Boys Basketball – 2019 Shore Sports Network Players of the Year: Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis
Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis spent month after month telling anyone who asked that when it came to their college recruitment, they were not a package deal.
They are indeed headed their separate ways next year – Antoine to Villanova and Lewis to the University of Florida – but when it comes to their high school careers, the two Ranney superstars and McDonald’s All-Americans will be linked forever.
No major Division I college program could successfully land both Antoine and Lewis, but the 2019 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year is, for the first time ever, a package deal. Antoine and Lewis have been the yin and yang of Ranney basketball for the last four years and one of the greatest seasons in the history of Shore Conference boys basketball would not have been possible with one and not the other.
There have been past seasons in which two players make compelling cases to be the Player of the Year – perhaps even virtually equal cases – but there has always been a separator. This year, one does not exist. Even the national recruiting outlets have trouble separating the two 6-foot-5 Class of 2019 guards – Rivals has Antoine ranked No. 11 in the class and Lewis No. 13 while ESPN has Lewis No. 12 and Antoine No. 14.
Statistically speaking, Antoine and Lewis each have some advantages over the other. When it came to stepping up in big games, each had performances that saved Ranney’s season as well.
There were games in which Lewis rose to the occasion while Antoine struggled, but there were also games in which Antoine bailed out his team. And when either Antoine or Lewis played a game below their standards, each player still made key plays to help Ranney win.
Whether it’s the season as a whole, the postseason, against ranked opponents or any other breakdown, the numbers tell the story of two players who were equally indispensable to their championship team. What follows is a case for both Antoine and Lewis that ultimately arrives at the same conclusion: it has to be both.
The Case for Bryan Antoine
Antoine is already a two-time SSN Player of the Year on his own, a back-to-back Kerwin-Award-winner and the Villanova-bound guard is now the all-time leading scorer in Shore Conference history with 2,499 career points – 197 points more than the previous record, set by Norm Caldwell of Croydon Hall in 1973.
As the leading scorer on the team that won the Tournament of Champions and the newly-crowned scoring leader in the history of his conference, how could Antoine not be the pick for Player of the Year.
Here are Antoine’s overall season numbers compared to those of his teammate, Lewis.
On the whole, Antoine had some key advantages over Lewis when comparing the statistical profile. He was the team’s leading scorer and did so in ultra-efficient fashion, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 84 percent from the free-throw line, all of which eclipsed Lewis’s marks, which were also stellar. Antoine scored just under 21 points per game while remaining part of the team concept on offense – throughout the entire season, he never attempted more than 18 shots in any one game.
While the entire, 34-game season (each player missed one game) tells the story of Antoine’s scoring prowess, a deeper dive into who felt his scoring wrath reveals an even stronger case in favor of the soon-to-be Wildcat.
One common complaint about Ranney’s schedule is that the Panthers completely overmatch its fellow members of the Shore Conference Class B Central division. Games against B Central opponents accounted for 12 games of Ranney’s schedule and conventional wisdom would then beg the question: did Antoine and Lewis pad their stats against inferior teams?
Here are the numbers from Ranney’s 21 games against teams from outside Class B Central. The 21-game sample also excludes an NJSIAA Tournament game against Timothy Christian, a team Middlesex-County team comparable to the rest of the B Central field.
Season Excluding vs. B Central Opponents and Timothy Christian
With the exception of their overall shooting percentages, assists and steals, both Antoine and Lewis actually put up better numbers against better competition. In Antoine’s case, his 21.7 points per game in those 21 games would have been a career-high for him, so the 11 divisional games he played actually dragged his scoring average down.
Antoine did most of his major scoring damage during the first month of the season, including a torrid stretch leading up to the New Year. He opened the season with 36 points in a win over West Nottingham Academy of Maryland, then poured in 33 points to go with six rebounds and six assists in a win over defending Tournament of Champions runner-up Don Bosco.
At the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh, N.C., Antoine scored the 10th-highest three-game point total in the illustrious history of the tournament with 97 points. He opened the tournament with 37 points in a wild Ranney win and followed that up with 36 in the semifinals.
Ranney’s schedule outside of Class B Central was about as tough as anyone could demand of a team, but even within those 21 games, there were some elite opponents that stood above the rest of the pack. Over the course of the entire season, Ranney played five games against teams ranked in the USA Today Top 25 – No. 3 Montverde (Fla.), No. 6 South Central (N.C.), No. 14 Federal Way (Wa.) and No. 18 Roselle Catholic twice – and went 4-1 in those games. Here are the results for each member of Ranney’s dynamic duo against some of the country’s top competition.
