3 Rumson – the latter of which was a four-point loss. Traore will join the team this week after sitting the required 30 days as a transfer and the countdown to getting Pina back in early February will begin.

7. Matawan (8-2, 4-1) Last Week: 9

Like Point Beach, the Huskies also battled Rumson in a home loss to the Bulldogs and also fell to a quality team in Union at home, so the losses are not a problem. The only concern for Matawan might be that it has had to labor to beat St. John Vianney and Raritan this past week, but those are both rivalry games within the division, so close wins are par for the course. A game against Long Branch on Monday will be a test to see if the Huskies can keep up with the pack that is challenging for those last five top-10 spots.

8. Ocean (7-5, 4-2) Last Week: Not ranked

The Spartans looked down-and-out at 2-5 coming off a loss at Pinelands, but have since rattled off five straight wins, including victories over Neptune (ranked No. 4 at the time) and Red Bank Catholic (ranked No. 10 last week). Outside of Pinelands, Ocean’s losses are to Manasquan, Middletown North, Matawan and Old Bridge, so they have played a solid schedule and are beginning to round into form.

9. Neptune (7-3, 5-1) Last Week: Not ranked

After a brief fall to the ranks of the unranked, Neptune is back in the top 10 after taking down Colts Neck on Saturday, which came after the Scarlet Fliers got out to a big lead on CBA only to watch it disappear in a one-point road loss. With wins over Marlboro and Ewing and a decent showing in a loss to Seton Hall Prep, Neptune has proven it is easily a top-10 caliber team and will have several more chances to move up, as well as a chance to win Class A North.

10. Colts Neck (9-2, 4-2) Last Week: 4

The Cougars fall out of the top five but hang on to a top-five spot after a two-loss week. The losses were a double-overtime loss to No. 5 CBA and a single-digit road loss vs. Neptune, neither of which are particularly disconcerting considering how tough A North figures to be from start to finish. Colts Neck also has an 11-point win over Toms River North, an eight-point win over Marlboro and a 27-point win over Sayreville, so there is still plenty to like about the Cougars’ body of work.

 

Dropped Out

Toms River North (9-2, 5-0) Last Week: 7 – Although the Mariners did not lose a game this past week, they drop out because of some big wins by Ocean and Neptune, combined with a head-to-head loss to Colts Neck and some resume advantages of teams like Point Beach and Matawan.

Red Bank Catholic (8-3, 4-2) Last Week: 10 – The Caseys gave up an eight-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Ocean, which pushed Ocean into the fold and dropped RBC out.

 

On the Bubble

Point Pleasant Boro (8-1, 5-0) – Dominating B South and waiting on the rest of the field to beat each other up is one way for Point Boro to get into the top 10, but beating Point Beach on Jan. 27 would be the most efficient route.

Marlboro (6-4, 4-2) – With sophomore Alex Ratner playing so well, Marlboro has three experienced starters plus Ratner to take into the second turn through A North. If the Mustangs can knock off CBA this week, they would have to be considered a real threat to win the division.

Howell (5-3, 2-3) – With five straight wins, Howell appears to have steadied the ship after consecutive losses to Colts Neck, CBA and Marlboro to open the year. If the Rebels can beat Neptune or one of those three the second time through A North, a top-10 stay looks more and more likely.

Long Branch (4-4, 3-2) – Although Long Branch does not have a win over a team with a winning record at the moment, its losses are all against tough opponents. The Green Wave has a big week coming up, with a ranked Matawan team visiting on Monday before divisional games vs. RBC and Middletown South.

 

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