Boys Basketball – Ranney and Roselle Catholic Set to Clash at Brookdale in Shore Challenge
In the 42-year history of the McDonald’s All-American Game, there have been boys All-Americans in representing a Shore Conference school.
On Wednesday night at the I'm Possible Shore Challenge at Brookdale Community College, two of them will take the court to face off against another N.J. All-American from outside the Shore in one of the most anticipated regular-season match-ups this season and in the history of Shore Conference basketball.
Seniors Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine will lead a full-strength, motivated Ranney squad into battle Wednesday at Collins Arena, where they will meet fellow McDonald’s All-American Kahlil Whitney and Roselle Catholic in a showdown between two of the top three teams in New Jersey and top 25 in the country, according to USA Today.
Both teams are coming off nail-biting games against Gill St. Bernard within the past week – Roselle Catholic a 48-47, come-from-behind win on Friday and Ranney a 62-60 loss on Sunday at Kean University. A win by Roselle Catholic would cement the Lions as the No. 1 team in New Jersey through the end of the regular season and the prohibitive favorite to conquer the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions for a second straight year.
A win by Ranney on Wednesday would likely vault the Panthers to No. 1 in the state heading into the postseason given that Gill St. Bernard has three losses in-state to what would be one for Ranney. It would also give Ranney wins over two nationally-ranked opponents in Roselle Catholic and Federal Way, which Ranney beat, 73-63, at the Hoophall Classic on Martin Lurther King Jr. Day.
Antoine has been Ranney’s headliner for most of the season thanks to his scoring prowess, which has him on pace to become the Shore Conference’s leading scorer sometime in the next two weeks. Antoine is only 75 points from breaking the record of 2,302 held by Norm Caldwell of Croydon Hall and is averaging 23.2 points per game for the season. The Villanova commit currently ranks third all-time at the Shore and is only eight points away from passing former Lacey star and current Brooklyn Nets assistant Chris Fleming for second on the list.
Heading into Wednesday, Antoine finds himself in somewhat of a scoring rut, at least compared to his torrid start. Antoine averaged 27.8 points over Ranney’s first 11 games with nine outings of 20 points or more. In Ranney’s last seven, he is averaging 15.9, although that can be partly attributed to playing limited minutes in Class B Central divisional games, which accounted for five of Ranney’s last six games.
Antoine scored 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting in Ranney’s win over Federal Way but managed only nine in the loss to Gill St. Bernard. Antoine attempted only seven shots in the game and just two in the second half.
Lewis, meanwhile, has been on his game over the last week. The 6-5 Florida commit was Ranney’s standout in the win up in Springfield, holding Federal Way’s McDonald’s All-American Jaden McDaniels to 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting while putting up 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists of his own. Lewis also led Ranney on Sunday with 18 points and seven rebounds while guarding future Rutgers guard Paul Mulcahy, who posted 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Gill St. Bernard.
In addition to Antoine and Lewis, Ranney features seniors Ahmadu Sarnor, Alex Klatsky and Chris Autino – all of whom have been part of the majority of this four-year run since the arrival of Lewis, Antoine and coach Tahj Holden. Sarnor made his first appearance of the season in Sunday’s loss, in which he scored 12 points to go with four assists. The 6-1 point guard was ineligible for Ranney’s first 16 games because he played as many games as an eighth-grader in Pennsylvania.
Klatsky will head to Florida with Lewis next year as a preferred walk-on and has delivered this season as a spot-up shooter averaging just under 12 points per game and a perimeter defender. Autino is a Georgetown football commit who has been with Lewis, Antoine and Klatsky from day one as a freshman and provides the Panthers with interior defense and rebounding.
Junior forward Phillip Wheeler and freshman guard Elijah Perkins are new to the rotation and have both had some memorable moments for the Panthers. Wheeler – a transfer from Rumson-Fair Haven – became eligible on Jan. 13 and came through with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Federal Way. Perkins has played a key role with Sarnor and Wheeler missing time and made multiple key plays down the stretch in a 56-55 Ranney win over Bergen Catholic on Jan. 12.