Vs. Nationally-ranked Teams
For both players, the numbers match almost exactly their season-long averages. In Antoine’s case, he gave up some assists and added some steals to a statistical profile that was otherwise identical to the one he put up all season long. That collection of games included outputs of 25 points and 21 points in two wins over Roselle Catholic, 23 points in a win over Federal Way and 24 points in a win over South Central in Raleigh – which was also the game in which Antoine scored his 2,000th career point.
Those games were a great opportunity for Antoine and Lewis to showcase their talents to the rest of the country, but what about against the best in N.J. Ranney’s ultimate goal this season was to finish the season as the Panthers opened it – the No. 1 ranked team in the state.
Over the course of the season, Ranney played each of the teams ranked in the top five of NJ.com’s state Top 20 at least once. The Panthers defeated No. 2 Bergen Catholic and No. 3 Roselle Catholic twice each, beat No. 5 Wildwood Catholic in the South Jersey Non-Public B final and lost to No. 4 Gill St. Bernard, 62-60, in controversial fashion. If there is a case for Antoine over Lewis, it is his performance in those six games.
Vs. Roselle Catholic, Bergen Catholic, Wildwood Catholic and Gill St. Bernard
In this case, the numbers are down for both players and considering how intense those six games were, it’s not hard to understand why. This collection also includes Antoine’s two standout performances against Roselle Catholic and also includes a 26-point effort in the regular-season win over Bergen Catholic. The senior guard had one of his quieter games in the loss to Gill St. Bernard, scoring nine points on 3-for-7 shooting.
Against the toughest teams Ranney faced, Antoine consistently rose to the occasion – no surprise for a three-time Player of the Year and the prized recruit of Jay Wright’s 2019 class at Villanova. His play sparked Ranney to a 31-3 season that ranks among the greatest in the history of the Shore Conference and his 2,499 career points have a chance to be the standard at the Shore for a long time.
In passing Babe Ruth for the all-time Major League Baseball home run record, which he held for 33 years, Hank Aaron never had a season in which he hit 50 home runs. It is one of the ultimate marks of consistency in all of sports – one of the traits that defined Aaron’s Hall of Fame career.
In many ways Antoine is the Hank Aaron of Shore Conference basketball and might even be remembered as that kind of figure around the state. He never scored 40 points in a high school game, rarely reached 20 shot attempts in any game, and yet was a record-setting offensive player who packaged the perfect balance of flash and no-frills.
With his body of work and his potential to make an impact in the NBA, it’s not out of line to declare Antoine the greatest player in the history of the Shore Conference. That is a hard case to top for Player of the Year but his longtime teammate has a rebuttal.
The Case for Scottie Lewis
If Antoine was the lone selection as the 2019 Player of the Year and won the honor for the third straight year, that would leave Lewis without a Player of the Year Award despite the fact that he is one of the Shore’s greatest players ever and has the kind of ceiling that could make him the best pro the area has ever produced.
Sentimentality, however, is not reason to hand out a Player of the Year Award and Lewis doesn’t need it to make his case. Statistically speaking, he compares favorably to Antoine across the board, even if Antoine has the edge in scoring. Lewis has consistently graded out as the better rebounder, passer and shot-blocker by the numbers and this year was no different, as the numbers in the comparisons above already reveal.
There is also the matter of Lewis’s defense, which has earned him the reputation as one of the best one-on-one stoppers in the country. While Antoine has caused plenty of havoc on the defensive end during his career, no player in the state and few in the country put in the kind of work on the defensive end that Lewis did over the last two seasons.
Playing on a Ranney team that has never had the kind of conventional front-court size that other national powers boast, Lewis has often had to defend bigger players. Last year, he slowed down current LSU forward Naz Reid during Ranney’s showdown with Roselle Catholic in the Non-Public B championship game and Reid did not go off until Lewis picked up his fourth foul and had to come off of him to stay in the game.
This year, Lewis defended 6-10 junior North Carolina commit Day’ron Sharpe in Ranney’s win over West Charlotte at the John Wall Invitational and in the previous round, held 6-8 Florida State signee Patrick Williams to 13 points in a win over West Charlotte. Back in N.J., he twice drew 6-10 Bergen Catholic center and Xavier commit Zach Freemantle and limited him to 12 points in the first meeting and 19 in the second.
Lewis’s best defensive performance, though, came on a national stage against Federal Way out of Tacoma, Wa. The No. 14 team in the country boasts 6-10 Jaden McDaniels, an uncommitted wing who is considered a serious, albeit early, candidate to go No. 1 in the 2020 NBA draft.
