ELIZABETH - In order to prepare themselves for what they hope is an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions run in March, senior Bryan Antoine and his Ranney boys basketball teammates are trying to treat every game like it's a Tournament of Champions game.

Antoine played like there was a title on line for all four quarters Sunday against two-time-defending T of C runner-up Don Bosco Prep on Sunday at the Hoop Group Tipoff Showcase. Once the rest of the Panthers finally did the same, Ranney looked the part of No. 1 team in the state.

Antoine scored 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting and added four assists and seven steals as Ranney pulled away late to beat Don Bosco, 63-51, Sunday at the Dunn Center after getting a scare into the early stages of the fourth quarter.

"We still try to approach every game like it's the TOC championship game," Antoine said. "Whether it's a conference game or out-of-conference game, whether it's in Jersey or not, we are trying to play the game as hard as we can so we're getting better every day."

PHOTO GALLERY: Ranney vs. Don Bosco by Paula Lopez

Ranney senior Bryan Antoine vs. Don Bosco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Antoine scored all 13 of Ranney's points in the third quarter and gave the Panthers the lead for good with a steal and dunk to make it 49-47 early in the fourth. He added a three-pointer that made the score 54-49, the last of seven consecutive made shots to close out the game for the Villanova commit.

"I was just trying to take what the defense was giving me," Antoine said. "I'm not going to force anything that's not there, so if they are taking my shot away and we can get something for somebody else, that's what we want. If it comes back to me, I'm definitely looking for my shot if it's there."

Senior Scottie Lewis scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of jumpers that give Ranney some distance. His contested jumper extended the lead to 51-47 and the Florida commit later knocked down a three from the right wing to stretch it to 57-51.

"Just win," Lewis said of his mentality down the stretch. "If I miss those same shots, we still have to come back and play defense and find a way to win. That's our number one goal."

After missing his first three free-throw attempts, Lewis went 6-for-6 down the stretch to put the game on ice. He finished with 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks while shooting 5-for-11 from the field.

Ranney's Scottie Lewis elevates for a shot vs. Don Bosco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Senior Mike Dettro came up with five key points off the bench, all in the fourth quarter. His corner three-pointer tied the game at 45-45 early in the fourth and on the following Ranney possession, he tied the game at 47-47 with both ends of a 1-and-1.

Army-bound forward Victor Konopka led Don Bosco (1-1) with 16 points and eight rebounds to earn team MVP honors.

Prior to Antoine's steal-and-slam to give Ranney the lead for good, the Ironmen had the nationally-ranked Panthers on the ropes. After falling behind 23-10 in the first quarter, Don Bosco cut the deficit to 11 by the end of the quarter and chipped away at Ranney's lead during the second and third quarters. The Ironmen grabbed their first lead 37-34 midway through the third and led 45-42 after a pair of free throws by Konopka early in the fourth.

At that point, Antoine drove the lane and slid a pass to the left corner, where Dettro lined up a three and buried it to tie the game. After Bosco went back up, 47-45, on the ensuing possession, Dettro was fouled going for a loose ball and converted both sides of a 1-and-1 to retie the game.

"We were short on guys today and we needed some people to step up and we were able to get that," Lewis said. "Mike made some big plays for us hitting shots, playing defense and getting on the floor. Elijah Perkins ran the point against a tough team being a freshman point guard with a lot on his shoulders. Bryan did what Bryan does, not just scoring but all of the other things he brings to the game and I was able to do what I do."

Antoine then gave Ranney the lead and combined with the Florida-bound Lewis on the three baskets that iced the game.

"Early in the season, we like these types of tests, especially for us, because we're trying to win a state championship at the end of the year," Ranney coach Tahj Holden said. "You want to play these games to see where you are at, see what you need to work on and we saw what we have to work on."

Turnovers were a prominent part of Sunday's game, with Ranney forcing 18, including 11 in the second half. Ranney committed 10 turnovers but turned it over just one time combined in the first and fourth quarters, during which the Panthers outscored Don Bosco by a combined total of 44-22.

"We were switching defenses throughout the game and we found something that worked in the fourth quarter and stuck with it," said Holden, whose team threw trap-heavy looks at Don Bosco in the fourth. "We played with energy and effort for about a two-minute period, a couple shots fell and that makes the game easier when you decide you are going to play defense."

Ranney played Sunday without senior guard Ahmadu Sarnor and junior wing Phillip Wheeler for the second straight game. Sarnor will not be eligible until Ranney's 17th game on Jan. 27 because of his 16 games he played as an eighth-grader in Pennsylvania.

Ranney senior Bryan Antoine was named MVP of Ranney's 63-51 win over Don Bosco at the Hoop Group Tipoff Showcase. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Wheeler, meanwhile, is tending to a personal matter and will debut later in the week against either Asbury Park on Thursday or Point Pleasant Beach on Friday, according to Holden. Both players were on the Ranney bench on Sunday.

Without the two key members of the team, the Panthers had to make do with six players, with Dettro coming off the bench. At one point early in the fourth quarter every player other than Antoine and Lewis had three fouls and senior starter Chris Autino picked up his fourth early in the fourth as well.

Despite the short bench, the uneasy foul situation and a gritty performance from a Don Bosco squad that graduated its top two threats from last year's Non-Public A championship team, Ranney found its extra gear in the fourth quarter for a reassuring finish to a game with some uneasy moments for the state and Shore's No. 1 team.

"We have had a lot of games in AAU and even in high school last year where we were up by 10 or so and the other team came back," Antoine said. "We have been in that situation before and been able to finish strong so tonight was something we're used to."

"I wasn't worried, per se, but I was a little concerned because we weren't doing the things we normally do that make us successful," Holden said. "Whenever you get out of sync - and (Don Bosco) did a good job getting us out of what we wanted to do - you try not to panic, especially early in the season. If this was February, I might panic a little more because we expect to be much further down the line."

Antoine has scored 36 and 33 points in Ranney's first two games this year and has scored those 69 points on 22-for-33 (66.7 percent) shooting against two quality opponents.

After two more 30-plus point games to add to his career resume, Antoine is now at 1,880 points in his high school career as he continues to close in on 2,000, as well as the Shore Conference record of 2,302.

"I feel pretty good," Antoine said. "Leading up to this season, I was in the gym a lot, working on my stroke, trying to come off of screens and stuff like that. I'm just glad all that work is showing in the games so far."

 

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