MIDDLETOWN - As much as Mater Dei Prep and Ranney have grown into rivals during their respective two-year meteoric rises, the two had yet to play the kind of classic, down-to-the-wire game that is an essential part of any rivalry.

Thursday at Mater Dei, the rivalry between the Seraphs and the Panthers reached the next level and so did Ranney.

Sophomore Bryan Antoine scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and the Panthers - the No. 2 team in the most recent Shore Sports Network Top 10 - erased a seven-point deficit with six minutes left to upend the No. 1 Seraphs, 58-56. The loss is the first within the Shore Conference for Mater Dei since Ben Gamble took over as head coach prior to last season.

"It means a lot," Antione said of the win. "I know a lot of people were saying they were going to beat us and I guess we were considered the underdogs in this game. We just kept playing hard."

Sophomore Bryan Antoine scored 23 points against Mater Dei, including 15 in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Sophomore Bryan Antoine scored 23 points against Mater Dei, including 15 in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"You relish these opportunities," second-year Ranney coach Tahj Holden said. "We came in here last year and thought we had a good shot. We were just three or four opportunities short and I told our guys if we cut (out) one or two bad plays, we'd have a chance to win it at the end."

Mater Dei won all three meetings between the newfound rivals by an average margin of victory of 11 points last year, when four of Ranney's regular starters were freshmen. The Panthers closed the gap with each game and early in the fourth quarter, it appeared as though they would have to settle for the consolation of again climbing closer to Mater Dei on the scoreboard without beating the Seraphs.

That's when Antoine took over the game.

"We were in foul trouble and somebody had to step up," Antoine said. "That was me."

The 6-5 sophomore guard hit two three-pointers that cut Mater Dei's lead from seven to four and followed up the second triple with a steal and a dunk that pulled Ranney within 46-44 with just under 4:20 to play.

Mater Dei stretched the lead back to 50-44 on baskets by seniors Elijah Mitchell and Marvin Pierre, at which point Ranney call timeout and re-inserted sophomore Scottie Lewis - who sat the first 4:30 of the fourth quarter with four fouls - into the lineup for the final stretch. Sophomore Ahmadu Sarnor hit two free throws to pull Ranney back within four and took a charge on the other end to get the Panthers the ball back.

Lewis hit a 16-foot fadeaway to slice the deficit to two and after the defense earned another stop, Sarnor scored on a follow to tie to score at 50.

Mater Dei senior Elijah Barnes missed a three on the other end to give Ranney a chance to take the lead and the Panthers cashed in. Antoine won position inside and Sarnor found him for the go-ahead layup with 1:48, which capped an 8-0 run for the visitor.

As he did when he led his team back in the third quarter, Barnes had an answer. The Princeton University signee converted a three-point play to give Mater Dei back the lead with 1:12 left - converting a tough shot in the lane before hitting the ensuing free throw.

Antoine then match Barnes with a three-point play of his own to put the Panthers up 55-53 with 44.1 seconds left after sophomore Alex Klatsky found him off an inbounds play underneath the basket.

"For a player like Bryan who has his scoring capabilities and what he does on defense, when I'm on the bench, it's his job to do everything," Lewis said. "When we're all out there, it's all of our jobs to do everything. People say we're not deep, but all of our guys, including the guys off the bench, they all come in and do exactly what they're supposed to do."

Barnes missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer from the right win and sophomore Chris Autino hauled in the round before hitting a pair of free throws with 19.7 seconds left to effectively put the game on ice.

In addition to a big scoring fourth quarter, Antoine also collected five rebounds and five steals in Ranney's biggest win in program history. Just two nights earlier, Antoine scored 19 points in a 51-48 loss to St. Anthony and also made a crucial play on a steal and dunk that tied the game at 48 with 1:30 left before St. Anthony eventually won the game in the final seconds.

"He played smart," Holden said of Antoine. "He got the ball out of his hands, made the right play and hit his teammates, and then the ball finds you when you do the right things. We have enough talent where one guy doesn't have to do it, but he was in position where he got some open looks and he knocked them down. Even some not-open looks."

