Boys Basketball – A New New No. 1: Carousel Stops With Red Bank Catholic on Top of SSN Rankings
In the four seasons from 2017-18 and 2021, only two teams occupied the top spot in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 rankings. Not only are we now on our third No. 1 team at the Shore since the start of this season, but two of them had never been the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference before this season.
There have been lots of games between top-five teams and top 10 teams already this season, including three games pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams against one another. The result of that is a surprising amount of clarity in the rankings, although one of the conclusions that should be drawn from the start of the season is that whichever team is No. 1 heading into the postseason is beatable.
That, however, is a story for another week. This week, it is time to celebrate a new No. 1 team and get ready for another big week of games.
1. Red Bank Catholic (11-1, 5-0) Last Week: 2
Last week, the top story in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 was CBA reaching the No. 1 spot for the first time in six years. This week, the story is Red Bank Catholic climbing to the top spot in the Shore Conference for the first time…ever? The search for a prior No. 1 ranking for the Caseys has come up empty, meaning the climb to the top by the 2021-22 team is believed to be the program’s first ever summit to the top of the Shore Conference mountain.
The Caseys have lost only once so far this season and it was a loss they have already avenged. After losing to Marlboro by three points in the WOBM Christmas Classic championship game, Red Bank Catholic beat the Mustangs 10 days later in the second meeting between the top two teams in the rankings to open the year. RBC then played in its third 1-vs.-2 game of the season on Saturday at CBA and won for a second time, beating the Colts, 59-47, to earn the top spot midway through January.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (10-1, 5-0) Last Week: 1
CBA had been walking the tightrope throughout the early part of its schedule and finally slipped off the wire against RBC on Saturday. Prior to losing to the Caseys for their first loss of the season, the Colts narrowly escaped with wins over Red Bank, Rumson-Fair Haven, Ranney, Marlboro, Manalapan, Middletown South, St. John Vianney and Howell – a list of wins that covers a wide spectrum of teams at different levels. While the Colts might need some help to get back to No. 1 before the Shore Conference Tournament, they have all but locked down a top-four seed and it would take a lot to knock them out of the top three.
3. Marlboro (9-2, 3-1) Last Week: 3
If anyone doubted how valuable senior Zach Molod is to Marlboro, he proved his worth by returning from a four-game COVID-related absence on Wednesday and put up 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting to help the Mustangs pull out a 59-49 road win over previously-unbeaten Robbinsville. Marlboro is now 7-0 with Molod in the lineup and 2-2 without him, including a win over Red Bank Catholic with him in the lineup and a loss to those same Caseys without him. Marlboro will try to stay healthy for the remainder of the schedule, which includes one more shot at CBA and a showcase game against St. John Vianney.
4. Ranney (6-1, 3-0) Last Week: 4
The Panthers got one day of practice after a COVID-related shutdown and had to play a hungry Keyport team on Tuesday. They had to beat away the Red Raiders, 64-58, for a big B Central road win and later picked up wins over Mater Dei Prep and a Rancho Solano team that is in the mix as a Top 20 team in Arizona. Ranney’s big opportunity to break into the top three will come next weekend against Red Bank Catholic, although a loss to CBA could make for more of a mess than an easy jump up for the Panthers.
5. St. John Vianney (11-2, 4-0) Last Week: 5
After taking CBA to the wire last Saturday at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase, St. John Vianney had a series of trap games lined up and nearly stepped in one. Between easy wins over Colts Neck and Freehold Township, the Lancers had to rally in the final four minutes to upend Middletown North at home, with Nate Williams again raising his game down the stretch and fellow senior Omar Calderson coming up with the winning tip-in. That gives St. John Vianney a major leg up in the Class B North divisional race and the 20-point win over Freehold Township the next day was an impressive follow-up.
6. Manasquan (7-2, 3-0) Last Week: 6
The Warriors handled Wall in their only game this week and are looking at a stretch of divisional games within Class C North that won’t give them that much of a chance to move up. The only Manasquan opponent in January that carries that kind of weight is Roselle Catholic – the No. 2 team in the state – and that will be a very tall task for the Warriors considering their own youth and Roselle Catholic’s exceptional talent.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-2, 1-1) Last Week: 7
Rumson returned to action with a win over Matawan, then hung around with Red Bank Catholic for three quarters before the Caseys blew the game open in the fourth. Rumson will have some chances to move up, particularly inside the division with one more game against Red Bank Catholic and two still remaining against Raritan. The main focus for Rumson, though, is to get healthy for the stretch run, with senior guard Geoff Schroeder yet to play his first game of the season.
8. Manchester (7-2, 4-0) Last Week: 8
The Hawks have overwhelmed the rest of the Class B South division so far and will have their first shot at Lacey to start the week. After that, Manchester will venture back outside the division in the form of a big road showdown with Jackson Memorial – one of a handful of the contenders in the Class A South race. Manchester’s big chance to move up will be Jan. 26 vs. Ranney, but as long as the Hawks keep winning in Ocean County, they are likely to remain in the Top 10.
9. Raritan (5-1, 1-1) Last Week: 9
With the new week came another test for Raritan and the Rockets passed it with flying colors. Raritan made a trip to Holmdel and took down the Hornets, 77-62, to build on their strong start to the season. This week presents even more opportunity, beginning with a trip to play Jackson Memorial – a team that spent time in the Top 10 this season – and followed by a home game against No. 7 Rumson-Fair Haven. Just going 1-1 in those games would solidify Raritan’s place in the Top 10, while winning both would clear the Rockets to climb at least one spot.
10. Central (8-2, 4-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The lone new team in this week’s rankings is Central and that’s just for this week. The Golden Eagles began the 2021-22 season as the No. 10 team in the rankings and they return to initial position on the strength of a seven-game winning streak that includes crucial division wins over Jackson Memorial and Brick Memorial. One of Central’s two losses was against Jackson Memorial, so proving they could beat the Jaguars was a big step for the Golden Eagles, who are now back in the thick of the Class A South championship race.
Middletown North (4-4, 2-1) Last Week: 10 – Central is too hot to deny for the No. 10 spot, which is bad luck for the Lions, who only lost to St. John Vianney by two points on the road on Friday. They are not far off from jumping back in.
Top 10 Watchlist
Brick Memorial (5-3, 3-1) – Losses to Middletown North and Central have Brick Memorial chasing two more teams for a spot in the rankings.
Jackson Memorial (4-4, 2-2) – The Jaguars have a major opportunity this week with games against No. 9 Raritan and No. 8 Manchester.
Keyport (6-1, 4-1) – A narrow loss at home to No. 4 Ranney showed the Red Raiders could be a dangerous draw in the Shore Conference Tournament and are ready to make a serious run at a Central Jersey Group I title.
Point Pleasant Boro (8-1, 4-1) – A tight loss at Manasquan is the only blemish on the record of Point Boro, which is continuing to find wins as the schedule gets tougher.
Holmdel (5-5, 2-2) – The growing pains have been many, but Holmdel’s lineup of underclassmen has held its own against quality competition, save for a one-sided loss to Red Bank Catholic this week.
Freehold Township (6-4, 3-1) – The Patriots were picking up steam in recent games, but St. John Vianney cooled them off on Saturday.
Howell (5-4, 2-3) – The Rebels had a chance to beat CBA on the final possession of Friday’s game, but came up two points shy.