On the other side of the court, the Lions are led by Whitney and fellow senior Josh Pierre-Louis, both of whom are on the short list for Player of the Year Candidates in N.J. Whitney is committed to play at Kentucky and is averaging 20.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game during another stellar season for the 6-7 swingman.
Pierre-Louis, meanwhile, has been a breakout performer since coming off the bench as a junior and committing to UNLV before the season. The 6-3 point guard is putting up 15.7 points and 4.8 assists per game while running the Roselle Catholic machine.
The Lions also boast 6-10 junior Cliff Omoruyi, who is averaging 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds and is attracting interest from Auburn, Rutgers, West Virginia and UConn. Senior Colby Rogers is averaging 11.4 points per game and has drawn Division I interest as well.
Wednesday will also be a rematch of a classic game played between the two teams in the NJSIAA Non-Public B final last season, which Roselle Catholic won, 63-61. Ranney lost just one player from last year’s team and added Wheeler and Perkins, while Roselle Catholic graduated four starters from last year – including a front-court tandem of Naz Reid (now at LSU) and Alanzo Frink (South Carolina) that combined for 37 points in that win over Ranney.
Whitney (12 points), Antoine (13) and Lewis (12) all scored well below their season averages in last year’s championship game, although Lewis also had nine rebounds and eight assists while managing to keep Reid quiet until he picked up his fourth foul and had to back off of him. Whitney and Antoine both had an off-shooting night in the game, which was Antoine’s second uncharacteristic game against Roselle Catholic that season. He scored 18 points on only four field goals during a 75-49 loss for Ranney, which played the game without both Lewis and Klatsky.
Wednesday will offer Antoine and Ranney a chance at redemption – both for last season’s loss to Roselle Catholic and Sunday’s loss vs. Gill St. Bernard – but it is only a warm-up act for the NJSIAA Tournament. Ranney will be the heavy favorite to return to the Non-Public B final and Roselle Catholic will lead a crowded field up in the North end of the group. While both teams would like to get the better of the other on Wednesday, the prize remains the Tournament of Champions title, which would be Ranney’s first and the first ever by a team from the Shore Conference.
The two programs have met three times since 2015-16 and Roselle Catholic has won all three meetings.
In the first game of the night, Manasquan will take on Jackson Liberty at 5:45 p.m. in a meeting pitting one of the Shore’s top teams against one of its top players.
Manasquan play Tuesday ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 at 16-2 overall and in first place in the very competitive Class A Central division of the Shore Conference. The Warriors have won seven straight since its last loss, which came at Red Bank Catholic on Jan. 10.
Junior Alex Galvan and senior Brad McCabe lead the Warriors this season, with Galvan putting up a gaudy 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds to lead the team. McCabe, meanwhile, is averaging 15.4 points and 8.05 rebounds and just recently joined the 1,000-career-point club on Thursday of last week.
Manasquan’s young back court has been its x-factor, led by junior Kieran Flanagan, sophomore Casey Mulligan and freshman Ben Roy. Senior Xander Korolik is another experienced front-court piece alongside Galvan and McCabe.
Jackson Liberty enters the game 8-7 overall and led by 6-6 senior Daniel Sofield, who is second in the Shore Conference at 29.5 points per game. Sofield has drawn interest from a long list of Division I programs and has impressed all interested teams with his play this season. Sofield registered the highest-scoring performance in the state this season when he went off for 59 points in an overtime win over Lacey – the highest scoring game in the Shore Conference since the 1980’s. He also had a 46-point game in a loss to Wall and is averaging better than six rebounds and three assists on the season.
The stage at Brookdale will be a new experience for Jackson Liberty, which starts two other seniors in Miles Neal and Takai Anderson. Juniors Manny Clay, Tim Gjonballa and Jake Bosco have all stepped up over the course of the season and sophomore Connor Barth has begun to make some noise as well.
Jackson Liberty just had a six-game winning streak snapped Monday at Pinelands.
Tickets for Wednesday’s game start at $8 for students and $15 for adults with preferred seating options of $35 or $100. A portion of the gate will be donated to the Joan Dancy and PALS (People with ALS) Foundation as well as Max Strong to benefit Holden’s two-year-old son, Max, and other kids afflicted with forms of pediatric cancer.