Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Feb. 25
The NJSIAA Tournament tips off on Monday and most of the Shore Conference is hoping for one last hot streak to close out the 2018-19 season. With the Shore Conference Tournament wrapping up on Saturday, it’s time to take one last look at the Top 10 before the final version of the season on March 18. With the top four seeds reaching the SCT semifinals, there is not much overall movement in the top 10 but there is one noteworthy adjustment at the top.
1. Ranney (24-3, 12-0) Last Week: 1
For the second straight year, Ranney is the Shore Conference Tournament champion and unless one of the other top teams at the Shore can get to the Tournament of Champions and beat Ranney, the Panthers will finish the season as the No. 1 team in the rankings for the second straight year as well.
2. Manasquan (25-3, 13-1) Last Week: 3
The Warriors proved beyond a doubt that they are the second-best team in the Shore Conference and will now turn their attention to the Group II Tournament. Manasquan is the heavy favorite in Central Jersey Group II and could be on a collision course with defending Group II champion Haddonfield, which enters the South Jersey side of Group II with a 25-1 mark.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (20-5, 13-1) Last Week: 2
CBA is not totally out of the race for No. 2 at the Shore but it will take a special run through a very tough, but very balanced Non-Public A bracket. The Colts showed in what probably should have been a win over Elizabeth on the road that they can play with a top team in the state and that means that CBA has a shot against any team in Non-Public A – especially in the wide-open South bracket.
4. Freehold Township (19-4, 12-2) Last Week: 4
The Patriots were no match for Ranney in the SCT semifinals, but the trip to the Shore Final Four was the first for the program in 12 years and should serve as a boost heading into the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. Freehold Township has come excruciatingly close to winning its first NJSIAA sectional title several times and as the No. 3 seed in this year’s bracket, the Patriots will have a real shot at getting over the hump this season and making a bid for a spot in the state finals.
5. Middletown South (15-11, 7-7) Last Week: 5
The Eagles have some great wins and some head-scratching losses, so they will be an interesting case heading into the state tournament. They have shown they can get picked off by a seemingly-lesser team, but they can also handle any environment against just about any opponent. As the No. 5 seed in Central Jersey Group IV, Middletown South should be counted among the championship contenders in the division.
6. Toms River North (22-4, 14-0) Last Week: 6
After its 16-game winning streak came to an end, Toms River North got back on track with three tune-up wins last week and will now pursue the program’s first ever sectional championship. The Mariners are the No. 3 seed in the South Group IV Tournament and have already defeated No. 2 Cherokee during the regular season. With a junior-heavy team, Toms River North should have more than one chance to finish the job with this core.
7. Holmdel (14-10, 8-6) Last Week: 7
The Hornets made a surprise run to the SCT quarterfinals with its team of juniors and sophomores, set the tone for what it hopes will be a big run over the next calendar year. Holmdel got a very tough state tournament draw – if the Hornets win round one vs. South River, they will have to go to Manasquan – but this has already been a positive season.
8. Rumson-Fair Haven (16-8, 11-3) Last Week: 8
Rumson enters the state tournament on a four-game losing streak and will try to right the ship as the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey Group II. Three of Rumson’s last four losses are on the road and the Bulldogs won’t have to travel until the sectional final but the Bulldogs will have to snap out of it against a dangerous Raritan team in the first round.
9. Red Bank Catholic (19-7, 9-5) Last Week: 9
If RBC can rediscover its form from mid-January, the Caseys will have a chance to go far in the Non-Public A postseason. Since starting 14-1, Red Bank Catholic is 5-6 and will get at least one home game as the No. 3 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A bracket.
10. Marlboro (14-12, 7-7) Last Week: 10
If senior center Dylan Kaufman get back on the court, Marlboro will be a very dangerous No. 13 seed in Central Jersey Group IV. Kaufman is in concussion protocol and hopes to return sometime this week but that will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is Marlboro’s ability to win without him in the opening round.
Top 10 Watch List
Wall (17-8, 12-2) – If the Crimson Knights can live up to the No. 1 seed and win Central Jersey Group III, it will be very hard to keep them out of the top 10.
Neptune (16-9, 10-4) – Ditto for Neptune, which is the No. 2 seed in CJ III and was oh-so-close to reaching last year’s sectional final.
Jackson Liberty (15-9, 11-3) – Since starting the season 2-6, the Lions are 13-3 over their last 16 games and two of those losses are to No. 1 Ranney and No. 2 Manasquan.