Boys Basketball – Top 10, Jan. 26
There is a case to be made that the No. 1 ranking has been up for debate over the last couple of weeks, but this is the first week that the preseason No. 1 team lost a game to a Shore Conference team and made this a real argument. With Christian Brothers Academy’s loss to Freehold Township on Friday, the Colts join the rest of the field as teams with some good results mixed in with at least some downside.
Since every team does have notable loss or two, it becomes helpful to focus more on the good than the bad. Teams that step up and perform against the best competition are going to be rewarded and that plays out in this week’s top 10. The focus won’t be on the bad losses, but rather the good wins while still keeping an eye on the entire body of work.
Now that that is all cleared up, let’s get the debate going.
1. Toms River North (12-1, 7-1) Last Week: 3
For the first time this season, a team other than CBA is the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference. Brick Memorial’s recent slide has not helped Toms River North’s profile, but it has not hurt them too much because of the overall parity throughout the Shore. Keeping with the theme of the week, it’s better to focus on the positives rather than the warts: a 12-1 record with a WOBM win, plus a win over Southern and two over Toms River South.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (10-4, 7-1) Last Week: 1
At some point, it was going to be hard for CBA to hold on to the No. 1 spot even without a Shore Conference loss because of the résumés of both Toms River North and Red Bank. The reason the Colts fall only one spot is because, on the whole, Class A North has done the job outside the division, which means CBA is still leading a very strong division. With that loss, however, there should be some rather healthy debate as to which team is the best in the Shore Conference right now.
3. Freehold Township (10-4, 5-3) Last Week: 4
A close loss to Manalapan early in the week seemed to indicate a slide in the rankings for the Patriots, but that all changed with Friday’s win over CBA. The Freehold Township vs. Red Bank debate is a pretty good one, and with Toms River South’s surge, Rumson’s strong start and the CBA win, Freehold Township all of a sudden has itself one of the Shore’s best collection of quality wins. As has been written in this spot in past weeks, the Patriots get a couple mulligans for two early losses without two of their starters. Since the return of Kyle Czajkowski and Dan Saunders, their only losses are to Red Bank Catholic and Manalapan, both by three points each.
4. Red Bank (10-2, 7-2) Last Week: 2
The Bucs were staring an 0-2 week in the face until they rallied for a thrilling comeback win on the road against Wall, a team that entered with an eight-game winning streak. The win got Red Bank into the top spot in B North and kept the Bucs unbeaten against teams outside of Red Bank. The two losses to Red Bank Catholic keep Red Bank out of the top spot, not because a loss to the Caseys is damning, but more because it’s hard to be a No. 1 team with a 0-2 record against another team. It doesn’t disqualify the Bucs for anything down the road, but for now, those two losses drop them a spot while wins over St. Joseph Metuchen, Wall, Colts Neck, Neptune and Matawan keep them in the top five.
5. Lakewood (11-1, 8-0) Last Week: 6
The Piners appeared as though they were in statement-making mode when they dominated Manchester in a 33-point win on Tuesday, but then they turned around and nearly lost to Pinelands on Thursday. That is the second time this year Lakewood had to come back to beat Pinelands by a narrow margin, which speaks to how much match-ups play into game results. It should also be noted that Lakewood played Thursday’s game without juniors Amir Tyler and Ryszon Barnes, who sat because of what coach Randy Holmes called “disciplinary reasons.” Looking past a couple close calls and a rocky outing against Neptune, Lakewood has been dominant with a full lineup and Class B South has also played well enough outside of the division to put Lakewood in a position to push for a top seed if it can keep racking up the wins..
6. Manasquan (11-3, 6-1) Last Week: 8
The Warriors battled through a tough week last week, one that included losses to Shore and Neptune. They redeemed themselves this week with their second win of the season over Rumson-Fair Haven and now appear to be back on track. The pair of wins against the Bulldogs is the highlight of the résumé and a win over Manchester looks strong considering that B South has fared well outside of division play. More than all that though, Manasquan is still in the process of jelling, at least more than other teams at this point. That doesn’t show up on paper but it’s worth considering right now and in the weeks to come.
7. Red Bank Catholic (9-5, 6-3) Last Week: Not ranked
There are not many teams in the Shore Conference harder to figure out than Red Bank Catholic. The Caseys have double-digit losses to Colts Neck, Matawan and Wall, but have also defeated No. 4 Red Bank twice and No. 3 Freehold Township. Sticking with the notion that quality wins should trump bad losses, the Caseys have to be in the top 10 and should get a strong push based on who they have beaten. If RBC can leave those blowout losses in the rearview mirror and climb back into the B North race, there is a foundation for a top-five résumé there.
8. Toms River South (7-4, 5-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Prior to this week, Toms River South’s case was a win over Manasquan and losses to very good teams, but with a win over Southern this past week, the quality wins are starting to pile up. The Indians’ only losses are to Southern, Freehold Township and twice to Toms River North so factor that in with the quality wins, and you have yourself a pretty strong top-10 case. If there is a red flag for the Indians, it is that they have given up more points than they have scored.
9. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-3, 5-2) Last Week: 5
An opening-night loss to Manasquan was easy to overlook last week because it happened in December and Rumson rolled since. Now that the Bulldogs have lost to Manasquan for a second time, it brings the résumé into question a little bit. A win over Shore is still a strong enough win to keep Rumson in the top 10, but the Bulldogs have missed three opportunities to solidify a top-five spot in losing to Manasquan twice and to Freehold Township in overtime.
10. Shore (10-2, 6-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Blue Devils are back in the top 10 for the first time since the preseason rankings thanks to a six-game winning streak, the longest active run in the Shore Conference. A head-to-head loss keeps Shore behind Rumson, but the Blue Devils do have a win over Manasquan that vaulted them into the mix for the Class A Central title. There is not a whole lot outside of the division to boost the résumé, but a 10-2 record in A Central is good enough for the time being.
Colts Neck (8-3, 5-2) Last Week: 7 – With two losses to the two best teams in the division, Colts Neck’s big win is over RBC, which falls a little short of Shore’s win over Manasquan. The Cougars are still very close to a top-10 team.
Wall (9-4, 5-2) Last Week: 9 – With eight minutes left to go in Thursday’s game against Red Bank, Wall appeared poised to move up. Since then, the Crimson Knights have been outscored 95-58. Despite that, they are still close and will move back if some other team falters.
Southern (9-4, 5-3) Last Week: 10 – With a 1-3 record against the other three of the top-four A South teams, the Rams have a little more work to do to get back into the top 10.
On the Bubble
Manalapan (8-4, 4-4) – Wins over Red Bank Catholic and Freehold Township are awfully strong. A 17-point loss to Marlboro on Friday means the Braves will have to keep pushing.
Manchester (9-3, 7-1) – Tuesday’s loss at Lakewood did not help, but Donovan Catholic and Central have helped B South with big non-division wins.
Howell (8-6, 4-4) – With Aaron Trimble back in the fold with Gino Palummo, Will Kocsis and some very good supporting talent, the Rebels have the makings of an SCT sleeper.
Donovan Catholic (8-4, 5-3) – The loss to Barnegat is going to be a thorn in the side, but the win over Brick Memorial, plus a win over Central with Elijah Barnes makes the Griffins worth considering.