Boys Basketball – Top 10, Jan. 21
So far, the Top 10 this season has been a tale of two halves: The teams in the top five have remained rather consistent, while there has been a whole lot of turnover in the bottom of the field. The top five teams in this week’s ranking were all ranked in the preseason and four of those teams were ranked in the top six. Out of the next five teams in the rankings, two were ranked in the preseason top 10, but those two teams have both fallen out of the rankings at some point this year.
With so much parity beyond Point Beach and CBA, teams with wins in big games are going to get more top-10 attention (Toptention, anyone? No? Okay, forget I brought it up). It is still a little early to separate teams based on that either, but it is getting to the point of straw-grasping. Fortunately, there are no issues at the top.
1. Point Beach (9-0, 5-0) Last Week: 1
Nothing new to report on here. The Garnet Gulls picked up a nice win over Brighton (Mass. ) on Saturday by winning a 44-37 defensive struggle to bump their record to 9-0. Point Beach plays a solid Keyport team to open the week and closes it with a big showdown at home against Lakewood.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (7-3, 6-0) Last Week: 2
CBA has been just about as untouchable as Point Beach, with the only difference being the schedule each has played. Two of CBA’s three losses are to perennial national powers Dematha (Md.) and St. Anthony, and the other is a one-point loss at West Orange. A road test at Freehold Township Tuesday might be the last real obstacle for the Colts within A North, and considering how dominant CBA has been within its division, a Shore Conference Tournament title is becoming a more realistic goal.
3. Matawan (10-1, 4-0) Last Week: 3
The Huskie have survived a couple of scares against St. John Vianney (2-9) and Freehold (1-9), but any way you look at it, Matawan is 10-1 and in first place in a Class B North in a division that has traveled well against the rest of the Shore. The Huskies face a significant road test at Neptune on Tuesday, but if they can win that one, then the road to the division title will have to go through Matawan.
4. Long Branch (7-2, 4-1) Last Week: 4
This was a quiet week for Long Branch, which played only once – a 42-30 win over Freehold. With plenty of time to rest and practice, the Green Wave should be geared up for three games against Wall, Ocean and Freehold Township while also pulling for Neptune and/or Red Bank to knock off Matawan and make this race very interesting.
5. Lakewood (8-2, 5-0) Last Week: 5
The Piners have looked a little more vulnerable over the last two weeks and if that continues, this week could prove to be challenging. Point Boro and Manchester will visit the Piner Palace this week before Lakewood heads to Point Beach Saturday for a rematch of last year’s Shore Conference Tournament final.
6. Manasquan (8-1, 6-0) Last Week: 6
The Warriors are picking up steam with a five-game winning streak and have looked like a team every bit as good as the teams in the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots. The only team currently within striking distance of Manasquan at the top of A Central is Red Bank Catholic, and Manasquan beat the Caseys by 28 in the first meeting between the two.
7. Red Bank (7-3, 3-2) Last Week: Not ranked
No team has come as far in one year as the Bucs, and while that’s always the hope of a team of mostly sophomores and freshmen like Red Bank was last year, it is still a testament to this group. After a 1-2 start to the season, the Bucs have won six of seven, including a buzzer-beater win over Neptune that gave Red Bank its first win over the Scarlet Fliers since 2005.
8. Red Bank Catholic (7-3, 5-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Caseys began the season as the No. 10 team in the Shore and looked far from a top 10 team over the first two weeks of the season, Lately, however, RBC has rounded into form under new coach James Catalano and the Caseys now find themselves right back in the Class A Central race. A rematch against Manasquan on Friday will be a good indicator of how far they have come.
9. Monsignor Donovan (8-3, 4-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Griffins went to Lakewood and took the Piners down to the wire and then needed a fourth-quarter rally to win at Pinelands. It’s just another example of why “good losses” and “bad wins” mean very little in this already-meaningless exercise. A quality road win over St. Rose further boosts a pretty good resume overall.
10. Southern (5-3, 3-1) Last Week: 10
Despite a 1-2 week, Southern stays in the top 10. No team in Class A South has stood out above the rest to this point and while Southern falls into that category, wins over Toms River South and Jackson Memorial are enough to keep the Rams ranked based on how they have played in their biggest games.
Rumson-Fair Haven (7-3, 2-3) Last Week: 7 – The Bulldogs have been impressive at times, but are now three games behind Manasquan for first place in Class A Central.
Neptune (5-4, 3-2) Last Week: 8 – The Scarlet Fliers have looked good outside of B North against a tough schedule, but have had some shaky moments within the division.
Shore (7-5, 3-3) Last Week: 9 – The Blue Devils have not defended the way they had hoped this season, but it’s pretty clear the offense is as good as expected.
On the Bubble – These teams are all a game or two away from breaking in and they have all pretty much beaten one another.
Manchester (7-4, 2-3) – The division hasn’t been as kind as the WOBM Classic, but the Hawks have a nice mix of talent and big-game performance.
Jackson Memorial (8-4, 4-1) – The Jaguars are still feeling out their lineup, but they are also still very much in control of their own destiny in Class A South.
Holmdel (7-5, 4-2) – The Hornets have been lights-out over their last four games, with four wins and at least 68 points in each win.
Brick Memorial (6-3, 4-2) – Like the rest of Class A South, the Mustangs have been up-and-down, but up-and-down is good enough to put them in the race for the division title.
Freehold Township (7-4, 4-1) – The three A North teams in this spot are hard to separate. The Patriots get their first crack at CBA on Tuesday.
Middletown North (5-3, 2-2) – The loss to CBA was the first indicator that the first-place Colts are head and shoulders above the field. Still, Middletown North has some potential in the public title race.
Colts Neck (5-4, 4-2) – The Cougars played a good 10 minutes against CBA on Saturday before the Colts flexed their muscles. Because of the youth on the roster, Colts Neck could have the highest ceiling of the three A North public schools.
Toms River South (7-3, 3-2) – The Indians are 3-3 in games decided by six points or fewer, so they have both lived and died in the close game. Unfortunately for them, those losses have been two close division games and a WOBM semifinal.
Point Boro (6-4, 4-2) – The Panthers caught fire for a couple of weeks before falling to Jackson Liberty. Point Boro played Lakewood tough last year, so Tuesday’s date at the Piner Palace could be interesting.
Jackson Liberty (5-5, 3-3) – The Lions were missing James Sofield (illness) for a few games, but with a complete lineup back in place, they could be a factor in the early rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament.