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NEPTUNE - Elijah Perkins played like the All-Shore guard and Division I recruit that he is on Friday night in his Ranney boys basketball team's win over Neptune - the No. 8 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.

Even with a 20-point, five-assist effort, Perkins was a secondary scorer for No. 2 Ranney - a sign the Panthers' notable sophomore transfer has taken them to the next level.

Isaac Hester - a sophomore transfer from Gill St. Bernard - scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds on Friday to highlights Ranney's 81-65 win over Neptune, completing a two-game sweep by the Panthers over the Scarlet Fliers in the first week in the season.

In his first two games at Ranney, Hester has led his new team in scoring each time. He scored a game-high 17 points on Wednesday in a 60-52 Panthers win and his 30-point outburst on Friday surpassed his previous career-high by six points.

Ranney's Elijah Perkins (left) and Isaac Hester (right). (Photo by Matt Manley)
Ranney's Elijah Perkins (left) and Isaac Hester (right). (Photo by Matt Manley)

Hester helped Ranney navigate the first half while Perkins was saddled with foul trouble that limited to seven first-half minutes. Hester scored 13 points to help Ranney take a 38-28 lead into the break.

Both Ranney standout guards played efficient offensive games, with Hester shooting 11-for-20 and Perkins finishing 9-for-11 from the floor. Hester was also 6-for-7 from the free-throw line and finished his night off with a four-point play.

Like it did on Wednesday, Neptune did not let Ranney blow the game open before the fourth quarter but the Panthers were able to build up a double-digit lead that they maintained for most of the final eight minutes. Neptune cut a 12-point deficit to four, 32-28, in the first half and got within 68-60 in the last quarter.

Five Neptune players scored nine points or more, led by senior Sam Fagan's 17. Senior Andre Harris and junior Malik Fields each added 12 points and senior Bryson Byrd and junior Oneil Campbell chipped in nine apiece. Harris scored all of his points behind four three-pointers.

Ranney's supporting cast did not produce any double-digit scorers to go with Hester and Perkins, but Kyle Rhoden, Brandon Klatsky, Ryan Zan, T.J. Braswell, Zack Davis and Charles Anyichie all made an impact. Rhoden finished with four points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, Klatsky hit two three-pointers for six points and Brasswell (seven), Davis (five) and Anyichie (four) delivered a combined 16 points off the bench.

The two games between Ranney and Neptune marked the first regular-season meetings between the only two programs to ever represent the Shore Conference in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final. Neptune was the first ever Shore Conference team to reach the T of C final, losing to St. Anthony in 2002. No other Shore team made it that far until Ranney became the first Shore team to win the whole thing in 2019.

Ranney's two-game sweep of a Neptune team that reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship game a year ago tunes the Panthers up for Tuesday's scheduled showdown at No. 1 Manasquan. The two power programs in the Shore Conference have established a rivalry over the past two seasons, with Ranney defeating Manasquan in an entertaining Shore Conference Tournament final in 2019 and Manasquan returning the favor in the SCT quarterfinals last year. Manasquan also enters next week 2-0 after sweeping a pair of games against St. Rose.


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