LITTLE SILVER - Ranney freshman Scottie Lewis entered his first high school season already with a reputation as a top prospect in his class and with his own lofty expectations for how his high school career would begin.

His first two games may not have met those expectations, but Lewis and classmate Bryan Antoine lived up to the hype Sunday at the Albert E. Martin Buc Classic first round at Red Bank Regional, where the sixth-seeded Panthers beat Middletown North, 71-58, to advance to the tournament semifinals Monday against second-seeded Sayreville.

"I'm not going to lie: the first couple games were terrible," Lewis said. "Just adjusting to the physicality of the game, the speed of the game - it was all new to me and I've been off for a long time. I think this the first game where we all came together as a team and pulled it out. Just the physicality and the defense is the most difficult thing to adjust to."

Antoine continued the torrid start to his high school career by putting up 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Lewis turned in a breakout performance with 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Panthers.

COMPLETE RANNEY-MIDD NORTH PHOTO GALLERY BY ROB SAMUELS

In Ranney's three wins, Antoine is averaging 23.3 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Lewis is now up to 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game after Sunday.

"(The freshmen) are used to playing on the big stage," said Ranney coach Tahj Holden, who returned to Red Bank for the first time as a head coach after starring for the Bucs as a player. "They've played up in age group, they've played in front of college coaches, so just getting used to the physicality and the speed of the game has been a transition for them and I think they're getting better game by game."

The Panthers had to answer a fast start by Middletown North in order to advance to the Buc semifinals. The third-seeded Lions built up a 26-18 lead in the middle of the second quarter before Ranney responded with a 13-0 run to jump ahead, 31-26. Antoine and Lewis combined for 12 of the 13 points during the run, with Antoine hitting a go-ahead three to make it 27-26, after which Ranney would not trail again. Lewis capped the run with a deep three from the left wing.

Ranney made its initial run when junior Sam Metzger and sophomore Kyle Smith checked into the game. Metzger had three assists and two steals off the bench and Smith also came up with a steal during his stint on the floor.

"We love the bench," Antoine said. "Sam is our key player. He comes off the bench and he rebounds, he passes, he gives us energy on both ends."

Middletown North, however, did answer with five straight points to end the half and send the teams to the locker room tied at 31. The Lions held Ranney without a fastbreak field goal in the first half and benefitted from nine offensive rebounds before halftime.

"When we came back in the locker room at halftime, the biggest thing coach emphasized to us was rebounding and pushing the ball up the floor," Lewis said. "They weren't thinking about playing a fullcourt defense, so the quicker we got the ball up the court, the easier the game got. It had to start with the rebounding though, because they were getting too many offensive rebounds in the first half."

"The first half was terrible because we couldn't run a single offense," Antoine said. "As we calmed down, in the second half, we starting setting it up and everything started to go as we planned it."

Antoine again gave Ranney the lead coming out of halftime with a three from the left corner as he was fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Panthers 35-31 lead. Lewis then scored on a putback off his own miss and a long two-point jumper to cap an 8-0 run to open the half.

Middletown North battled back to within 42-39 behind a basket each from freshman Rob Higgins and juniors John Tomassetti and John Swift, but Ranney closed the third on a 7-0 run to take a 49-39 lead heading to the final quarter. Metzger found a cutting Antoine for a layup and after a jumper by freshman Alex Klatsky, Antoine capped the quarter with a three-point play.

Antoine tallied nine points and Lewis added seven in the third quarter, during which the Panthers outscored the Lions 18-8.

Antoine led a 15-for-19 Ranney showing from the free-throw line by hitting all six of his attempts.

Junior Joe Mahoney pitched in 12 points for Ranney, including a pair of first-half threes that helped stave off the early push by Middletown North. Freshman center Chris Autino added eight points and seven rebounds in the win.

Higgins led Middletown North with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while senior Colin Frawley scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half. Junior John Swift added nine points and 10 rebounds for Middletown North.

Frawley was the only senior to start the game between the two teams and with Higgins getting the nod for Middletown North, half of the starters in the game were freshmen. As Ranney continues to build on its unbeaten start to the season, its starting lineup of four freshmen plus Mahoney is prepared to face tougher and tougher challenges.

"We're soaking it all in," Lewis said. "To know that we're seeing 17-and-18-year olds coming out and feeling like they have to give their best against 14-year-olds makes you feel good that you're at that level. The fact that everyone's gunning for you makes you want to play harder."

 

Box Score

Ranney 71, Middletown North 58

1 2 3 4 F
Ranney (3-0) 13 18 18 22 71
Middletown North (2-2) 17 14 8 19 58

 

Ranney (71): Bryan Antoine 9 6-6 27, Joe Mahoney 4 2-2 12, Chris Autino 3 2-3 8, Scottie Lewis 8 4-6 21, Alex Klatsky 1 0-0 2, Sam Metzger 0 0-0 0, Kyle Smith 0 1-2 1, Robert Johnson 0 0-0 0, Jerome Cohen 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 15-19 71

Three-pointers: Antoine 3, Mahoney 2, Lewis

Middletown North (58): Rob Higgins 6 2-2 15, Dave Campbell 1 1-2 4, John Swift 4 1-4 9, Colin Frawley 6 1-1 15, John Tomassetti 3 0-0 7, Marc Cerbo 3 1-2 8, Tyler Ras 0 0-0 0, Matt Pinckney 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 6-11 58

Three-pointers: Higgins, Campbell, Frawley 2, Tomassetti, Cerbo