The Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase returns to Collins Arena on the campus of Brookdale Community College Saturday for a five-game showcase that features eight Shore Conference teams, a match-up of top-five teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, one of Philly’s top teams taking on one of the Shore’s and, of course, a showdown between two of the state’s most talented rosters. Here is a look at the five games on tap for Saturday.


Ranney Under the Microscope

The Ranney junior core has experienced losses before, but with all of the expectations coming into this season, the 69-61 defeat at the hands of Montclair Immaculate on Monday had to sting. The Panthers travelled up to the Lions’ backyard in Paterson and had no answer for Syracuse recruit Jalen Carey nor Montclair Immaculate’s advantage in quickness, strength and depth.

Junior Bryan Antoine was coming off a huge performance at the City of Palms Classic in Florida, where he averaged 29.5 points while leading Ranney to the Consolation Bracket championship. He put up 28 points on Monday and won game MVP honors for Ranney, but shot a modest 2-for-7 from three-point range by his lofty standards.

Ranney junior Scottie Lewis. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Saturday will test Ranney’s ability to play with the state’s best, as well as its ability to bounce back from a loss. The Patrick School is the defending Tournament of Champions winner and while all of the starters from that team are gone, returning 6-10 forward Valdir Manuel burned Ranney off the bench in a state tournament game between the two teams last year. Manuel has offers from DePaul, Seton Hall and Temple.

The addition of 6-8 senior Savior Akuwovo will give Ranney a better chance to match up with Manuel and the Celtics this year, although the Panthers played admirably in the 10-point loss in the state tournament last year. Akuwovo had a strong effort in St. Anthony’s loss to the Patrick School last year at the Dan Finn Classic and also poured in 12 points to go with eight rebounds in the loss to Montclair Immaculate earlier this week.

While Scottie Lewis has not been the scorer that his fellow five-star teammate has been, he has been a force on the defensive end blocking shots and continues to make the spectacular play part of his routine. Lewis is also approaching a career scoring milestone: he is currently 78 points away from 1,000 for his career. The dynamic 6-5 wing is averaging 12.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks through seven games.

Junior Ahmadu Sarnor played a key role in keeping Ranney close with Patrick School last year and will look to break out on the offensive end to go with his work on the defensive end. After averaging 14 points as a sophomore, Sarnor is averaging 6.3 this year.

A loss Saturday would make Ranney 0-2 against ranked teams in N.J. and while the performance in Florida should not be ignored, the Panthers need a win to announce their status as a legitimate Tournament of Champions contender and, perhaps, to keep hold of their spot as the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.


Top-Five Showdown

Of all the games on Saturday’s lineup, the first one has the heaviest Shore Conference implications. For the first time since Rumson-Fair Haven’s improbable 50-24 win over Christian Brothers Academy in the 2015 Shore Conference Tournament Final, Rumson and CBA will meet with rosters that are, naturally, much different than they were nearly three years ago.

During the early part of this season, No. 5 CBA has shown balance in its lineup and roster, both in how many players contribute and in the ways all of those players can contribute. Junior Stephen Braunstein is off to a fast start as CBA’s top perimeter scorer, which has allowed junior Liam Kennedy to serve as a more traditional pass-first point guard.

CBA junior Stephen Braunstein. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Seniors Rob Mahala and Nolan Madden have also been improved and are CBA’s two more versatile players – Mahala on the defensive end and Madden as a forward who is a reliable three-point shooter.

Not many teams have anything to counter 6-foot-9 junior center Josh Cohen, who has opened the season churning out double-double after double-double while also returning as an improved athlete.

That size will not be as much of a mismatch against No. 3 Rumson, which has 6-7 center Elijah McAllister, as well as length on the wings with Ian O’Connor (6-4), Jackson McCarthy (6-5) and Phil Wheeler (6-7). Rumson has been inconsistent offensively for part of the season, but the Bulldogs have enough length and athleticism that their defensive potential is about as good as any team in the Shore Conference.

Rumson junior Ian O'Connor. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

Senior guard Jack Solano has begun to come alive for Rumson, scoring 42 points in two games at the Bulldawg Classic, including 20 against St. Peter’s Prep. Fellow senior Teddy Sourlis is still looking for his breakout game, but with his range out beyond the NBA three-point line and streak nature shooting the ball, it figures to be only a matter of time before he catches fire.

With a pair of losses to solid programs in Blair and St. Anthony of Long Island, CBA is in position to jump up to No. 3 in the rankings with a win over the current No. 3 team. Rumson, meanwhile, has needed second-half surges to beat Raritan, Matawan and Middletown South while also losing a tight game at home to St. Peter’s Prep – a top-20 team in the state, according to A win over CBA would solidify Rumson as a top-five team in the Shore Conference, so long as the Bulldogs can continue to rack up wins in Class A Central.


Mater Dei Puts Unbeaten Record on the Line

The Boardwalk has a Philly flavor this year with the addition of Roman Catholic from the Philadelphia Catholic League to the lineup. The Cahillites will take on two-time defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Mater Dei Prep, which is off to a 6-0 start in 2017-18 despite losing 6-7 forward and current Princeton University freshman Elijah Barnes to graduation.

