With less than two weeks until the Shore Conference Tournament seeding meeting, it appears that there is guaranteed to be a spirited debate for the top seed, as well as for each of the next seven spots. There is still no clear No. 1 team in the conference, and this week, a familiar name returns to the No. 1 spot seemingly by default.

While the top five has a different order, the first eight teams on this week’s list were all in the top eight last week, which is probably the most stability there has been this year. That is unlikely to last, but the good news is that volatility will soon take its act to the postseason.

 

1. Christian Brothers Academy (12-4, 8-1) Last Week: 2

The Colts return to the top spot despite an overtime scare at Manalapan on Thursday that followed the previous week’s loss to Freehold Township. In the end, though, a win is a win and CBA beat a Manalapan team that has raised its status recently. Class A North has played a little stronger than Class B South, so a CBA team with one Shore Conference loss (Freehold Township) stays a step ahead of a Lakewood team with one Shore Conference loss (Neptune).

2. Lakewood (12-2, 9-0) Last Week: 5

The Piners move up the rankings both for a resounding win over Donovan Catholic, as well as Neptune’s recent surge. Lakewood also suffered its second loss of the season Saturday, but that came against one of the state’s top teams in Trenton Catholic Academy. Wins against Newark Tech and Point Beach out of division are big-name wins, but neither has had the season many expected them to have to this point.

Amir Tyler and Lakewood are back in the No. 2 spot this week and are putting together a case to be the No. 1 team in the Shore. (Photo by Bill Normile)

3. Toms River North (13-2, 8-2) Last Week: 1

After a turn in the No. 1 spot last week, the Mariners fall two spots following a loss on the road to Southern. Toms River North still has a couple noteworthy wins over Toms River South to go with wins over Red Bank Catholic and Southern as well. An 11-point loss at Southern should not come with too much of a penalty given that the Rams are now 8-0 at home and the Mariners were without second-leading scorer Pat Marinaccio.

4. Freehold Township (12-4, 7-3) Last Week: 3

A win over CBA is better than any win Lakewood or Toms River North has, so there is a case to be made that the Shore’s top two teams should come from Class A North. On the other hand, Lakewood has lost only one Shore Conference game, while Freehold Township has lost four – a noteworthy difference. The reason the Piners jump Freehold Township this week instead of last week is their Neptune loss looks much better with Neptune’s recent surge. With respect to Toms River North, the Mariners still have that win over Red Bank Catholic, which beat Freehold Township the night before. As far as the Patriots go, they will have to keep surviving with a bulls-eye in a Class A North that seems to get tougher every week.

5. Red Bank (12-3, 8-3) Last Week: 4

Class B North has proven to be a real grind and No. 5 could possibly be too low for the first team in the division to show up. The Bucs lost again this week, the latest top-10 team to fall victim to Neptune along with No. 2 Lakewood and (SPOILER ALERT) No. 6 Manasquan. Red Bank’s three losses – the other two both to Red Bank Catholic – are by a combined nine points, so it’s hard to see this team being out of a game to anyone. With a win over Rumson-Fair Haven on Saturday, perhaps Red Bank has a case to jump Freehold Township, but the CBA and Toms River South wins trump Red Bank’s St. Joe’s-Metuchen win and the general strength of B North, at least for the moment.

6. Manasquan (12-3, 7-1) Last Week: 6

This spot begins a run of some actual consistency in the top 10, with the Warriors returning to the No. 6 spot. There could come a point in which Toms River South jumps the Warriors based on the head-to-head win, but for now, with two wins over a quality Rumson team and a first-place standing in Class A Central, Manasquan has shown enough consistency – when healthy – to hang on to the No. 6 spot. The Warriors will have to beat Shore this week to stay in the top-five conversation and to grab the inside track to win the division.

7. Red Bank Catholic (11-5, 7-3) Last Week: 7

The Caseys have operated in spurts, putting together a run of good play followed by some eye-popping losses. In fact, four of Red Bank Catholic’s five losses have been by a margin of 15 points or more, while the other was a five-point loss to Toms River North. On the flip side, Red Bank has two wins over No. 5 Red Bank, a blowout win against suddenly-red-hot Neptune, and a December win over No. 4 Freehold Township, so the good outweighs the bad in RBC’s case.

8. Toms River South (9-4, 7-2) Last Week: 8

For the first time since its 2-0 start, Toms River South is on the plus side in point differential after an 11-point win over Brick in which the Indians played without Tymere Berry, who was on a football recruiting visit to the University of Maine. Of course, the top 10 is about who a team beats and not how much it beats them by, which bodes well for the Indians. Wins over Manasquan, Southern and Marlboro have Toms River South positioned to climb even higher in the rankings, especially if the Indians can add a win over Toms River North on Monday.

9. Southern (11-4, 6-3) Last Week: Not ranked

The Rams catapult back into the top 10 with a resounding win over Toms River North on Friday night and a hard-fought win over Bridgeton less than 24 hours later. It is going to be important for Southern to pay back a loss to Brick Memorial by beating the Mustangs at home, but for now, the Rams have quality wins over Toms River North and Toms River South while also playing a solid non-conference schedule.

10. Manalapan (9-5, 4-5) Last Week: Not ranked

The Braves are back in the top 10 thanks to a recent win over Shore Regional, coupled with the fact that they won their only meeting against a Freehold Township team that has been entrenched in the top five for some time now. A recent 17-point loss to Marlboro gives some reason for pause, but the Mustangs are tough in their own right, which provides a look into the day-to-day struggle that A North has become. Just as wins are wins, losses are also losses, but Manalapan did play CBA very tough in both meetings.

 

Dropped Out

Rumson-Fair Haven (11-4, 6-2) Last Week: 9 – The Bulldogs are still right on the fringe of the top 10, but a loss to Red Bank coupled by good weeks from Manalapan and Southern bump the Bulldogs for now.

Shore (10-4, 6-2) Last Week: 10 – The Blue Devils saw their six-game winning streak end at home against Rumson, then fell at home to Manalapan. As the No. 10 team a week ago, that was enough to knock them out for this week.

 

On the Bubble

Neptune (8-7, 4-6) – At their best, the Scarlet Fliers have been a top-10 team. Another week like last week would make it hard to keep Neptune out again.

Wall (11-4, 7-2) – Most teams hit a wall (no pun intended) at some point, and the Crimson Knights likely hit theirs with back-to-back losses to Red Bank and Central. The body of work is still solid.

Colts Neck (8-4, 5-3) – The Cougars are dangerously close to falling out of the B North race, but they have also had a knack for winning games with their backs against the wall.

Howell (9-6, 5-4) – This is a big week for the Rebels, who play Freehold Township and Marlboro this week before getting a second crack at CBA next week.

Manchester (10-3, 8-1) – The Hawks are still a signature win from pushing their way into the top 10, but the losses (Lakewood, Toms River North and Manasquan) are still very strong.

Marlboro (7-7, 5-5) – The Mustangs have had an underrated season that includes wins over Freehold Township, Manalapan and Howell.