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Last week marked the debut of the Shore Sports Network Playoff Pod Projections, where we detailed how the 47 team of the Shore Conference are likely to be viewed when it is time to seed the field on Friday, Feb. 26.

The end of this past week effectively marked the halfway point of the season, so this week's projection is pretty even when it comes to balancing preseason projections and roster strength vs. actual results. Once this week is over, assuming enough teams can stay on the court, the resumes should start to take form enough that the teams can all be evaluated on what they have done and how they have played in 2021.

The top eight (the Championship Pod) gets a slight adjustment but retains the same eight teams, while there are some significant movers both ways in the middle of the field.

Championship Pod (Pod A)

1. Manasquan (2-0)

Wins: St. Rose (2)
Losses: None
This Week: Monday vs. Montclair Immaculate, Tuesday vs. Wall, Thursday at Wall, Friday vs. Patrick School

Just on 2021 resume, Manasquan should not be the No. 1 team over Ranney, but it is still early enough in the season to hold tight with the original rankings and let the results on the court do the talking once there are enough of them. Penalizing a team for one shutdown is a bit harsh and when Manasquan is coming back with games against Montclair Immaculate, Patrick School, Trenton Catholic and Bergen Catholic – not to mention two pod games each vs. Wall and Neptune – there is ample opportunity to see what the Warriors are made of.

2. Ranney (6-0)

Wins: Neptune (2), Wall (2), at CBA, at Marlboro
Losses: None
This Week: Tuesday at St. Rose, Thursday vs. St. Rose, Friday at Trenton Catholic

With St. John Vianney shutting down, Ranney had an opening for the end of the week and filled it with Trenton Catholic. That gives the Panthers and Manasquan another common opponent on a schedule full of them, but still lacking a guaranteed game between the top two teams at the Shore. Trenton Catholic has a win over Roselle Catholic so if Ranney can get through the week 9-0 with a win over one of the state’s better squads, it might be the last push they need to take over No. 1.

CBA senior Colin Farrell guarded by A.J. Schwartz. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

3. Christian Brothers Academy (5-2)

Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Middletown South (2), at Marlboro
Losses: At Hun, Ranney
This Week: Tuesday at Freehold Twp. Thursday vs. Freehold Twp., Saturday vs. Marlboro

The only change in the top-eight this week is the flipping of Nos. 3 and 4 and while that might not seem like a big change, it was a change brought about by a big statement by CBA. The Colts hammered Marlboro, 75-42, on the road to take over the No. 3 spot, just behind a Ranney team that beat the Colts a week prior to the Marlboro game. CBA still has one more game against Marlboro coming on Saturday, which follows two match-ups against a senior-laden Freehold Township team desperate for a win.

4. Marlboro (2-3)

Wins: At Howell, Colonia
Losses: St. Peter’s Prep, Ranney, CBA
This Week: Monday at Manalapan, Tuesday at Freehold Boro, Thursday vs. Freehold Boro, Saturday at CBA

Coming out of Friday’s competitive loss to Ranney, Marlboro seemed secure as a top-eight team all the way through the end of the regular season. Even if the quick turnaround gave them problems against CBA on Friday, another competitive loss would not have been a major problem for the Mustangs. Instead, Marlboro had nothing working and lost to CBA by 33 and put themselves in a slightly trickier position. It is still not nearly panic time, but Marlboro will have to nail down a big win or risk putting their playoff fate in the hands of other teams, with the hope that teams on the bubble don’t pull off any big wins of their own to cause a shake-up. With another game remaining against CBA, Marlboro will get its shot but that might be the only chance for the Mustangs to definitively win their way in.

