LITTLE SILVER - When playing against a senior-laden team like the Red Bank Regional squad they faced in the Albert E. Martin Buc Holiday Classic final Wednesday, Ranney freshmen Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis are literally boys among men.

Figuratively speaking, however, the first five games have proven to be the complete opposite to be the case.

For the fifth straight game of their high school careers, Antoine and Lewis were too much for the opposition, as Ranney outscored the top-seeded host and defending champion by 20 points in the second half to win, 67-51, and capture the Buc Classic title for the first time in program history in its first appearance.

With four freshman starters on a team that went 5-16 overall last year while playing in the Shore Conference Class B Central division, Ranney is off to a 5-0 start with wins over three traditionally solid Shore Conference programs - St. Rose, Middletown North and Red Bank - and another yearly contender in the Greater Middlesex Conference in Sayreville.

Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography

"I'm a little surpised, to be honest," Red Bank coach Tahj Holden said of his team's undefeated start to the season. "I didn't totally know what to expect coming into the season with such a young team playing against some real veteran teams."

Ranney shook off a rough finish to the second quarter and its first hostile road crown to win its first tournament title. In a season that includes a group of freshman checking a first off its list seemingly every game, there is one first that they are still waiting on and wouldn't mind waiting on for a long time: a loss.

"I expected this to be a good tournament because it's the Buc Classic, but I thought we could win it," Antoine said. "I expected us to play hard every game and that would at least give us a chance to win. It's a little surprising (being undefeated), but we felt like we could do well if we played hard and played our game."

Antoine scored 16 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, including 11 straight Panthers points to start the fourth quarter. The freshman point guard also added four rebounds, five assists and three steals in the win and was named tournament MVP after averaging 29.3 points, seven rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.7 steals and two blocks over the three Ranney wins.

"He has the ball in his hands more than most players and I've been trying to get the ball out of his hands to take some pressure off of him," Holden said. "It would be nice to get a little more movement on offense and be able to score in some other ways so he doesn't have to carry as much of the load. To this point, though, he's definitely been our x-factor."

Lewis supported the cause by pitching in 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and eight blocks on Wednesday. While attempting just one shot in the second half, he dominated the defensive end both on the glass and in the air with his shot-blocking ability. He also was the primary match-up for Ranney against Red Bank leading scorer Sadiq Palmer, who finished with nine points after sitting the final seven minutes of the first half with two fouls.

"I think he (Lewis) is starting to realize he doesn't have to be a scorer to be dominant," said Holden, a former star center at Red Bank Regional. "He blocked shots that I don't think anybody could have blocked. Nobody's blocked shots like that in this gym, including myself and I was a pretty good shot-blocker in my time."

Lewis also earned all-tournament honors, averaging 19 points, nine rebounds and four blocks over three games.

"The first half, we were down about 14 rebounds and Scottie stepped up getting rebounds and changed the game for us," Antoine said. "That made it easier for everybody else."

Ranney trailed Red Bank 31-27 at halftime despite 21 combined points from the two freshman standouts. Antoine and Lewis combined to shoot 6-for-13 from the floor in the first half, but the rest of the Panthers shot only 2-for-12.

Red Bank came out guarding Lewis with Palmer and Antoine with senior guard Jack Navitsky and actually outscored Ranney 17-8 during the nearly seven minutes that Palmer spent on the bench with foul trouble thanks to a 3-2 zone look on defense. With Lewis and Antoine laboring to find open looks, Ranney struggled to execute its offense.

That trend quickly changed in the second half, as both freshman Alex Klatsky and junior Joe Mahoney found their range from behind the three-point arc. Klatsky hit three of his four three-pointers in the third quarter and Mahoney scored eight of his 11 points in the third to help spark the Panthers to a 22-12 advantage in the quarter.

"We want guys to take shots when they are open, but we also want them to do it within the context of the offense," Holden said. "I thought our shots in the first half were a little bit rushed. We'd pass the ball once or twice and take an early shot. In the second half, we ran through our sets a little better and worked the ball around to get those guys better shots."

Antoine also scored five points during the quarter and then began the fourth by hitting four straight shots and threw in an exclamation point on the win when he crossed over a defender and slammed home a left-handed dunk to put Ranney ahead, 60-48.

Antoine finished 10-for-14 from the field and 4-for-7 from three-point range, with two of his misses coming on forced shots as time was expiring in the first and third quarters.

"I feel like I've played pretty good so far," Antoine said.

Senior Matt Reardon lead Red Bank with 19 points, including 14 during the first half. He hit 4-of-7 three-point shots, including 3-for-4 in the first half.

Wednesday also marked the first game that Holden coached against his high school alma mater after he made his coaching return to his old gym during Sunday's first round. Holden led Red Bank to a Shore Conference Tournament title in 1999 and went on to play a key role on the University of Maryland's back-to-back Final Four teams in 2001 and 2002, including a NCAA National Championship team in 2002.

"It's special to come back home and win a tournament against your alma mater," Holden said. "It's kind of tough in a way. I told (Red Bank coach) Scott (Martin) that it's the first time I've ever rooted against RBR. And I wasn't actually rooting for them to lose, I was just rooting for us to win.

"My guys worked hard and they deserved it. They came out in the second half and played incredible."

 

Box Score

Ranney 67, Red Bank 51

1 2 3 4 F
Ranney (5-0) 17 10 22 18 67
Red Bank (4-2) 14 17 12 8 51

 

Ranney (67): Bryan Antoine 10 3-3 27, Alex Klatsky 4 0-0 12, Chris Autino 1 1-1 3, Scottie Lewis 3 7-8 13, Joe Mahoney 4 0-0 11, Sam Metzger 0 0-0 0, Kyle Smith 0 0-0 0, Corey Natofsky 0 1-2 1, Jerome Cohen 0 0-0 0, Robert Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 12-14 67

Three-pointers: Antoine 4, Klatsky 4, Mahoney 3

Red Bank (51): Jack Navitsky 0 0-0 0, Devin Cooper 1 1-2 3, Ben Sprauer 3 3-5 9, Sadiq Palmer 4 0-1 9, Matt Reardon 7 1-2 19, Connor McLoone 2 0-1 4, Chris Outterbridge 2 1-2 5, Everton Ramsey 1 0-0 2, Jack Anderson 0 0-0 0, Jake McIntyre 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 6-13 51

Three-pointers: Palmer, Reardon 4