Boys Basketball – Top 10, Feb. 2
1. Christian Brothers Academy (13-2, 8-0) Last Week: 1
At this point, there are two No. 1 teams in the Shore Conference. Two people could argue Mater Dei vs. CBA from sun-up until sun-down and resolve nothing. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for CBA as the No. 1 team as the Shore Conference Tournament approaches, but make no mistake about it: the Colts have done their part. With a December loss to Don Bosco and a loss to the top team in the state in St. Anthony, plus a very solid non-conference schedule, CBA has the résumé of a No. 1 team. The Colts also have a chance to nail down the No. 1 seed if they can beat St. Augustine this Saturday in Atlantic City, which should leave little doubt. If they lose a competitive game against legitimately one of the top six teams in the state, however, the picture doesn’t really get any clearer.
2. Mater Dei Prep (15-1, 11-0) Last Week: 2
While the Seraphs had been mighty impressive all season long, Sunday’s win over St. Joseph of Montvale took the Mater Dei renaissance to a new level. The Green Knights were a legitimate top-20 team in the state and the Seraphs hung tough for three quarters before landing a knockout punch in the fourth quarter. While CBA has a chance to land the deciding blow in the race of the No. 1 seed with its game against St. Augustine, Mater Dei will also have chances to impress the rest of the Shore. The Seraphs host Ranney on Thursday and will play state-ranked Notre Dame on Feb. 13 – the day before the Shore Conference Tournament seeding meeting.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (13-3, 7-2) Last Week: 3
While the Bulldogs are not in position to argue for a top-two spot just yet, they have done a good job of positioning themselves for a move to the top should CBA or Mater Dei slip up. With a winning streak that has reached 11, Rumson is very much a contender for a second straight Shore Conference Tournament title, high on the list of Group II contenders, and a couple of favorable results away from getting into the conversation for top team in the Shore Conference before the tournament begins.
4. Manasquan (14-2, 7-1) Last Week: 4
Although Rumson is the hotter team lately, Manasquan will still has the advantage of the Class A Central division title as long as the Warriors can finish off the regular season with an 11-1 division record. By precedent, that wins the day in the conference tournament seeding, while Rumson might have the better overall body of work with the win over Gill St. Bernard’s, Manasquan is actually the team best positioned to grab a top-two seed if either CBA or Mater Dei should falter.
5. Toms River North (15-2, 10-0) Last Week: 5
The Mariners saw a 10-game winning streak come to a halt with a loss to Union Saturday, which came less than 24 hours after a knock-down, drag-out, overtime battle with division rival Southern. Union is only 9-7, but the Farmers have lost to the likes of Roselle Catholic, Pope John, Westfield and St. Mary’s of Elizabeth, so the Mariners lost a competitive game to a battle-tested team. To this point, Toms River North’s résumé is built on a December win over Freehold Township and an undefeated division mark that includes a couple wins over Southern and another win over Toms River East. That is a solid body f work, but it doesn’t shut the door on a team like Ranney or Lakewood as both try to run down a top-five spot in the rankings.
6. Ranney (16-1, 10-1) Last Week: 6
Toms River North’s weekend has opened the door for the young Panthers to surge into the top five, but there is still some work to be done. Ranney does not necessarily have to beat Mater Dei for that to happen, but a competitive game against a Seraphs team that humbled the Panthers pretty good the first time, coupled by a slip-up by Rumson, Manasquan or Toms River North, could very well be enough. Ranney also has a tough game the night after the Mater Dei showdown against Peddie – who is led by, among others, former Shore Regional standout Dan Largey – but that’s a hard game to evaluate given Peddie’s prep status.
7. Freehold Township (10-5, 6-2) Last Week: 7
The Class A North public school frontrunner continues to build its case for a top-eight seed, most recently with a win over a Middletown North team that beat them in the first meeting. While the Class A North public field has been solid-but-not-spectacular, Freehold Township has done itself plenty of good with its non-divisional schedule. The Pats have quality wins over Manchester, Long Branch and Donovan Catholic and have lost only to Toms River North (15-2), Rumson (13-3) and Cherry Hill East (10-6) – all away from home. They also have a chance to add a season sweep over Marlboro and will get one more crack at CBA on the day before the cutoff.
8. Lakewood (13-3, 10-1) Last Week: 9
The Piners climb a spot in the rankings in the wake of Manchester’s loss to Pinelands, which puts Lakewood back in the catbird’s seat in Class B South. Like Freehold Township, Lakewood’s losses are to quality opponents, but the Patriots currently own the edge with a win over Manchester – which beat Lakewood in the first meeting between the teams. Lakewood will get its rematch against Manchester and if the Piners can run the table against a field that includes the aforementioned Hawks and Colonia, they will have a chance to get back in the top-five conversation before the SCT is seeded.
9. Colts Neck (12-3, 8-2) Last Week: Not ranked
The Cougars are back in the B North race and, in turn, the top 10 as well. Saturday’s hard-fought win over Long Branch pulled Colts Neck even with the Green Wave for first place in the division and with a road win over Rumson – the only loss the Bulldogs have suffered with Brendan Barry on the court – the Cougars have the highest seeding potential of any B North team. The division, however, is still full of landmines and Red Bank has already beaten Colts Neck once.
10. Manchester (13-4, 9-2) Last Week: 8
Manchester’s loss to Pinelands doesn’t bury the Hawks because most every other team around this portion of the rankings has lost a similar game, but it does but them in jeopardy of falling out of the top 10 if they can’t beat Donovan Catholic or Lakewood down the stretch of the schedule. That win over Lakewood still gives Manchester’s résumé a slight edge over teams like Long Branch and Southern, but that shot by Chris Burke on Monday night may be the shot that ultimately knocks Manchester out of the top eight.
Long Branch (11-5, 8-2) Last Week: 10 – If the Green Wave can secure a share of B North, it will ultimately be difficult to keep them out of the top 10.
On the Bubble
Southern (10-5, 7-3) – The Rams have a win over Holy Spirit as the foundation of their résumé and could add to it by beating Toms River East for a second time and also winning at the Battle by the Bay against an 11-4 Eastern team.
Donovan Catholic (11-5, 8-2) – A sweep at the hands of Lakewood takes a lot of steam out of a run into the top 10, but the Griffins could at least make a late push with a win over Manchester Tuesday.
Toms River East (10-4, 7-3) – A loss against Jackson Memorial knocked the Raiders out of the top 10 picture now, but there is still an opportunity out there with both Southern and Toms River North still on the schedule.
Point Beach (8-7, 5-5) – If the record is a deal-breaker for some, it should get a lot better over the next couple of weeks with remaining division games against Keyport, Henry Hudson, Keansburg and Asbury Park. A win over Colts Neck is reason enough to keep the Garnet Gulls on the radar.