5. Red Bank Catholic (3-0)

Wins: Long Branch (2), Shore
Losses: None
This Week: Tuesday at Red Bank, Thursday vs. Red Bank, Saturday vs. Monmouth

The Caseys return this week after a long layoff and will be tested by rival Red Bank in a home-and-home series. Although the Bucs are 0-3, they are just shaking the rust off after their own shutdown and figure to be more prepared this week after dropping a home game to Monmouth on Saturday. The Caseys’ schedule was a gradual build-up in the quality of opponents and they lost a little bit of that easing-in period. Instead, they will have to be ready to go against two teams trying to make a point and if they survive the week, Rumson awaits next week in what will be one of the biggest two-game series of the season at the Shore.

6. Neptune (2-2)

Wins: Wall (2)
Losses: Ranney (2)
This Week: Shut down

Neptune is currently due back during the final week, just in time to play Manasquan twice before the seeding deadline. Fortunately for the Scarlet Fliers, they picked up two huge wins over Wall to give them an inside track at one of the eight spots. A good showing in at least one of the games vs. Manasquan would help but even without one of those, Neptune should stay in the field as long as Wall doesn’t slip up against a team seeded below them the rest of the way.

7. Holmdel (6-0)

Wins: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North (2), St. John Vianney (2)
Losses: None
This Week: Shut down

Getting shut down for two weeks will hurt Holmdel’s ability to grow and improve as a team but it shouldn’t really impact their standing as a top-eight team. Red Bank Catholic’s shutdown pushed the game between the Hornets and the Caseys to after the cutoff, so Holmdel was not going to have a chance at an impact win unless one of its pod opponents shut down and the Hornets picked up a higher-profile one. Even if Holmdel ran the table to 11-0, they still would have to hope enough teams fail to nail down those big wins that could prompt them to jump the Hornets.

Holmdel senior Alex Baker. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (3-0)

Wins: At Red Bank, Barnegat, at Middletown South
Losses: None
This Week: Monday vs. Colonia, Tuesday vs. Monmouth, Thursday at Monmouth, Saturday vs. Middletown North

All things considered, Rumson’s shutdown has worked out okay for the Bulldogs. They only lost games against Long Branch and Shore – two teams that offered Rumson no chance to pad their playoff resume – and then they came back, the Bulldogs picked up two solid wins over Pod B contenders Barnegat and Middletown South. With the available games, Rumson picked up a home game vs. Colonia, which gives the Bulldogs a major opportunity to match Marlboro in the category of “best win on the resume.” Throw in two games vs. Red Bank Catholic next week, and the Bulldogs’ outlook is starting to look a lot better than it did two weeks ago.

Championship Pod Pairings

(8) Rumson-Fair Haven at (1) Manasquan

(5) Red Bank Catholic at (4) Marlboro

(6) Neptune at (3) CBA

(7) Holmdel at (2) Ranney

 

Playoff Pod B

9. Wall (2-5)

Wins: Red Bank, Point Boro
Losses: Neptune (2), Ranney (2), at Seton Hall Prep
This Week: Tuesday at Manasquan, Thursday at Manasquan, Saturday vs. Middletown South

10. Mater Dei Prep (4-3)

Wins: Keyport (2), Keansburg (2)
Losses: Olympus Prep, Patrick School, at Don Bosco
This Week: Tuesday vs. Point Beach, Thursday at Point Beach, Saturday vs. Hunterdon Central

11. Manchester (5-0)

Wins: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), at Toms River North
Losses: None
This Week: Saturday vs. Lacey

12. Southern (4-1)

Wins: Toms River North, Asbury Park, at Donovan Catholic, at Lacey
Losses: At Toms River North
This Week: Monday vs. Toms River South, Wednesday at Toms River South, Friday vs. Pinelands

13. Barnegat (4-1)

Wins: Pinelands (2), Middletown South, Freehold Twp.
Losses: At Rumson-Fair Haven
This Week: Tuesday at Point Boro, Thursday vs. Point Boro, Friday at Toms River East

14. St. John Vianney (3-3)

Wins: Toms River East, at Colts Neck, Middletown South
Losses: Holmdel (2), Colts Neck
This Week: Shut down