Playing on ESPNU in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., Lewis dominated the matchup. He scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds, handed out six assists and picked off three steals in a 73-63 Ranney win, all while hounding McDaniels into a 4-for-18 shooting performance. McDaniels finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The defensive end is one equalizer for Lewis against his teammate in the Player of the Year argument. The other is the postseason. Coming into the year, Ranney wanted to prove it belonged on a National stage and did that against the likes of Federal Way, South Central and Roselle Catholic. Ultimately, though, the Panthers’ goal was to win championships and when there was a title on the line, Lewis was locked in.
First, Ranney rolled to its second straight Shore Conference Tournament championship. After handling its first three opponents, the Panthers got their first real challenge over the past two years of the tournament against Manasquan in the championship game against Monmouth University. Here is how the two Ranney starts compared during the SCT title run.
Shore Conference Tournament
Lewis was, without question, Ranney’s MVP during the SCT. In the title game against Manasquan, with Warriors senior Brad McCabe shooting the lights out during a 33-point performance, Lewis stepped up his game and delivered one of the best games of his career: 27 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, five steals and four blocks to claim the game MVP and spark the Panthers to a 70-60 win.
While winning the Shore Conference Tournament for a second straight year was an important first step, it was not the ultimate goal. After losing to Roselle Catholic in the 2018 Non-Public B title game, Ranney had revenge on its mind. The Panthers wanted their rematch with the Lions and they wanted it to be the jumping off point to becoming the first Tournament of Champions winner in the history of the Shore Conference.
Ranney’s run to the T of C title was not the dominant run they enjoyed during the Shore Conference Tournament but nevertheless revealed the mettle of the team and the greatness of both Lewis and Antoine. Here is how the two compared during the NJSIAA Tournament.
NJSIAA Tournament (Including Tournament of Champions)
This is the closest comparison of them all. Both Lewis and Antoine saw a dip in their scoring during the T of C push but both still delivered in big moments. Antoine owns the slight edge in scoring, but Lewis’s defense and rebounding give him a compelling case as Ranney’s most valuable piece during the state tournament run.
Antoine’s performance in Ranney’s 56-50 vanquishing of Roselle Catholic – 21 points and a fast start to the game while Ranney struggled to score – is the closest thing to a trump card in his Player of the Year case. Lewis, meanwhile, did not do a lot of scoring in that game while he focused on trying to slow down fellow McDonald’s All-American Kahlil Whitney, who put up a game-high 26 points. Lewis still finished with eight points, eight rebounds and six assists and also converted a critical three-point play in the fourth quarter.
It was against Wildwood Catholic and Bergen Catholic that Lewis made his best case for Player of the Year during the NJSIAA Tournament. Wildwood Catholic had Ranney on the ropes in the fourth quarter and Lewis playing with four fouls. Despite the foul trouble, Lewis took over the game late, blocking two critical shots and hitting four clutch free throws – including the tying foul shots with 22 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Lewis showed his character in overtime after fouling out with 3:18 left to go. He retreated to the bench and never sat down, instead cheering from the Ranney sideline for the remainder of the game as his team pulled out a 54-50 win. Lewis finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
With Ranney trailing Bergen Catholic, 30-21, at halftime of the T of C championship game, Lewis and Co. took over in the second half. He scored 13 of his game-high 20 points after halftime and added 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals to the final stat-line of his final game.
Ranney’s season was all about the winning tournament championships and it’s hard to argue with the results: in Ranney’s 11 postseason games between the SCT and NJSIAA Tournaments, Lewis was Ranney’s MVP.
Combined Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournament
The Case for Both
In almost every case, picking Co-Players of the Year is a cop-out. In almost every instance, there has to be something that separated the best candidate from his primary competition, whether it is a head-to-head advantage, a championship performance or a package of skills reflected in which colleges were interested in the player.
In this case, there is no separator. Antoine and Lewis were the two best players in the Shore Conference by a wide margin, both were instrumental in winning every title in front of their team and both had defining moments that would normally clinch a Player of the Year award.
Even in their worst games during the postseason, Antoine and Lewis came through for their team: whether it was Lewis’s three-point play against Roselle Catholic, or Antoine’s second-half scoring burst during his 6-for-18 performance against Wildwood Catholic, neither let an off game stop them from making a winning play.
Ultimately, this award goes to winners and no Shore Conference team ever has done more winning at a higher level than this year’s Ranney squad. As the first Tournament of Champions winner at the Shore, they deserve some special treatment.
From the day they set foot at Ranney, Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis were linked as the next great dynamic duo at the Shore Conference and in New Jersey. They now leave linked as the 2019 Players of the Year and two of the all-time great Shore players on an all-time great Shore team.