Boys Basketball – Top 10, Jan. 11
In most years, it doesn’t take long for the basketball season to make mincemeat of the preseason Top 10. This season, the preseason Top 10 has held up pretty well, with only and injury to Brendan Barry throwing a major wrench into the preseason installment.
Now that Barry is back, so are the Bulldogs who (spoiler alert) jump back into the Top 10. While Rumson is back, seven of the teams that began the year ranked in the top eight have remained in the top eight for the entire season to this point and the other team in the current top eight is a Ranney squad that began the season on the radar with a lineup full of freshmen.
The headline this week, in addition to Rumson surging back into the top 10, is the team that debuts at No. 10. Other than that, it’s the same old song for at least another week.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (7-2, 4-0) Last Week: 1
Losing to St. Anthony by any margin is not going to affect any team’s Shore Conference ranking, but another early-round knockout at the hands of N.J.’s top team is a bit of a buzzkill. CBA has shown some vulnerabilities on defense, but the Colts still have the best duo in the conference in Pat Andree with John Salcedo doing a very nice job running the point. A close call vs. Marlboro on Friday is at least enough to begin considering dropping CBA, especially since Toms River North beat the Mustangs by 16.
2. Mater Dei Prep (6-1, 4-0) Last Week: 2
Since the last Top 10, the Seraphs suffered their first loss of the season but that loss may have only served to strengthen Mater Dei’s case as a top team in the conference. The Seraphs dropped a three-point decision to defending Non-Public A champion Pope John, then finished the week by dismantling Keyport, Keansburg and Neptune. A road showdown with Ranney on Tuesday is a chance for Mater Dei to continue to chip away at CBA as the Shore frontrunner.
3. Manasquan (9-0, 3-0) Last Week: 3
One of two unbeaten teams left in the Shore Conference, the Warriors have stayed perfect with a growing prowess in the fourth quarter. Manasquan has won four straight games with dominant fourth quarters, including wins over Toms River North, St. John Vianney and Point Beach. The Warriors have a good case to be the No. 1 team in the conference, but the teams CBA and Mater Dei Prep have lost to are state-ranked teams so they hold on to the top two spots for now.
4. Lakewood (5-2, 4-0) Last Week: 4
With a couple losses to quality opponents Trenton Catholic and Westfield, Lakewood also won’t drop, but the Piners won’t climb either with the top three teams all performer up to expectations so far. Lakewood has gotten a lot of production from Amir Tyler and Sean Barksdale and if the rest of the lineup can continue to grow around those two senior standouts, the Piners should remain a factor in the top five.
5. Toms River North (7-1, 3-0) Last Week: 5
The Mariners bounced back from their only loss of the season to Manasquan by winning a tough road game at Southern and routing Toms River South and Manalapan to close out the week. Getting through Southern on the road is a high hurdle to clear for Toms River North in its quest for a third division title in four years, but it’s looking more and more like Toms River East is going to be a dangerous pair of games for the Mariners.
6. Ranney (9-0, 4-0) Last Week: 6
The Panthers won some big game prior to last week, but Tuesday’s win over Point Beach was Ranney’s first game that came down to the final minute and the young squad came through to stay unbeaten. They finished with week with easy wins over Asbury Park and later at the Panther Classic, but the tenor changes drastically on Tuesday when No. 2 Mater Dei Prep comes in for a visit.
7. Long Branch (6-2, 4-0) Last Week: 8
It took Long Branch all of three games to match last year’s win total, but a two-game skid followed that 3-0 start. As it turns out, those two losses at the Neptune Holiday Jubilee to Neptune and Eastside High School were just a bump in the road, and the Green Wave has started the New Year with another three-game winning streak. After beating Red Bank Catholic and Wall, Long Branch capped the week with a win over St. John Vianney at the Boardwalk Showcase and remains unbeaten (4-0) in B North play.
8. Colts Neck (6-1, 3-1) Last Week: 9
Since a 57-54 opening-night loss to Long Branch, Colts Neck has ratcheted up its defense and won six straight games, including a double-overtime win over Rumson on Dec. 30 that looks even better in light of the Bulldogs recent surge. This past week, the Cougars picked up two big B North wins – a thrashing of Neptune on the road and a 46-41 slugfest against a scrappy young Matawan team. They capped the week by beating Brick Memorial with senior Tom O’Reilly out sick.
9. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-3, 2-2) Last Week: Not ranked
The first of two newcomers to this week’s Top 10, the Bulldogs appear to be back to the form that won them the Shore Conference Tournament last year. They handled Freehold Township at home to begin the New Year, picked up division wins over Shore and Holmdel, then capped a big week by dominating Gill St. Bernard’s, the No. 7 team state, according to NJ.com, at the Boardwalk Showcase. Winning A Central is an uphill battle, but with Brendan Barry back and the new starting lineup starting to take shape, the Bulldogs appear primed for another run.
10. Toms River East (5-1, 3-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The newest member of the top 10, the Raiders join the field after another week of convincing victories. Not only are all five of Toms River East’s five wins by at least 14 points each and by an average margin of victory of more than 25 points, but the Raiders’ lone loss is to No. 3 Manasquan by just five points. The strength of Toms River East’s case at this point stems from dominance and a quality loss rather than a bunch of great wins, but a recent 20-point win over a Brick team off to a strong start is noteworthy as well.
Neptune (3-5, 2-2) Last Week: 7 – The Scarlet Fliers have had some trouble putting a full game together, but the schedule has been pretty brutal for a team with so many new players, yet high expectations.
Freehold Township (5-4, 2-2) Last Week: 10 – The battle for the A North public title is already a free-for-all and while a Patriots loss to Middletown North blew the race open, Freehold Township is competing in the race despite returning only one starter and still looks like a strong bet to win it.
On the Bubble
Raritan (7-1, 3-0) – While the record is great and the lone loss is to powerhouse Roselle Catholic, Raritan has not yet defeated a team with a winning record. Wins over Holmdel and Bridgewater-Raritan should look strong in time.
Manchester (5-1, 3-0) – The Hawks have not done anything that jumps off the page, but a convincing win over Marlboro looks pretty solid after the Mustangs just took CBA to overtime.
St. John Vianney (5-4, 2-1) – The Lancers had a chance to break into the top 10 with a win over either Manasquan or Long Branch. Although they lost both, both games were decided by a play here or there.
Matawan (4-4, 2-2) – The Huskies have lost to three quality opponents – including Old Bridge twice – and just gave Colts Neck a tough game on the road.
Donovan Catholic (5-3, 3-1) – An injury to Mike Boice has not helped, but the Griffins showed some chops in battling back against Lakewood to make it close last Monday after a bad first half.
The A North Public Hoard – Take your pick between Middletown North, Marlboro and Manalapan. Those three, along with Howell and Freehold Township, are all 2-2 in divisional play.