15. Toms River North (5-2)

Wins: Toms River South (2), Southern, Lacey, at Brick Memorial
Losses: At Southern, Manchester
This Week: Monday vs. Toms River East, Wednesday at Toms River East, Friday at Central

16. Middletown South (1-5)

Wins: Freehold Twp.
Losses: CBA (2), at Barnegat, at St. John Vianney, Rumson-Fair Haven
This Week: Tuesday at Manalapan, Thursday vs. Manalapan, Saturday at Wall

The 2021 schedule is a very fluid entity but as it stands right now, only Wall and Mater Dei Prep have much of a chance to move into the top eight out of this second-tier group. Wall still gets two cracks at Manasquan while Mater Dei has Hunterdon Central this week and two dates with Ranney during the final week of February.

Middletown South will have some quality opponents to challenge as well, but the Eagles will have to overcome some losses to teams currently ahead of them (Barnegat, St. John Vianney, Rumson).

The run of Ocean County teams are slated to match up with one another in some instances, but that s probably only enough to inch up toward the Top 10. Manchester and Southern and on tap for a game to kick off the final week of the regular season and anymore lost games could give one of the Ocean County teams a chance to add an impact Monmouth County opponent, like Barnegat did with Middletown South, Freehold Township and Rumson-Fair Haven.

Pod B Pairings

(8) Middletown South at (1) Wall

(5) Barnegat at (4) Southern

(6) St. John Vianney at (3) Manchester

(7) Toms River North at (2) Mater Dei Prep

 

Playoff Pod C

17. Freehold Township (3-2)

Wins: Manalapan (2), Howell
Losses: At Barnegat, at Middletown South
This Week: Monday at Red Bank, Tuesday vs. CBA, Thursday at CBA, Saturday vs. St. Rose

18. Howell (5-2)

Wins: Lakewood (2), Brick Memorial (2), Brick
Losses: Marlboro, at Freehold Twp.
This Week: Monday at Central, Wednesday vs. Central

19. Brick Memorial (4-3)

Wins: Jackson Memorial (2), Lakewood (2)
Losses: Howell (2), Toms River North
This Week: Tuesday at Brick, Thursday vs. Brick, Saturday at Toms River South

20. St. Rose (0-2)

Wins: None
Losses: Manasquan (2)
This Week: Tuesday vs. Ranney, Thursday at Ranney, Saturday at Freehold Twp.

21. Keyport (3-2)

Wins: Ocean, at Roselle Park, at Point Beach
Losses: Mater Dei (2)
This Week: Friday at Asbury Park, Saturday vs. Asbury Park

22. Middletown North (3-3)

Wins: Raritan (2), at Matawan
Losses: Holmdel (2), Matawan
This Week: Saturday at Rumson-Fair Haven

23. Central (5-2)

Wins: Lakewood (2), New Egypt, Jackson Memorial, Donovan Catholic
Losses: At Washington Twp., at Jackson Memorial
This Week: Monday vs. Howell, Wednesday at Howell, Friday vs. Toms River North

24. Colts Neck (3-4)

Wins: At St. John Vianney, Matawan, at Jackson Liberty
Losses: Holmdel (2), St. John Vianney, at Matawan
This Week: Tuesday vs. Raritan, Thursday at Raritan

With a lopsided loss to Middletown South, Freehold Township slides out of the top-16 and while the Patriots’ hopes of a top-eight spot are now faint, they will certainly have chances to move up with two games against CBA this week.

Brick Memorial looked early on like perhaps the best team in Ocean County, but three tough losses to Howell (twice) and Toms River North drop the Mustangs – who are missing junior big man Luke Braaten (ankle) dearly.

Middletown North makes a big jump this week with a pair of double-digit wins over Raritan and has some open games to potentially schedule an opponent that could help the Lions climb. Pod-mate Colts Neck also elevates into Pod C thanks to a win over St. John Vianney and with two of its losses coming to No. 7 Holmdel.

Pod C Pairings

(8) Colts Neck at (1) Freehold Twp.