Sarnor pitched in 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in his first Ranney-Mater Dei game. He spent last year at a small charter school in Pennsylvania before transferring to Ranney this season. He has made his presence felt at several points this year, never more so than on Thursday.

"I knew from the start it was going to be a good game because of the talk, the rivalry, the hype and the packed house," Sarnor said. "It was exciting to come out here and play in it."

Lewis, meanwhile, posted 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocks despite battling second-half foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul just before time expired in the third quarter and sat out the first 4:30 of the fourth. He hit Mater Dei junior Brandon Wilson on a three-point attempt with 0.1 second left in the third and Wilson hit all three foul shots to give the Seraphs a 38-34 lead heading to the fourth.

"Wonderful," Lewis said of his team's play with him on the bench. "When I went out, Bryan showed up and did exactly what he's supposed to do. Alex became a knock-down shooter. Ahmadu became a true point guard. Chris played strong like a man. I had full faith in my team that they were going to do what they were supposed to do."

"When Scottie came out of the game, I knew I had to pick it up a lot," Sarnor said. "When I took that charge at the end, I knew that was a big play. Everybody stepping up at the end really helped us out."

Barnes led Mater Dei with 20 points and seven rebounds, including 10 points on three three-pointers in the third quarter. Ranney built a 33-27 lead midway through the third before the Seraphs awoke behind Barnes, closing the quarter out on an 11-1 run.

Ranney's three-quarter-court pressure and zone defense bothered the Seraphs for the duration of the second quarter and for most of the third. During one stretch from the end of the second to the middle of the third, Mater Dei turned the ball over eight times in 12 possessions. From the final 1:30 of the first quarter to the first half of the third, the Panthers outscored the Seraphs 22-9 to swing a 18-11 deficit to a 33-27 lead.

"This is the best defensive game we've had all season," Lewis said. "We played a full game of basketball. All four quarters, we played hard. We knew the gameplan coming into the game, especially on defense. That zone created so much for us, even on offense too because we weren't as tired."

"We were bouncing around from zone to man and we wanted to see if they could figure it out," Holden said. "They struggled against it early. They figured it out late and fortunately, they missed a couple of shots down the stretch."

"I'm 6-5 with a 6-7 wingspan, so it's tough for most guards to get the ball around me," Antoine said.

Junior Yasin Pretlow added 10 points for Mater Dei while Mitchell contributed 10 points, five boards and five assists in the loss. Mitchell also spent most of the game shadowing Antoine, who went scoreless for a stretch of nearly 11 minutes from the end of the second to the beginning of the fourth.

With Thursday's win, Ranney is positioned to move into the No. 1 ranking at the Shore for the first time in program history. The Panthers will play Montclair Immaculate on Saturday at the Dan Finn Classic in Jersey City as they look to cap the biggest week in the history of the program.

"Who would have thought two years ago that Ranney vs. Mater Dei would be the big Shore Conference rivalry game?," Holden said. "They're a great team, a well-coached team and a deep team. We think we're well-coached and disciplined and have some good players on our side too. Any time you have good players playing against each other, in conference, it's going to be a rivalry."

Box Score

Ranney 58, Mater Dei 56

Ranney (8-2, 5-0)151092458
Mater Dei (9-2, 5-1)185151856

Ranney (58): Bryan Antoine 8 5-5 23, Alex Klatsky 3 0-0 8, Chris Autino 0 2-2 2, Scottie Lewis 2 7-8 11, Ahmadu Sarnor 5 4-6 14, Sam Metzger 0 0-0 0, Joe Mahoney 0 0-0 0, Kyle Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 18-21 58

Three-pointers: Antoine 2, Klatsky 2

Mater Dei (56): Kenny Jones 2 0-0 5, Yasin Pretlow 4 1-1 10, Adam Afifi 2 0-0 4, Elijah Barnes 7 2-3 20, Elijah Mitchell 4 1-1 10, Brandon Wilson 1 3-3 5, Marvin Pierre 1 0-0 2, Rajae Muhammed 0 0-0 0, Eddie Lewis 0 0-0 0, Maleek McKnight 0 0-0 0, Kyle Devaney 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 7-8 56

Three-pointers: Jones, Pretlow, Barnes 4, Mitchell

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