Boys Basketball – RBC Chases History While Ranney Embraces Underdog Role in Non-Public Sectional Finals
Non-Public Sectional Finals
At Lenape High School
South Jersey Non-Public B
No. 1 Trenton Catholic (21-4) vs. No. 3 Ranney (22-5), 5 p.m. - Watch Live
Since Ranney’s emergence as a statewide contender in the latter part of the previous decade, these two teams have had some intense battles, mostly when Ranney was led by the likes of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis. It has taken a few years, but Ranney has worked its way back into position to win a sectional championship and for the second time in five years, the Panthers will have to go through Trenton Catholic to claim the trophy – which they did in 2018 for the program’s first ever sectional title.
Unlike 2018, it will be Trenton Catholic that enters Wednesday’s championship as the favorite. The Iron Mikes have been comfortably in the statewide Top 20 throughout the season and have tested themselves against quality competition that includes wins over the Patrick School, Life Center Academy, Ramapo, Robbinsville and Trenton (twice) – the last three of which all made it to their respective sectional championship games.
The only team from New Jersey to beat Trenton Catholic is the Hun School of Princeton, which means the Iron Mikes have not lost to an NJSIAA team all year. That resume includes a current winning streak of 12.
Trenton Catholic is led by three dynamic scorers, two of whom are senior twins Jameel and Jamaal Morris, who came over from Burlington City before the start of last season. The top scorer, though, is sophomore Deuce Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard averaging 22 points per game to lead the Iron Mikes. In the sectional quarterfinals against Gloucester Catholic, Jones went off for a career-high 35 points.
Ranney counters with a fairly experienced team overall, led by junior guard Isaace Hester, who is coming off back-to-back 20-plus point outings against both Bishop Eustace (28) and St. Joseph of Hammonton (23).
The Panthers have gotten a nice blend beyond Hester, with seniors T.J. Braswell-Brown, Charles Anyichie and Brandon Klatsky all stepping up, with sophomore Drew Buck also emerging as a key contributor over the last several weeks. Buck has stepped into a starting role with 6-6 junior Zack Davis injured and Davis’s status remains up in the air for Wednesday after missing another game on Monday against St. Joseph.
Over the last two games, Ranney has finally looked like the team that opened the season ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and spent time in the state top 20 as well. When Hester is on and Anyichie is causing havoc on the defensive end, the Panther are just one or two decent supporting scorers away from being a very tough out against anybody. They will need Hester to be at his best and for Anyichie to be a force to have a chance against the Iron Mikes on Wednesday.
The Pick: Trenton Catholic, 62-55
South Jersey Non-Public A
No. 1 Red Bank Catholic (24-4) vs. No. 3 Rutgers Prep (25-3), 7 p.m. - Watch Live
For most of the year, Rutgers Prep has looked like a team with better than an outside chance to reach the Tournament of Champions. The Argonauts have a big win over Bergen Catholic – thought by most to be the favorite to come out of the Non-Public A bracket at the beginning of the year and two of their three losses have come to Camden and Gill St. Bernard’s – two of the top four teams in the state. On top of that, Rutgers Prep also beat St. Thomas Aquinas in Monday’s sectional semifinal, giving them a win over the No. 3 team in the most recent rankings.
The one real slip-up Rutgers Prep has had this year, fittingly enough, came against Red Bank Catholic on Jan. 29 at Central Regional. Losing to an RBC team that racked up the most power points in the state heading into the state tournament is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but in that game, the Caseys scored a season-high 90 points and did so while missing sophomore forward Zach Meeks.
Rutgers Prep boasts the kind of backcourt firepower that is consistent with a lot of championship rosters, headlined by juniors Jadin Collins, Cameron Pigee and all-around point-guard Ryan Petit. Collins is coming off a career-best performance against St. Thomas Aquinas, in which he scored 30 points along with 10 rebounds, four assists and seven steals.
The Argonauts also have a versatile big man with Shore Conference ties in 6-7 Ryan Zan, who spent his last two seasons playing at Ranney. Zan is having a breakout year at Rutgers Prep, averaging 15 points and 9.7 rebounds while posting 17 double-doubles.
While Rutgers Prep has the edge in quickness and creativity in the backcourt, Red Bank Catholic will counter with a physical lineup that can challenge Zan on the interior, as well as the kind of depth that is hard to match. RBC has an impressive nine players who have scored at least 100 points on the season and eight of those players contributed in the 90-79 win over Rutgers Prep at the Jimmy V Showcase.
The senior trio of Alex Bauman, C.J. Ruoff and Cyril Arvanitis carried the Caseys in that game and all three have been big for RBC through two state tournament games. Bauman posted his first career triple-double on Friday against Camden Catholic (14 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) and Arvanitis pumped in five three-pointers for 18 points to help ignite a Caseys comeback against St. Joseph Metuchen on Monday.
In addition to the seniors, sophomore Gioacchino Panzini has been raising his game late in the season, most recently with a 23-point performance against St. Joseph Monday in which the 6-5 swingman went off for 18 points in the second half to help RBC erase an 18-point deficit. Throw in Meeks’s return to the lineup, plus the contributions of players like Alex Brown, Ryan Prior and Colin Cavanaugh off the bench, and Rutgers Prep will have a lot to think about in facing the Caseys.
Whichever team emerges with the win on Wednesday night will achieve a bit of history, with Rutgers Prep seeking its first ever sectional championship and RBC going for its first since 1977.
It looks like both teams are hitting their stride heading into this one and RBC has to feel good having beaten Rutgers Prep already despite being down a starter. Still, this Rutgers Prep lineup has everything and beating the battle-tested Argonauts for a second time is a mighty tall order.
The Pick: Rutgers Prep, 77-73