Boys Basketball – NJSIAA Tournament Preview: South Non-Public A and B
The NJSIAA Tournament continues on Tuesday with opening-round games in Groups II and IV, as well as Non-Public B. For the third straight year, the Shore Conference champion is playing in the South Jersey, Non-Public B bracket and this time around, that team is the favorite in that bracket. The Shore has not been represented in the Non-Public B final since RBC lost to St. Anthony in 2004, but that drought looks bound to end this season.
The Non-Public A bracket, meanwhile, begins on Wednesday and Christian Brothers Academy will lead four Shore teams trying to win what is the most wide-open Non-Public A bracket in several years. Read on for a look at the two South Jersey Non-Public brackets, which have a chance to supply the Shore with some more hardware.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 2 CBA, No. 7 Red Bank Catholic, No. 10 St. John Vianney, No. 11 Donovan Catholic
Top Seed: St. Augustine
Defending Champion: St. Augustine
The Favorite: St. Augustine. Although this year’s version of the Hermits is not as talented as the teams St. Augustine has fielded each of the past three years, they are still the favorite in this bracket. The last time St. Augustine lost in the sectional playoffs, CBA beat the Hermits in the 2015 sectional final. The Colts could find themselves with a similar opportunity this year of both they and St. Augustine stick to the seeding and reach the final, but the Hermits have earned the right to be called the favorite – whatever that is worth.
The Dark Horse: No. 6 Bishop Eustace. The South Non-Public A bracket is rarely built for upsets, so looking past the top seven or eight seeds for a team that could make the sectional semifinals is usually just spinning the wheels. That being the case, Bishop Eustace is the team seeded outside the top three that has the look of a team that can pull off four wins and make it to Toms River for the Group final. The Crusaders have wins over Timber Creek and Seneca and close losses to Camden, Shawnee and Camden Catholic.
(8) Paul VI over (9) Notre Dame
(6) Bishop Eustace over (11) Donovan Catholic
(7) Red Bank Catholic over (10) St. John Vianney
(1) St. Augustine over (8) Paul VI
(4) Camden Catholic over (5) Bishop Ahr
(6) Bishop Eustace over (3) St. Joseph Metuchen
(2) CBA over (7) Red Bank Catholic
(1) St. Augustine over (4) Camden Catholic
(2) CBA over (6) Bishop Eustace
(1) St. Augustine over (2) CBA
Last year was a rebuilding year or sorts for CBA, but the Colts look primed to contend for a sectional title again this year, three years after winning the sectional title in 2015. The Colts could have to beat Red Bank Catholic for a third time in three weeks, followed by either Bishop Eustace or St. Joseph of Metuchen in the semifinals. If CBA can pick up two wins and get a shot at St. Augustine, the Colts actually have a common opponent – CBA beat Eastern while St. Augustin lost to the Vikings by 11. A sectional final between the Colts and the Hermits should shape up to be a competitive one.
Red Bank Catholic and St. John Vianney will meet in the first round for the right to play CBA – a rematch of a regular-season game that RBC won, 62-58. RBC also lost two games to CBA, including a 73-48 loss at CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament. Donovan Catholic is also in the field and will take on Bishop Eustace in the opening round.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 2 Ranney, No. 3 Mater Dei Prep, No. 12 St. Rose
Top Seed: Wildwood Catholic
Defending Champion: The Patrick School
The Favorite: Ranney. The Panthers flexed their muscles in the Shore Conference Tournament, winning four games by an average of 24 points per game and capping their title run with a dominant performance against Mater Dei – a 52-28 victory. Ranney’s road to the final is actually a difficult one – likely games against Rutgers Prep, a fourth meeting with Mater Dei and a likely championship game against either Wildwood Catholic or Trenton Catholic. If any team can handle it, it is the newly-crowned Shore Conference champions.
The Dark Horse: No. 5 Trenton Catholic. Ranney’s SCT performance makes the Panthers the overwhelming favorite, but on the other side of the bracket, Trenton Catholic is a battle-tested team that will give Cape-Atlantic League champion Wildwood Catholic a battle in the sectional semifinals. No. 7 Rutgers Prep has also played well of late but playing on the same side of the bracket as Ranney will make it hard for the Argonauts to get out of the first round.
(1) Wildwood Catholic over (16) Moorestown Friends
(8) Holy Spirit over (9) Immaculata
(5) Trenton Catholic over (12) St. Rose
(4) St. Joseph Hammonton over (13) Doane Academy
(3) Mater Dei Prep over (14) Holy Cross
(11) Gloucester Catholic over (6) Timothy Christian
(7) Rutgers Prep over (10) Calvary Christian
(2) Ranney over (15) Wardlaw-Hartridge
(1) Wildwood Catholic over (8) Holy Spirit
(5) Trenton Catholic over (4) St. Joseph Hammonton
(3) Mater Dei Prep over (11) Gloucester Catholic
(2) Ranney over (7) Rutgers Prep
(1) Wildwood Catholic over (5) Trenton Catholic
(2) Ranney over (3) Mater Dei Prep
(2) Ranney over (1) Wildwood Catholic
Ranney is likely going to have to beat Mater Dei for a fourth time and if the Panthers get it done, a trip to Jackson Liberty for a shot at another trophy is on tap. With its dominant performance in the SCT, Ranney likely has its sights set on challenging for the No. 1 ranking in the state, and rightly so. That could make this bracket one big trap considering Rutgers Prep, Mater Dei, Trenton Catholic and Wildwood Catholic all represent teams that could push Ranney on a given day. Ranney is the superior roster within this bracket, but the Panthers will have to stay disciplined to make it through to the Non-Public B final.
Mater Dei, meanwhile, will have to figure out a way to address its shortcomings from the SCT final in time for Saturday’s potential showdown with its division rival. The good news for Mater Dei is its draw is conducive to a move into the sectional semifinals, but it will likely be Ranney that awaits the Seraphs.
St. Rose is the third Shore Conference team in the bracket and the Purple Roses will have to open with Trenton Catholic. It won’t be as tough as facing Ranney, but St. Rose will have to play above and beyond just to stay with the Iron Mikes.