Boys Basketball – Holmdel Surges Back to No. 3 in Mid-SCT Shore 16, Presented by SAVVY FIT SOAPS
There are four teams left in the Shore Conference Tournament, and while it is not the top four seeds in the tournament, the four remaining were all in the conversation for top-four seeds in the days and hours leading up to the tournament seeding. The SCT has been an extension of the regular season in that the teams ranked No. 2 all the way to the end of the Shore 16 are all fairly close and could produce some rather unpredictable results when all of them are thrown into the same tournament.
1. St. Rose (23-2) Last Week: 1
St. Rose’s march toward its first ever Shore Conference Tournament title started with SCT wins over Freehold Boro and Rumson-Fair Haven by an average margin of victory of 37 points. The Purple Roses will next play CBA in the semifinal – a rematch of a game St. Rose won, 73-46, on Jan. 26. St. Rose also handled the two other SCT semifinalists during the regular season: the Roses beat Holmdel by 32 points and Manasquan by 19 – both on the road.
2. Manasquan (18-5) Last Week: 2
Although they were the No. 3 seed in the SCT, the Warriors are the second-best seed remaining and had a rather compelling case to be No. 2 to begin with. Once the tournament started, Manasquan has validated its claim to No. 2 by routing Marlboro, 80-30, in round on, followed by an overtime win against a Toms River North team that beat the Warriors in December. Manasquan beat Holmdel, 59-37, in December, but Holmdel was not at full strength and the Warriors are more banged up now than they were at the time.
3. Holmdel (19-2) Last Week: 6
The Hornets return to the No. 3 spot in the rankings and with the benefit of hindsight, it is fair to say they should have never left. Holmdel’s only losses are to No. 1 St. Rose and No. 2 Manasquan and the only reason teams passed the Hornets in the rankings is because Holmdel was not beating as many ranked teams as the teams surpassing them. That changed last week, when Holmdel survived an overtime battle with Manalapan, then ended Central’s 15-game winning streak on Saturday to earn a spot in the SCT semifinals.
4. Central (19-4) Last Week: 4
The Golden Eagles are still searching for their first SCT semifinal berth after losing a heartbreaker to Holmdel on Saturday, but despite not being part of the final quartet in the tournament, Central remains in the Shore top four. The Golden Eagles lost for the first time since December 30 and the loss was by one point on a neutral floor to a 19-2 team. Central still has wins over Mainland, Haddonfield and Toms River North – a trio that includes a team that beat Manasquan (Toms River North) and a team that blew out CBA (Mainland).
5. Christian Brothers Academy (17-5) Last Week: 5
Last week was a good one for the Colts, who clinched a spot in the SCT semifinals for the second time in three years by holding off Howell, which came after handing Donovan Catholic just its fourth loss of the season two days earlier. On top of that, CBA reached the NJSIAA Tournament cutoff with the most power points of any team in its South Jersey Non-Public A section, which sets the Colts up to be the No. 1 seed in the sectional tournament. An ankle injury to sophomore starter Connor Andree is a short-term concern at the moment, but even at healthy Colts team was not nearly enough to hang with St. Rose the first time the two teams played. When CBA faces St. Rose again Wednesday in the SCT semifinals, the two main goals will be to compete and avoid any more injuries.
6. Toms River North (16-7) Last Week: 7
The Mariners have lost to three unranked Shore Conference opponents in Southern, Toms River South and Matawan, but have also beaten three top 10 teams, including No. 2 and No. 4. While the overall season has been dragged down by inconsistency, it has largely been a predictable inconsistency, if such a think exists. When Toms River North faces a notable team in a game that has some additional meaning, the Mariners have consistently showed up. That bodes well for their chances in the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (17-6) Last Week: 9
Although they did their best to slow down the game Saturday, the Bulldogs were unable to contain St. Rose in a 61-35 loss to the No. 1 team in the state. Prior to that, though, Rumson avenged a loss to Red Bank Catholic, despite missing 6-foot-6 center Andrew Goodes, who is recovering from a sore Achilles heel. With that win over RBC, Rumson is now 9-2 against teams from the Class A North and B North divisions, which edges out Red Bank’s record of 9-3 in such games. Throw in a head-to-head win over Red Bank and Rumson gets the nod over the Bucs, despite Red Bank winning the division.
8. Red Bank (17-4) Last Week: 3
As the only top-eight seed in the tournament to lose at home in the round of 16, Red Bank drops five spots to No. 8 – still ahead of Red Bank Catholic, as well as the Howell team that beat the Bucs on Thursday. Red Bank is still the Class B North champion, has a win over CBA and will be the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group III section. Nos. 2-through-10 in the rankings are still relatively close with one another, so if Red Bank can defend its home court in the state tournament, not only will the Bucs be bringing home a championship trophy; they will likely enjoy the bonus of climbing in the rankings.
9. Red Bank Catholic (14-11) Last Week: 8
They may have more losses than any ranked team, but the Caseys have played a challenging schedule that has led to a lot of losses, but has also yielded RBC wins over Central, Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank, Manalapan, Donovan Catholic, Marlboro and Northern Highlands. They also have a loss to a Middletown South team that failed to qualify for the SCT and lost to Colts Neck by 31 points while missing two key players in Tyler Burnham and Sean Saxton. It all adds up to a top-10 résumé, but one that limits the Caseys the bottom of that list of teams.
10. Manalapan (15-7) Last Week: 12
The Braves join the top 10 this week thanks to a strong showing in the SCT, which included a win over Toms River East and an overtime classic at Holmdel, which the Braves lost, 61-59. Some missed free throws and layups will haunt Manalapan when recalling that loss to Holmdel, but the Braves bounced back with a road win over Donovan Catholic. All indications are that Manalapan is playing well heading into the state tournament, but first, it will try to clinch the Class A North public division championship by beating Marlboro on Monday.
11. Donovan Catholic (18-5) Last Week: 10 – The Griffins have dropped two straight, but still have a good shot at winning 20 games and could make a case to rejoin the top 10 by beating Toms River North this week.
12. Howell (15-8) Last Week: 13 – The Rebels showed when they are made of by beating Red Bank to reach the SCT quarterfinals for the first time in 13 years. With head-to-head losses to Donovan Catholic and Manalapan, plus Red Bank still owning a better overall body of work, they are currently blocked from climbing into the top 10 with a couple of weeks left to find a way in.
13. Marlboro (13-8) Last Week: 14 – After getting routed at Manasquan in the Shore Conference Tournament, Marlboro bounced back with a convincing win over Ranney that solidifies the Mustangs’ spot in the Shore 16, especially when holding a win over Central this season.
14. Freehold Boro (17-6) Last Week: Not ranked – The Colonials climb back into the rankings after an impressive win over Ranney in the SCT, which is the second win Freehold Boro has picked up vs. the Panthers this season.
15. Shore (16-6) Last Week: Not ranked – Shore is rounding into form at the right time, evidenced by its 41-40 win at Colts Neck in the SCT first round.
16. Colts Neck (13-7) Last Week: 15 – Colts Neck will try to get healthy over the next week after suffering the SCT loss at home to Shore, with the Cougars eyeing a deep run in what should be a competitive, wide-open Central Jersey Group III bracket.
Ranney (10-11) Last Week: 11 – With a win at Manasquan, Ranney still has a case to be ranked, but lopsided losses to Freehold Boro and Marlboro are tough to overcome this week.
St. John Vianney (12-13) Last Week: 16 – A difficult schedule is as much of a reason as any for a sub.-500 record and SJV will have a chance to assert its ranked status with a road game vs. Shore this week.