TINTON FALLS - Ranney junior Scottie Lewis spent the days leading up to the start of the 2017-18 season trying to figure out when exactly he might hit the 1,000 career point milestone and after putting that pursuit on the back burner once the season started, the number crept back into his mind at the beginning of this week, when he was just 55 points away.

While Lewis insisted he was concerned only with winning one of Ranney's biggest games of the season Thursday at home against Shore Conference Class B Central rival Mater Dei Prep in a showdown of the top two teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, he had two teammates who had already reached 1,000 points to talk him through the day.

Lewis got his 1,000th point Tuesday and, more importantly for the junior and his teammates, Ranney - the No. 1 team in the SSN Top 10 - got its win over No. 2 Mater Dei, 59-45, behind a suffocating defensive effort and 23 points from Lewis.

Lewis scored 15 of his points in the second half and reached the 1,000-point milestone with a pair of free throws with 4:40 to go in the game that made the score 50-37 in favor of the Panthers.

Lewis is the 12th player in Ranney boys basketball history to score 1,000 or more points, joining classmate Bryan Antoine, who reached 1,000 points as a sophomore last year. Current junior Ahmadu Sarnor scored 1,000 points before transferring to Ranney ahead of his sophomore year thanks to a rule in Pennsylvania that allows eighth graders to play on the high school team.

"I told Ahmadu and Bryan I was going to join that club soon; today I did," Lewis said. "They were looking out for me and in the middle of the game, Ahmadu was asking me how far away I was and I said, 'I have no clue.' It was a big game and I was just trying to focus on winning. I knew the scoring would come.

"Before the game, I was definitely thinking about it. In the first quarter, I was getting into the flow, just trying to warm up. After a while, I was just having so much fun with my teammates that I lost track of it. When they hit the buzzer after the free throws, I was looking around to see what happened and Bryan told me, 'Yeah, you got your thousandth.'"

While Lewis's point total became a story on Thursday night, the game began with Ranney's defense setting the tone. The Panthers started the game in a man-to-man look with 6-foot-8 senior center Savior Akuwovo parked in the paint near 6-9 Mater Dei Prep center Adam Afifi and the rest of the Panthers matched up with the Seraph guards.

"We're more developed now, so we get to play a lot more (man-to-man)," Antoine said. "In our last practice, we were locking up and coach has been talking about defense 24-7, so we just decided to come out of the gate with intensity on defense.

The result was an 11-0 run to start the game, an early hay-maker from which Mater Dei never fully recovered despite pulling a to within as close as five points by the middle of the second quarter.

"I feel like when we come into a game calm and not all that excited, we don't play a whole lot of defense in the first quarter or first half," Antoine said. "But yesterday in school, everyone was hyped after practice, we all went home and couldn't even sleep. We were trying to eat before the game, but we were too nervous. We were just so excited to go out an play and you saw that in the first half."

Mater Dei battled to remain within striking distance for as long as it could, but Ranney had answers to each Seraphs surge. When Mater Dei senior Kenny Jones hit a three-pointer to cut Ranney's lead to 23-18 late in the second quarter, Akuwovo responded with a dunk and a tip-in to give his team a 27-18 lead at halftime.

Akuwovo finished the game with 13 points and 14 rebounds, including nine points in the first half and four of the first six for Ranney to open the third quarter. Akuwovo has posted double-digit rebounds in three of Ranney's last four games and has double-figure scoring in three of them as well.

"We play a team game, but individually, you have to stop your man and play your role," Akuwovo said. "I think I've been fitting in pretty well with the team

The Seraphs cut an 11-point deficit to eight on a three-pointer by junior Alex Rice - whose father, Monmouth University head coach King Rice, was in attendance - but Ranney answered with a three-pointer by junior Alex Klatsky.

After Mater Dei scored three more points on the next possession on a free throw Rice and a putback by Afifi on Rice's missed second attempt, Sarnor came back with a three of his own on the other end to stretch Ranney's lead to 39-28.

The three by Sarnor was the start of a 10-1 run that closed out the third quarter and gave the home team a 46-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter - its largest of the game. Sarnor scored all five of his points during that run and also dished out six assists in the game.

Lewis helped close out Mater Dei with 10 points in the fourth quarter, including making his last six attempts from the free-throw line.

