All things considered, the top 10 has remained relatively stable this year and this last week might have been the most stable week for the rankings all season. The top seven teams remain unchanged and the bottom three all remain in the field after some reshuffling.

Red Bank Catholic’s win over Manasquan was the only result that upset the rankings, but considering Manasquan had already defeated RBC twice and is missing two big men, it helped the Caseys more than it hurt the Warriors.

The next time the rankings come out, they will be expanded to project the Shore Conference Tournament field, which will be seeded on Feb. 11. The first 16 spots appear to be straight-forward to this point, but the back end of the field is still crowded and a lot can still happen to shake things up.

1. Ranney (14-3, 9-0) Last Week: 1

Outside of the week off Ranney took during the holiday break in December, this has been the quietest week of the season for the Panthers. That will change this week, when Ranney plays Roselle Catholic – currently the top team in the state, according to NJ.com – at the Jersey Shore Challenge Showcase Wednesday at Brookdale. The key to the game will be Scottie Lewis, who is hoping to return quickly from an ankle injury he suffered on Jan. 18.

2. Mater Dei Prep (15-2, 9-1) Last Week: 2

The Seraphs closed the week with a pair of Valerie Fund wins over hard-nosed teams from Carteret and Lincoln of Jersey City to run their winning streak to six after that road loss to Ranney. Mater Dei plays just one game this week and it is against Henry Hudson on Friday, so the Serpahs will have plenty of time to rest and prepare for the Ranney rematch on Feb. 5.

3. Rumson-Fair Haven (12-1, 7-0) Last Week: 3

While the Bulldogs likely won’t be able to wrap up the A Central title this week, they are in firm control of the divisional race with five games to go. This upcoming week, the focus moves outside of the division as Rumson takes on Red Bank Catholic at Wednesday’s Jersey Shore Challenge and Manasquan on the road on Saturday. A 4-0 week should lock up the No. 3 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament, even with an upset the following week.

4. Christian Brothers Academy (11-3, 7-0) Last Week: 4

Although CBA is the clear No. 4 team at the Shore right now as the A North leader, the Colts still have some work to do to make it official for the Shore Conference Tournament. The good news for CBA is there is no sign of the Colts slowing down. They have won eight straight since starting 3-3 and that level of play will have to continue with games against Colts Neck, Neptune and Marlboro remaining on the A North slate.

5. Neptune (12-4, 9-1) Last Week: 5

Like CBA, Neptune still has some work to do to secure a top-five seed, but the Scarlet Fliers are the clear No. 5 at the moment. In addition to solid A North wins over Colts Neck, Howell and Marlboro (twice), they have also have a win over a perennially strong Ewing team and competitive losses to undefeated Seton Hall Prep and a Montclair Immaculate team that beat Ranney. Neptune still has to get through the likes of CBA, Colts Neck and Howell during the divisional schedule to remain in the top five and the level at which they are playing right now suggests the Fliers are up to the task.

6. Colts Neck (12-2, 7-2) Last Week: 6

After squeaking past Freehold Township and Marlboro last week, Colts Neck enters February with a good chance to win A North and make a run at the No. 4 seed in the SCT. The scores indicate that CBA and Neptune have both been playing better of late, but it would only take a win over CBA this week to change the narrative. The Colts beat the Cougars in double-overtime in the first meeting.

7. Manasquan (12-2, 8-1) Last Week: 7

The Warriors have struggled since 6-5 junior forward Xander Korolik went down with an ankle injury, joining 6-6 sophomore Alex Galvan on the sideline with an injury. Manasquan’s size and strength on the block has been a big part of its success this year, so missing its two biggest players has hurt in losses to Marlboro and Red Bank Catholic. The Warriors got back on track with a win over Long Branch on Saturday, but the schedule is once again tough this week – beginning to a trip to play surging Middletown South on Monday and ending with a visit from No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven on Saturday.

8. Toms River North (14-3, 9-0) Last Week: 9

Hunterdon Central ended Toms River North’s eight-game winning streak on Saturday in an overtime game that the Mariners were close to putting away in the final minute of regulation. The win would have strengthened the Mariners’ case to be a top-eight seed, which could become an issue if Red Bank Catholic were to knock off Rumson and finish the regular season strong. For the time being, Toms River North will stay at No. 8 and is poised to make a run at a third consecutive undefeated season in A South play.

9. Red Bank Catholic (12-4, 7-3) Last Week: 10

With a win at Manasquan on Tuesday, Red Bank Catholic made the Class B North race interesting heading to the stretch run, even if the Caseys still have a long way to go to actually win it. With wins over Point Boro, Marlboro and Middletown South, as well as a regular-season split with Middletown North, RBC has an edge over the teams that are right on their heels for one of the final two spots in the top 10.

10. Matawan (13-3, 6-2) Last Week: 8

The Huskies were overwhelmed at Rumson earlier in the week, which likely will end their hopes of winning a share of the A Central title. Despite that defeat, Matawan still has a win over Ocean and a 13-3 record that is enough to make them a solid fixture in the No. 10 spot for the time being. Teams like Howell and Middletown South are making a push of late to leap into the picture, but Matawan’s consistency finishing games is enough to make the last team in this week.

 

On the Bubble

Point Pleasant Beach (10-6, 6-3) – The Garnet Gulls got back on track with wins over St. Rose, Keansburg and Point Boro following a loss at Central.

Point Pleasant Boro (11-3, 8-1) – Although the Panthers have double-digit losses to RBC, Lakewood and Point Beach, they also have a win over Middletown South and a two-game lead in the B South standings.

Middletown South (10-5, 7-2) – Winners of five straight, Middletown South can make a statement by beating Manasquan on Monday, which would also move the Eagles into a first-place tie in B North.

Howell (8-5, 4-5) – With divisional games remaining against Colts Neck and Neptune, Howell will have two more chances to jump into the top 10.

Marlboro (7-8, 4-6) – The Mustangs have played eight games against top 10 teams and have lost seven of them. If they continue to beat the teams below them in the standings, they will be an SCT team.

Middletown North (7-8, 5-4) – With Rob Higgins healthy, Middletown North is 7-5 with losses to RBC, St. Peter’s Prep, Matawan, Point Beach and Freehold Boro, which is enough of a mixed bag to make the Lions hard to peg even with their star guard in the lineup.

Ocean (9-8, 5-5) – A win over Neptune is going to give Ocean some ammunition when it comes to SCT seeding, but the Spartans still have to finish strong to get in and make that win count for something.

 

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