(5) Keyport at (4) St. Rose

(6) Middletown North at (3) Brick Memorial

(7) Central at (2) Howell

 

Playoff Pod D

25. Matawan (4-3)

Wins: At Middletown North, at Raritan, Colts Neck, at Long Branch
Losses: Middletown North, Raritan, at Colts Neck
This Week: Wednesday vs. Lacey, Thursday at Lacey

26. Monmouth (2-1)

Wins: Ocean, at Red Bank
Losses: At Ocean
This Week: Monday vs. Lacey, Tuesday at Rumson-Fair Haven, Thursday vs. Rumson-Fair Haven

27. Red Bank (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven, at Wall, Monmouth
This Week: Monday vs. Freehold Twp., Tuesday vs. Red Bank Catholic, Thursday at Red Bank Catholic,

28. Manalapan (1-2)

Wins: Freehold Boro
Losses: Freehold Twp. (2)
This Week: Monday at Marlboro, Tuesday vs. Middletown South, Thursday at Middletown South, Saturday at Freehold Boro

29. Freehold Boro (4-3)

Wins: Shore, at Raritan, at Point Boro, at Long Branch
Losses: CBA (2), at Manalapan
This Week: Tuesday vs. Marlboro, Thursday at Marlboro, Saturday vs. Manalapan

30. Raritan (3-4)

Wins: At Ocean, at Matawan, Brick
Losses: Middletown North (2), Freehold Boro, Matawan
This Week: Tuesday at Colts Neck, Thursday vs. Colts Neck

31. Lacey (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: At New Egypt, at Toms River North, Southern
This Week: Monday at Monmouth, Wednesday at Matawan, Thursday vs. Matawan, Saturday at Manchester

32. Point Pleasant Boro (1-3)

Wins: None
Losses: Freehold Boro, at Pinelands, at Wall
This Week: Tuesday vs. Barnegat, Wednesday at Barnegat, Saturday vs. Point Beach

Matawan is basically even with Colts Neck but the Cougars have better losses and a better top win (Vianney), so the Huskies are currently stuck a pod below a team they split with last week. Matawan lost its chance to knock off Holmdel this week when the Hornets shut down and will now try to pad its win total with two games against a young-but-talented Lacey squad hungry for their first win.

Red Bank and Freehold Boro both took a dip this week after losses to teams well behind them, while Monmouth inches up the ranks with the win over Red Bank – albeit not as far as the Falcons might have climbed were it not for a loss at Ocean.

Manalapan is one of the bigger movers after beating Freehold Boro, which came after the Braves battled Freehold Township on opening night before enduring a brief shutdown.

Pod D Pairings

(8) Point Boro at (1) Matawan

(5) Freehold Boro at (4) Manalapan

(6) Raritan at (3) Red Bank

(7) Lacey at (2) Monmouth

 

Playoff Pod E

33. Pinelands (2-5)

Wins: Ocean, Point Boro
Losses: Barnegat (2), Manchester (2), at Point Boro
This Week: Monday at Jackson Liberty, Wednesday vs. Jackson Liberty, Friday at Southern

34. Ocean (3-4)

Wins: Henry Hudson, Monmouth, Long Branch
Losses: Raritan, at Keyport, at Pinelands, at Monmouth
This Week: At Shore

35. Shore (1-2)

Wins: Jackson Liberty
Losses: At Freehold Boro, at Red Bank Catholic
This Week: Tuesday vs. Long Branch, Thursday at Long Branch, Saturday at Ocean

36. Jackson Liberty (2-4)

Wins: At Jackson Memorial, at Toms River East
Losses: Manchester (2), at Shore, Colts Neck
This Week: Monday vs. Pinelands, Wednesday at Pinelands, Saturday at Long Branch

37. Jackson Memorial (1-4)

Wins: Central
Losses: Brick Memorial (2), at Central, Jackson Liberty
This Week: Shut down

38. Donovan Catholic (3-3)

Wins: Toms River East (2), at Toms River South
Losses: Toms River South, at Central, Southern
This Week: Shut down

