With the top four teams reaching the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, there is no movement in the top four of this week’s rankings and it’s unlikely there will be any movement in the bottom six given the top four will be the only teams in meaningful action this week.

The No. 1 spot has not been in question all year and while most of that has to do with the prowess of the team occupying that spot, at least part of it can be attributed to the fact that no Shore contenders have had a crack at Ranney all year. That is finally starting to change and now at least one of the Shore’s top four will get a shot to beat the Panthers – two assuming Ranney can beat Freehold Township on Thursday.

All year, the assumption has been that Ranney is the class of the Shore and this coming week, the Panthers will have a chance to validate it.

 

1. Ranney (22-3, 12-0) Last Week: 1

The Panthers’ status as the Shore’s top team remains unchanged but now that they have finally played a couple of games against other teams from the Shore, the talk of whether or not somebody could potentially dethrone them is starting to surface. A lot of Shore coaches got their first look at Ranney up close on Sunday against Middletown South and more than one suggested Manasquan might have the formula to beat them. Considering Bryan Antoine has been playing through injuries to his foot and shoulder, maybe Ranney is a little more vulnerable than was sold at the beginning of the season, but it would still take a Herculean effort to knock out Antoine, Scottie Lewis and Co.

2. Christian Brothers Academy (20-4, 13-1) Last Week: 2

The Shore Conference Tournament seeding committee went with Manasquan as the No. 2 team and the Warriors have made the committee look good with back-to-back impressive performances in the SCT. In this spot, however, CBA has been the No. 2 team for a month and the Colts haven’t done anything to give up that spot except for losing to undefeated Elizabeth at the buzzer. CBA still has an edge over Manasquan in record vs. common opponents (5-0 vs. 3-2) and although CBA’s margin of victory wasn’t nearly as high as Manasquan’s on Sunday, CBA beat a Toms River North squad that had won 16 in a row and was playing on its home floor.

3. Manasquan (24-2, 13-1) Last Week: 3

Although CBA ranks a spot higher for one more week, it is not hard to see the case for Manasquan heading into Thursday night’s clash between No. 2 and No. 3. The Warriors now hold the Shore’s longest winning streak at 15 in a row and have scored 70 or more points in five straight games. They bring a dynamic freshman guard (Ben Roy) and a long, athletic 6-foot-7 forward (Tim McEneny) off the bench to complement an already well-rounded lineup. As previously mentioned, Manasquan has been unofficially anointed as the “Team that can beat Ranney” but the Warriors will have to get through a motivated, experienced CBA squad first.

4. Freehold Township (19-3, 12-2) Last Week: 4

Freehold Township nearly suffered the same fate that Rumson suffered in each of its last two games against Holmdel, but he Patriots showed their resolve and composure in warding off a furious comeback attempt by the Hornets on Sunday. During the first 10 minutes and first four minutes of the fourth quarter on Sunday, Freehold Township looked like a team that could give Ranney a run but the Patriots will, of course, have to play at that level for just about every second of a 32-minute game to have a chance to stun Ranney. Win or lose, Freehold Township has solidified itself as the Shore’s No. 4 team and there aren’t many scenarios that could knock the Patriots off that perch.

5. Middletown South (14-11, 7-7) Last Week: 9

With a win over Marlboro and recent struggles by Rumson and Red Bank Catholic, the road is cleared out for Middletown South to climb into the top 10. Wins over Freehold Township, Toms River North and Rumson have kept the Eagles in the conversation all year and their performance in the past two games – a win over Marlboro and a loss to Ranney – suggests they are ready to take a real shot at a deep run as a No. 5 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV Tournament.

6. Toms River North (19-4, 14-0) Last Week: 5

A head-to-head loss to Middletown South – which has more noteworthy wins overall as well – drops Toms River North one spot in the rankings but the Mariners still have a chance to rally into the top five by season’s end. In order to do that, Toms River North will have to win its first ever NJSIAA sectional title and while this might not be Toms River North’s most talented team of coach Rory Caswell’s tenure, this one has as great a shot as any to win it. With no overwhelming favorite in either South or Central Jersey Group IV, it is not far-fetched to envision Toms River North in the Group IV final.

7. Holmdel (13-10, 8-6) Last Week: Not ranked

Holmdel has made an appearance in the top 10 this year but this will be its highest ranking of 2018-19 to date. The Hornets defeated Rumson-Fair Have twice in a two-week span and showed plenty of mettle in rallying from two different double-digit deficits to nearly knock off Freehold Township on Sunday. Two losses to Monmouth remain the head-scratching results on Holmdel’s résumé but wins over Rumson, Red Bank Catholic and Matawan have lent the Hornets plenty of credibility as a top 10 outfit. While it appears as though this junior-heavy group has indeed arrived on the scene at the Shore, doing damage in the state tournament will be difficult considering Holmdel’s quarterfinal opponent in Central Jersey Group II would likely be Manasquan.

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (16-7, 11-3) Last Week: 6

With two wins over Red Bank Catholic, one over St. Peter’s Prep and a second-place finish in a rugged Class A Central division, Rumson has built up enough good will to remain in the top 10 despite a very rough stretch recently. Since beating RBC for a second time, Rumson is 4-5, including three straight losses to Red Bank, Christ the King and Holmdel. The Bulldogs will have their chance at redemption in the form of the Central Group II Tournament, in which Rumson is the No. 2 seed and would not have to leave its gym until the sectional final vs. No. 1 Manasquan.

9. Red Bank Catholic (17-7, 9-5) Last Week: 7

Red Bank Catholic is the only team to reach the SCT quarterfinals not ranked in the top eight in this week’s poll and that is due to two head-to-head losses vs. Rumson. A win over Wall in the round of 16 made sure the Caseys won’t drop out of the top 10 altogether but staying in the final rankings is no lock. RBC is the No. 3 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A bracket and will play the winner of Bishop Ahr and Donovan Catholic to open up their next tournament run.

10. Marlboro (14-11, 7-7) Last Week: 8

Marlboro just hasn’t been able to get healthy this season and yet the Mustangs have still had a good enough season to warrant a top 10 ranking. They handed Manasquan one of its two losses and beat both Middletown South and Neptune on the road, which might be enough to keep the Mustangs in the top 10 even if they can’t make a deep run in a deep Central Jersey Group IV field. Then again, with plenty of teams knocking on the door to the top 10, it wouldn’t hurt to win one or two more big games.

 

Dropped Out

Wall (16-7, 12-2) Last Week: 10 – Wall doesn’t have the headline wins that Marlboro does and the head-to-head loss at RBC was a missed opportunity to solidify its spot. As the No. 1 seed in Central Group III, the Crimson Knights have a chance to make a deep run and jump back into the top 10.

 

Top 10 Watch List

Neptune (16-7, 10-4) – Neptune will be on side of the CJ III bracket opposite Wall and should have a reasonable chance to win the whole thing – a surefire ticket back into the top 10.

Jackson Memorial (13-10, 7-7) – With a win over Wall on its résumé, Jackson Memorial deserves mention considering not many Ocean County teams have come up with a performance like that against a top team from Monmouth.

Jackson Liberty (13-9, 11-3) – With a division championship, a win in the SCT and a tune-up win over Matawan, Jackson Liberty has shown its improvement since the beginning of the season while displaying it is more than just a one-man team. At this point, the Lions should not be overlooked in Central Jersey Group III.

 

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