"I pretty much got whatever I wanted in that moment," Lewis said. "They were playing me so far away from the basket and with my first step and my capabilities of dribbling the ball and my teammates' trust in me - Bryan said, 'Go get it. I'm going to give you the ball and you better get a bucket.' I knew when he put that trust in me, I had to go get a bucket."

Ranney's win over Mater Dei is its second in six games against its rival since its original four juniors, coach Tahj Holden and Mater Dei coach Ben Gamble all landed at their respective destinations for the 2015-16 season. Lewis, Antoine, Klatsky and senior center Chris Autino have all been part those six games, while Jones has played in five for Mater Dei.

Ranney's most convincing win of the rivalry came despite leading scorer Bryan Antoine finishing with 11 points - 12 under his 23-point average coming into the game. He shot 5-for-13 for the game, but sparked the Panthers with seven points during the second quarter, including a three-pointer and steal that led to a dunk on the other end in the opening minute of the period.

Last year, Antoine carried the Panthers to their only win over Mater Dei by scoring 15 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter in a 58-56 Ranney win at Mater Dei.

Jones and Rice led Mater Dei with 12 points each, with Rice also contributing six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jones scored eight points in the first half to help draw the Seraphs within five points before Ranney reasserted itself late in the second and early in the fourth.

Pretlow finished with nine points before being ejected from the game along with Sarnor following an exchange of shoves late in the fourth quarter. The ejections mean Pretlow will miss Mater Dei's next two games against Point Pleasant Beach and Keansburg, while Sarnor will miss Ranney's game against Maryland powerhouse Mount St. Joseph at the Hoophall Classic Sunday in Springfield, Mass. Sarnor will also be suspended for Ranney's Tuesday game at St. Rose.

Ranney's defense held Mater Dei leading scorer Kyle Cardaci to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting from the floor. Cardaci entered the game averaging 16.4 points per game and was matched up against Klatsky for most of the game.

"I think we're a stronger defensive team than a lot of people give us credit for," Holden said. "You see our highlights and they aren't defensive highlights, unless it's a block by Scottie or Bryan. But I think, collectively, defensively, we're really good. Our underrated defender is Alex Klatsky. A lot of people think he's just a shooter, but he's a pretty good all-around player."

In addition to limiting Cardaci, Pretlow and Rice below their season scoring averages, Ranney also forced Mater Dei into 16 turnovers, including five during a 15-3 run to open the game.

"Coach tells us 'Don't let your man beat you,' so that's the mentality we bring to the game," Akuwovo said. "If you don't let the guy in front of you beat you and you communicate, you can be successful."

Ranney junior Scottie Lewis blows a kiss to the Ranney student section after scoring his 1,000th point Thursday vs. Mater Dei. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Ranney junior Scottie Lewis blows a kiss to the Ranney student section after scoring his 1,000th point Thursday vs. Mater Dei. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Ranney and Mater Dei Prep will meet for round two of their regular-season series on Feb. 5 at Mater Dei. The Seraphs will have 6-6 sophomore Jamir Watkins, who is eligible to debut for Mater Dei Tuesday against Point Beach, for that game.

For now, though, Ranney flies the flag in the Shore's foremost current rivalry, one that was hard to imagine just four years ago before Ranney's juniors and Gamble rode into town.

"I feel like our team has come a long way since freshman year, when we lost to teams like (Patrick School) and Mater Dei," Antoine said. "Beating Pat's and Mater Dei in the same week, I feel as though we're on the rise."

Box Score

Ranney 59, Mater Dei Prep 45

Mater Dei (8-2, 5-1)612111645
Ranney (9-2, 5-0)1512191359

Mater Dei (45): Kenny Jones 5 0-0 12, Yasin Pretlow 1 6-9 9, Adam Afifi 2 1-1 5, Kyle Cardaci 3 0-0 7, Alex Rice 4 2-4 12, Kyle Devaney 0 0-0 0, Sean Turner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 9-14 45

Three-pointers: Jones 2, Pretlow, Cardaci, Rice 2

Ranney (59): Ahmadu Sarnor 1 2-2 5, Bryan Antoine 5 0-0 11, Savior Akuwovo 6 1-2 13, Scottie Lewis 8 7-9 23, Alex Klatsky 2 0-0 6, Chris Autino 0 1-2 1. Totals: 22 11-15 59

Three-pointers: Sarnor, Antoine, Klatsky 2


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