BRONX, N.Y. - Scottie Lewis has walked off the court after a loss by his Ranney boys basketball team many times before, but never as the No. 1 team in New Jersey and a top-five-ranked team in the country.

On Sunday at the Empire Invitational at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, the MacDuffie School and its team littered with size and college talent handed Ranney its first ticket back to the drawing board during this anticipated season.

Seniors Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis combined for 54 points points but could not overcome McDuffie's size in a down-to-the-wire, 79-75, loss on Sunday - the first of the season for Ranney after a 10-0 start to the season.

Ranney senior Scottie Lewis. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"No offense to MacDuffie, but our goal coming into this season wasn't to beat MacDuffie," Ranney coach Tahj Holden said. "It's to win the (NJSIAA) Tournament of Champions and a Shore Conference Championship. It's frustrating to lose any game but we still have opponents to play against some good opponents that will pose some problems for us and we'll go back and work on the things we need to in order to get better."

Ranney defeated Bergen Catholic, 56-55, in a hard-fought game less than 24 hours earlier to improve to 10, and while the quick turnaround may have caught up with the Panthers, that was not an excuse coming out of the losing locker room Sunday.

"As high-level athletes, we have to be able to play on back-to-back days," Lewis said. "I started off slow in the first half, air-balled a free-throw, air-balled a three and got down on myself a little bit, which shouldn't have happened. I was able to get going in the third quarter, but that's got to be there all game. As the captain of this team, I have to put this loss on me and go back to work at practice tomorrow."

Antoine's 29 points were a game-high and he found a second wind with his 11 fourth-quarter points, but looked visibly fatigued in the third quarter. During that stretch, Lewis emerged with 10 points in the quarter on the way to 18 in the second half after Antoine carried the load with 18 of the team's 37 first-half points.

"Like I told Bryan, this is what life is like as a Division I basketball player," Holden said. "There are going to be games where you are feeling tired because you have to handle the ball and guard the other team's best player and you have to be able to find ways to get through it. It's not easy, but that's what is expected of great players."

Lewis gave Ranney its largest lead at 50-44 with a layup in the third but MacDuffie responded with a 13-3 run to close out the quarter. The two teams exchanged blows throughout the fourth, with Ranney senior Alex Klatsky hitting a game-tying three-pointer with 1:40 left to knot the score at 70-70.

MacDuffie answered with back-to-back layups by UConn commit James Bouknight and Wake Forest commit Ismael Massoud to go up 74-70 with a minute left. Lewis came back with a driving layup and Ranney forced a turnover on the inbound to get the ball back.

Freshman Elijah Perkins spotted Antoine in the corner and the Villanova commit drilled the three to give Ranney a 75-74 lead with 44 seconds to play.

Massoud, however, earned a trip to the free-throw line and hit both shots to push MacDuffie back in front with 33.3 left and Ranney turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. Bouknight hit one of two free throws after Lewis committed his fifth foul and Ranney had a chance to tie or win on the next possession.

With Lewis fouled out, Ranney went for the win and Antoine's off-balance three-point try near the right corner was just off the mark.

Sunday marked the Ranney debut of junior Phillip Wheeler, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Rumson-Fair Haven who came off the bench to score six points, grab five rebounds and block a shot.

Freshman Elijah Perkins added nine points for Ranney and Klatsky finished with six to round out the scoring. Lewis, meanwhile, added seven rebounds and two blocked shots in the loss.

Ranney will be back in action Tuesday against Mater Dei Prep and will play its next marquee game a week from Monday at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., where the Panthers will play 6-11 five-start recruit Jaden McDaniels and Federal Way out of Washington State. The game will be televised on ESPN U at 11 a.m.

 

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