Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Dec. 26
The 2018-19 season is almost two weeks old and while there has been some volatility in parts of the Shore Sports Network Top 10, most of the preordained teams from the preseason have held up their end of the bargain. In the first in-season top 10, two teams from the preseason rankings have dropped out and the eight teams that remained haven't changed their order.
That means, outside of a few of the top eight teams moving up a spot, the only change to this week's top 10 is the two new teams that enter at No. 9 and 10. There will be a new set of rankings to close out 2018 next week and with all the tournament action set to go down over the next five days, a lot could potentially happen in spot Nos. 3 through 10.
1. Ranney (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: 1
So far, so good for the Shore’s No. 1 team, which is not yet whole given that Ahmadu Sarnor and Phillip Wheeler have yet to play. Even with a short bench, Ranney has defeated two quality non-conference opponents and handled two division challengers thanks to the play of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, plus some timely contributions from the supporting cast. The Panthers will take on some of the top teams in North Carolina over the break at the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (5-0, 2-0) Last Week: 2
CBA was been mostly dominant through its first five games, with just one close game against a strong Western Pa. squad at the Kreul Classic in Florida. The Colts return north with their perfect record intact and won’t play again until Jan. 4 against Howell. The week of Jan. 7 will feature to of CBA’s toughest in-state tests – a home game vs. currently-unbeaten Freehold Township and a Boardwalk Showcase showdown against Rutgers commit Paul Mulcahy and Gill St. Bernard.
3. Manasquan (5-0, 3-0) Last Week: 3
Manasquan has been equally impressive relative to CBA, maybe even more impressive. The Warriors beat a Union Catholic team ranked in the state top 20, handled Rumson-Fair Haven at home and cooled off a hot-starting Holmdel team on the road by 24 points. It’s still really early, but CBA and Manasquan look like overwhelming favorites to stay in the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in some order throughout the year.
4. Rumson-Fair Haven (2-1, 2-1) Last Week: 4
The second half against Manasquan didn’t go so well for the Bulldogs, but they responded with a big second-half effort in a 67-41 win over a ranked Red Bank Catholic squad. Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy have been as good as Rumson has needed them to be, with each averaging better than 20 points and double-digit rebounds. The Bulldogs will get Manasquan at home the second time through the schedule and in the meantime will try to beef up their win total and continue to validate the top-four ranking.
5. Marlboro (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 6
After dropping the opener vs. CBA, Marlboro has rolled through three straight wins, including a WOBM Classic win over Jackson Memorial in which the Mustangs came to life in the middle of the second quarter after a shaky start. They have gone as junior guard Alex Ratner (21 points per game) has gone and to this point, Ratner has taken them pretty far. The Mustangs will play Central in the WOBM quarterfinals and with a win could see Manasquan in another potential test against a top-three team at the Shore.
6. Red Bank Catholic (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 7
The Caseys’ spot in the top 10 will be on the line this coming Thursday, when RBC will take on Freehold Township in the WOBM Classic quarterfinals. Both teams were impressive in first-round wins, with the Caseys putting up 98 points in a 43-point win over Point Boro in the opening round. That win followed a lopsided loss at Rumson-Fair Haven, which is not a bad enough loss to hurt RBC all that much in the new rankings.
7. Toms River North (3-1, 2-0) Last Week: 8
Like Rumson, Marlboro and Red Bank Catholic, Toms River North has a strong loss and the Mariners were more competitive in their neutral-court loss to St. Augustine. Toms River North has far lass production returning from last year compared to the rest of the teams ranked in the top eight but based on the play of juniors Jakari Spence and Najae Hallenbeck, plus senior Nick Duncsak, in the early going, the Mariners have a prominent trio to lead on that stacks up pretty well with most of the top 10.
8. Freehold Township (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 9
The Patriots will have a chance to move up before the New Year by going deep in the WOBM Classic and winning the whole thing would be a major boon to the Patriots’ status considering it could very well require going through RBC, Toms River North and Manasquan. No matter how the next few days play out, it appears as though Freehold Township is back among the Shore’s top teams after a rebuilding year in 2017-18.
9. Wall (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: Not ranked
After falling behind Red Bank, 29-15, in the first 16 minutes of their season, the Crimson rallied to win on the road and have not looked back. Wall’s start to the season also includes wins over Middletown North, St. John Vianney and Middle Township and the Knights have done it with a balanced scoring effort that junior Quinn Calabrese has led but not dominated. That well-rounded effort has highlighted Wall’s deep roster that should keep the Crimson Knights in the mix throughout this year and into next.
10. Middletown North (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: Not ranked
Middletown North’s only loss is to Wall and the Lions responded to that loss by beating Neptune on the road. In each of Middletown North’s four games, Rob Higgins has scored between 30 and 34 points and he has also set up his mostly-new teammates, who have done the job in supporting roles around him. At this early pace, not only is Higgins quickly approaching 2,000 points – he is lining up a potential run at the current Shore Conference current scoring record of 2,302.
Neptune (1-2, 1-2) Last Week: 5 – Close losses at Matawan and home to Middletown North bump Neptune out of the top 10, but not too far out of the picture.
Central (1-3, 0-3) Last Week: 10 – Following three straight losses to open the season, the Golden Eagles desperately needed a win and got one in double-overtime against Donovan Catholic.
Holmdel (2-1, 2-1) – The Hornets opened with two convincing wins before swallowing a humbling loss to No. 3 Manasquan. Holmdel could make some noise in the Husky Classic, which would put the Hornets on the cusp of the top 10.
Brick (2-1, 2-1) – The Green Dragons couldn’t get over the hump vs. Toms River North but they will get one more shot at the Mariners in Brick.
Matawan (3-1, 2-1) – After a rousing opening-night win, Matawan stumbled in overtime vs. rival St. John Vianney. Bounceback wins over Colts Neck and North Brunswick have the Huskies back on track.
Pinelands (3-0, 3-0) – After sneaking past Donovan Catholic and handling Manchester, the Wildcats beat Lakewood on the road to move into the catbird seat in Class B South.