Mater Dei’s six-game winning streak to open the season includes victories over defending Group III champion Teaneck, a preseason top-10 team in the state in St. Mary’s of Elizabeth and West Catholic of Philadelphia. Senior point guard and Loyola signee Kenny Jones has again been the engine for the Seraphs machine, but he has had plenty of help in the backcourt with returnees Kyle Cardaci and Yasin Pretlow, as well as junior St. Anthony transfer Alexander Rice.

Mater Dei Prep senior Kenny Jones. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

A critical part of Mater Dei’s early success has been the play of 6-9 center Adam Afifi. Although he started as a junior, Afifi has returned with a refined game on both ends. He helped offset St. Mary’s size in the second game of the season and unleashed his full repertoire with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in a win over Asbury Park.

Getting to 7-0 will be Mater Dei’s toughest task to date against a Roman Catholic team stocked with talent. Senior Allen Betrand is a 6-4 forward heading to Towson and 6-6 forward Seth Lundy has offers from Bowling Green and Oregon. Junior Hakim Hart is a transfer who averaged 25 points per game for Delsea last year and sophomore point guard Lynn Greer III – son of the former Temple standout by the same name – already has offers from Penn State, Tulane and his father’s alma mater.


Higgins vs. Frauenheim

The final game of this year’s Boardwalk Showcase features the Shore’s top scorer vs. the player with the Shore’s top scoring performance of the season. Middletown North guard Rob Higgins joined the 1,000-point club just three games into his junior season and is currently leading the Shore Conference with 27.7 points per game, including three games in which he has scored 30 points or more.

Higgins left Wednesday’s loss at Matawan early in the fourth quarter due to fatigue related to an illness the 6-0 guard was battling during the days leading up to the game, according to coach Mike Iasparro. He scored 18 in the loss, which dropped his average from 29.3 points per game.

Middletown North junior point guard Rob Higgins. (Photo by Robert Samuels)

While Higgins has put up big scoring numbers just about every night, Frauenheim has the biggest scoring game of any player at the Shore this season. In a 94-87 loss to St. Joseph Hammonton at the Monsignor Farrell Classic at Immaculata, Frauenheim went off for a career-high 41 points and also chipped in eight rebounds and eight assists.

On top of his once scoring outburst, Frauenheim is pitching in across the board for Point Beach, averaging 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three steals.

With Higgins and Frauenheim going head-to-head, the final game at the Boardwalk Showcase could come down to their respective supporting casts. Seniors Sky Cherry and Dave Campbell have given Middletown North steady production, with Campbell nearly logging a triple-double during a regular-season win over Monmouth Regional.

Point Beach junior Danny Frauenheim. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Senior Trevor Covey has been Point Beach’s best player outside of Frauenheim, averaging 16.5 points per game. Sophomore Jake Clark has joined the rotation as a key all-around contributor after an injury-marred freshman season, while senior Josh Yates is coming off a breakout, 23-point performance against St. John Vianney on Tuesday.

The Garnet Gulls will still be without seniors Mohamed Traore and Chris Pina. Traore is in the midst of waiting 30 days from opening day to become eligible as a transfer, while Pina will not be eligible until Feb. 3.


Neptune Returns to the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk Showcase without Neptune just does not seem right and the Scarlet Fliers are back in the lineup after a year away. The Scarlet Fliers got back on track as a winning program a year ago and have the look of a team ready to claim its own corner in Neptune’s long, stories boys basketball history.

During a 5-1 start to the season Neptune has relied on balanced scoring across its lineup, with senior Jared Kimbrough, senior Seth Fields and junior Dwaine Jones leading the way. On defense, however, Kimbrough is the anchor. The 6-8 senior center heading to La Salle has shut down the paint and dominated the glass over his first six games of the season and he will be the showcase player for the Scarlet Fliers.

Neptune senior Jared Kimbrough. (Photo by Larry Murphy)

Ocean has a showcase senior of its own in 6-7 Andrew Seager, who is drawing some interest from multiple Ivy League Schools, according to Spartans coach John Terlecsky. Seager is averaging 20.3 points and just under 10 rebounds per game during a strong start to his senior year and has had plenty of help from sophomore guard Jack Miller (16.6 points per game).

Despite solid starts to the season for Seager and Millers, Ocean is off to a 2-5 start and is coming off a road loss to a 3-4 Pinelands team that won 3 games all of last season. Ocean also has a one-point road loss to No. 10 Matawan and single-digit losses to No. 7 Manasquan, Middletown North and Old Bridge.


Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase Schedule

At Brookdale Community College

No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven (4-1) vs. No. 5 CBA (3-2), 1 p.m.

No. 1 Ranney vs. The Patrick School (1-2), 2:40 p.m.

No. 2 Mater Dei Prep vs. Roman Catholic, Pa. (4-2), 4:20 p.m.

No. 4 Neptune (5-1) vs. Ocean (2-5), 6 p.m.

No. 9 Point Pleasant Beach (4-2) vs. Middletown North (4-3), 7:40 p.m.


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