Boys Basketball – Marlboro, Top Teams Hold Firm; Two More from Ocean County Join Shore Sports Network Top 10
One week into the 2021-22 season, there has indeed been some movement in the Shore Conference Top 10 and, as one might expect based on the schedule thus far, it has come in the bottom half of the rankings.
The top three teams in the Shore Conference really haven’t been tested yet and while teams 4 through 6 have had more of a challenge, that has either been close games against unranked teams, a loss to a state-ranked team outside the Shore or comfortable wins over Top 10 hopefuls with some early questions. All of those results are noteworthy, but they don’t serve to change the Top 10.
In the last four spots, however, teams have made moves. Let’s have a look at how one week of games has changed things for the Shore’s top boys teams.
1. Marlboro (3-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 1
The Mustangs have not been tested yet, winning their three games vs. Matawan, Toms River East and Manalapan by an average margin of 43 points. It has, however, been impressive to watch, as the Mustangs have surged past 80 points in every game and look like the well-oiled machine that made it to the de facto Shore Conference championship game last year with mostly the same class.
2. Red Bank Catholic (3-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 2
While the Caseys have not been quite as dominant as Marlboro, they have played the slightly tougher schedule through three games and done so without their top returning player in Alex Bauman (muscle strain). RBC has flashed considerable depth so far in wins over Toms River North, Toms River South and Shore, with 6-6 sophomore Tyler Burnham and sophomore sharpshooter Colin Cavanaugh really stepping up in the early part of the season. According to coach Tyler Schmelz, Bauman is expected back sometime this week as the Caseys chase a WOBM Christmas Classic title.
3. Ranney (1-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 3
An interesting matchup vs. Manchester originally scheduled for this past Monday was moved to January, so Ranney’s season did not start until Tuesday, when the Panthers handled Asbury Park in Class B Central divisional play. The holiday week will be a telling one for Ranney, which is the No. 1 seed in a Buc Classic field that also includes Rumson-Fair Have and CBA.
4. Rumson-Fair Haven (2-0, 0-0) Preseason Rank: 4
The Bulldogs entered the season with three prominent players dealing with ankle injuries and, to this point, haven’t seen their record suffer as a result. Scott Gyimesi and Trent Sloan have both been able to play after suffering their preseason injuries, with Gyimesi being particularly effective so far. On the other hand, Geoff Schroeder is still recovery from an ankle sprain he suffered in the final football game of the season and his absence could be a factor as Rumson ventures into the Buc Classic and a potential second-round game vs. CBA.
5. Manasquan (2-1, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 5
In a season-opening loss to Rutgers Prep, Manasquan looked like a team that starts four underclassmen and a senior who came off the bench last year. On the bright side, that loss gave the young Warriors a chance to test themselves vs. a top-15 opponent in the state and the ensuing two games have gone much better. The Warriors handled both Colts Neck and Monmouth and will next face another good test in the form of St. John Vianney Monday in the WOBM Classic quarterfinals.
6. Christian Brothers Academy (2-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 6
Of all the top 10 teams, CBA probably picked up the most impactful combination of wins, with the Colts handling a promising young Holmdel team and a Freehold Township team that opened the season No. 7 in the SSN Top 10. CBA, itself, is a young team and the new iteration of the Colts have shown, thus far, to be an unselfish, balanced team that can really dig in on defense. They will be part of that strong Buc Classic field next week and have shown themselves to be a legit contender to overcome Rumson and Ranney to win the whole thing.
7. St. John Vianney (4-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: 8
This first change in the Top 10 involved a one-spot bump for the Lancers, who survived an opening-night scare at Middletown South before hitting their stride. Neptune also disrupted St. John Vianney’s offense for a half in the Class B North division-opener for both teams, but Nate Williams led a second-half surge that carried St. John Vianney to victory. The Lancers get their first Top 10 test of the year Monday, when they take on Manasquan in the WOBM Classic quarterfinal.
8. Manchester (2-0, 0-0) Preseason Rank: 10
As a team with a lot of talent but not a lot of seniors, last year’s Manchester team showed some promise, but also some inconsistency. It has only been two games so far, but this year’s Hawks team has looked awfully sharp so far now that they are a senior-laden bunch. Manchester dominated two games against the two Middletown teams, both of which are positioned to have solid seasons going forward. The Hawks will get an earlier-than-expected look at Class B South rival Donovan Catholic in the WOBM Classic quarterfinals on Monday, with Manchester hoping to win their way into a shot at No. 1 Marlboro in the tournament semifinals.
9. Brick Memorial (2-0, 1-0) Preseason Rank: Not ranked
While Donovan Catholic can spoil Manchester’s plans to play Marlboro, Brick Memorial can do the same. The Mustangs will get the first crack at the Shore’s No. 1 team next week when the two meet in the final game of Monday’s WOBM quarterfinal lineup – a game that pits two teams that have red-hot offenses opening up the season. Brick Memorial made a statement int taking out Toms River North in the opening round of the Christmas Classic, then hammered Toms River South, 80-33, in divisional play on Monday
10. Jackson Memorial (3-0, 2-0) Preseason rank: Not ranked
Only one of the wins counts in the Class A South standings, but Jackson Memorial showed in the first week of the season that it is a serious contender to bring home the division title in its second year under the direction of coach Randy Holmes. The Jaguars picked up a big road win over Southern to open the year, then took out division favorite Central in the opening round of the WOBM Classic. Monday’s quarterfinal game against Red Bank Catholic will be a significant step up for the Jaguars’ junior-heavy roster.
Freehold Township (1-2, 1-1) Preseason Rank: 7 – The Patriots got hit with a dose of the flu that knocked out some key players in a loss to Donovan Catholic and they also were not able to settle back in time to stay with CBA at home on Tuesday night.
Central (1-2, 0-1) Preseason Rank: 9 – After clocking Lacey on opening night, the Golden Eagles lost a pair of nip-and-tuck games to Jackson Memorial and Southern, which sets Central up to have to play from behind in the Class A South race.
Top 10 Watchlist
Donovan Catholic (3-1, 1-0) – With some legitimate size and athleticism, the Griffins also showed how well they can shoot it in canning 11 threes in a win over Freehold Township.
Raritan (1-0, 0-0) – The Rockets were shut down for the week due to COVID protocol and are hoping to get back on the court for the Warrior Classic next week. In their one game, they handled a solid St. Rose team by 18 points.
Howell (2-0, 1-0) – The Rebels went on the road for wins over Montgomery and Long Branch, but things could get significantly tougher next week. If Howell wins its first-round game at the Score at the Shore Invitational at Southern, they will get a shot at Lenape and Rutgers commit Derek Simpson.
Holmdel (1-1, 1-0) – The first half of the opener at CBA did not go as Holmdel had hoped, but the youngn Hornets (four sophomore starters) looked much better in the second half of that loss, then dismantled Matawan earlier this week.
Middletown North (0-1, 0-1) – The Lions have played just one game and were missing senior standout Tommy Giannone, so their status as a team to follow has not changed.