39. Asbury Park (5-2)

Wins: Keansburg (2), Henry Hudson (2), at Point Beach
Losses: At Southern, Point Beach
This Week: Friday vs. Keyport, Saturday at Keyport

40. Toms River South (3-4)

Wins: At Donovan Catholic, at Brick, at Toms River East
Losses: Toms River North (2), Donovan Catholic, Toms River East
This Week: Monday at Southern, Wednesday vs. Southern, Saturday vs. Brick Memorial

Ocean makes a big move this week thanks to wins over Monmouth and Long Branch, pulling the Spartans from out of the bottom five and into Pod E, right behind a Pinelands squad that handled the Spartans and has been competitive enough that the Wildcats could still climb with some wins.

Jackson Liberty has two tough loss that are holding the Lions back – one at Shore and another at home this week against Colts Neck in a game that was decided by free throws with no time left on the clock.

Pod E Pairings

(8) Toms River South at (1) Pinelands

(5) Jackson Memorial at (4) Jackson Liberty

(6) Donovan Catholic at (3) Shore

(7) Asbury Park at (2) Ocean

 

Playoff Pod F

41. Long Branch (0-5)

Wins: None
Losses: Red Bank Catholic (2), Freehold Boro, Matawan, at Ocean
This Week: Tuesday at Shore, Thursday vs. Shore, Saturday vs. Jackson Liberty

42. Toms River East (1-5)

Wins: At Toms River South
Losses: Donovan Catholic (2), at St. John Vianney, Toms River South, Jackson Liberty
This Week: Monday at Toms River North, Wednesday vs. Toms River North, Friday vs. Barnegat

43. Point Pleasant Beach (2-3)

Wins: Keansburg, at Asbury Park
Losses: At Keansburg, Keyport, Asbury Park
This Week: Tuesday at Mater Dei, Thursday vs. Mater Dei, Saturday at Point Boro

44. Keansburg (1-5)

Wins: Point Beach
Losses: Asbury Park (2), Mater Dei (2), at Point Beach
This Week: Tuesday at Koinonia Academy, Wednesday at Henry Hudson, Friday vs. Henry Hudson

45. Brick (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: At Howell, Toms River South, at Raritan
This Week: Tuesday vs. Brick Memorial, Thursday at Brick Memorial, Saturday at Henry Hudson

46. Henry Hudson (1-4)

Wins: South Amboy
Losses: Asbury Park (2), at Ocean, Manville
This Week: Tuesday at South Amboy, Wednesday vs. Keansburg, Friday at Keansburg, Saturday vs. Brick

47. Lakewood (0-6)

Wins: None
Losses: Howell (2), Brick Memorial (2), Central (2)
This Week: None

With a loss to Ocean, Long Branch slips into the last pod and will take aim this week at two teams – Shore and Jackson Liberty – currently holding a spot in the next pod up.

Toms River East got in the win column by beating Toms River South this week, while Point Beach edged closer to the next pod up by picking up a road win over Asbury Park.

Brick is considerably ahead of Henry Hudson and Lakewood at the moment, although the Green Dragons will have to defend their spot on Saturday at Hudson.

Pod F Pairings

(5) Brick at (4) Keansburg, winner at (1) Long Branch

(6) Henry Hudson at (3) Point Beach

(7) Lakewood at (2) Toms River East

 

Shore Sports Network Top 10, Feb. 15

1. Manasquan (2-0) Last Week: 1

2. Ranney (6-0) Last Week: 2

3. CBA (5-2) Last Week: 4

4. Marlboro (2-3) Last Week: 3

5. Red Bank Catholic (3-0) Last Week: 5

6. Neptune (2-2) Last Week: 6

7. Holmdel (6-0) Last Week: 7

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (3-0) Last Week: 8

9. Wall (2-5) Last Week: 9

10. Mater Dei Prep (4-3) Last Week: 10

 

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