Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Feb. 3
Less than two weeks from the seeding of the Shore Conference Tournament, the top of the Shore field remains pretty steady. Manasquan is chugging along as the clear No. 1 team in the conference despite a pair of relatively-close calls last week, while Middletown South, Toms River North, Marlboro and Holmdel have each occupied top-five spots for at least four weeks now.
The story remains the same for the next five as well in that the story is constantly changing. Seeding the Shore Conference Tournament after the top-five will be an arduous task and there is only so much the next two weeks can clarify. There are, however, some teams getting healthy (CBA, Matawan and Ranney) and getting hot (Lakewood) that could become factors in the field.
1. Manasquan (18-1, 10-0) Last Week: 1
The Warriors had their two closest calls of the season against Shore Conference competition during the past week, escaping physical showdowns with Rumson-Fair Haven and Holmdel. Senior Alex Galvan returned to the lineup after a three-week absence in the Holmdel win, then put up 25 points and 15 rebounds in a comfortable win over Hillside on Saturday.
2. Middletown South (16-1, 10-0) Last Week: 2
Middletown South continued to build on its resume as the No. 2 team in the field by beating CBA for the second time this season – a first-ever sweep of the Colts in the history of the program – and hammering Rumson-Fair Haven to cap the week. The Eagles’ winning streak now stands at 13 and they will take the longest streak at the Shore this season into next week, which includes a third meeting against Marlboro. That road game will likely present Middletown South with an opportunity to win the outright Class A North title.
3. Toms River North (16-3, 10-0) Last Week: 3
After a 3-0 week, Toms River North is closing in on a sixth straight division title but got a surprising challenge to their 70-game Class A South winning streak. Toms River South led its rival in the fourth quarter before the Mariners stepped on the gas and pulled out a nine-point victory. Barring a significant slide by Middletown South, Toms River North is not likely to jump back up to No. 2 before the Shore Conference Tournament, but the Mariners are also safe at No. 3 having already defeated Marlboro and with Holmdel coming up just short against Manasquan this past week.
4. Marlboro (14-4, 8-2) Last Week: 4
With Holmdel putting the pressure on, Marlboro is clinging to the No. 4 spot in the rankings and maintains that edge for at least one more week. The Mustangs have had some illness issues and injury scares, but remain intact heading into a huge week that includes a home showdown against Middletown South.
5. Holmdel (13-3, 8-2) Last Week: 5
More and more, Holmdel is making a case for the No. 4 seed and after the Hornets nearly beat Manasquan on Thursday, the Hornets have essentially pulled even with Marlboro. Each has lost the first-place team in its division (Middletown South for Marlboro and Manasquan for Holmdel) twice, with Marlboro playing Middletown South close twice. Holmdel will play Manalapan right before the cutoff and a win could help further make the Hornets’ case to jump into the top five.
6. Wall (14-4, 10-0) Last Week: 7
Although Wall has had to grind out some wins and has double-digit losses to Marlboro, Toms River North and Red Bank Catholic, the Crimson Knights have still been fairly consistent when it comes to getting the job done. Five of the six first-place teams in the Shore Conference are undefeated but Wall’s 10-0 effort in B North to this point stands out because of how competitive the division is all the way to the bottom of the standings.
7. Christian Brothers Academy (9-9, 5-5) Last Week: 9
CBA remains a hard team to grade because it has constantly been adjusting to losing players to injury and reincorporating them – particularly in the case of sophomore Ryan Mabrey. The Colts did have a rough week in which they lost to Freehold Township and Manalapan by double-digits, but have since defeated Marlboro and played Middletown South competitively for a second time. They are also a young team and as they get healthier, they have a chance to become a formidable postseason opponent.
8. Red Bank Catholic (12-5, 6-4) Last Week: Not ranked
There’s a solid case to be made that RBC could be No. 6 or 7 in the rankings thanks to a head-to-head win over Wall and a better overall record than CBA. RBC’s loss profile is similar to CBA’s, with the difference being that CBA has played a more challenging out-of-conference schedule. RBC still has second meetings remaining against Manasquan and Holmdel and if the Caseys can find a way to pull one of those out – more likely the Holmdel game – and avoid a slip-up, a top-five spot is not out of the question.
9. Manalapan (8-6, 5-5) Last Week: 6
Heading into the week, Manalapan was building some momentum toward a possible top-five ranking. Now, the Braves are clinging to a top-10 spot after losing a heartbreaker to Marlboro, followed by a surprising loss to Howell. Injuries do have something to do with Manalapan’s hiccup to end the week, so the Braves deserve some benefit of the doubt, but they will have to get on another mini-roll over the next two weeks to solidify the top 10 spot.
10. Matawan (9-8, 8-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Just like CBA and Manalapan, injuries have a lot to do with the shortcomings of Matawan’s resume, but the Huskies showed this past week that when fully healthy, they will be a tough out. After having to play Wall and Neptune shorthanded two weeks ago, Matawan completed a season sweep of St. John Vianney and battled No. 5 Holmdel to the wire, albeit in the losing cause. They will need some help, but the Huskies still have a decent chance to grab a piece of the Class B North title.
St. John Vianney (12-5, 6-4) Last Week: 8 – The Lancers missed a chance at an impact win this week but have been good at showing up to play every night, which should keep them in the mix.
Neptune (8-9, 5-5) Last Week: 10 – After rejoining the top 10, Neptune had a rough week, losing to Ocean, winless Middletown North and Lakewood.
Top 10 Watch List
Ranney (9-7, 8-0) – Ranney showed it can be a problem in the postseason by playing Roselle Catholic tough, but the Panthers have only one win outside of B Central and it is against 1-15 Middletown North.
Lakewood (12-5, 8-2) – It’s hard to find a team that increased its stock more in the last week than Lakewood, which was impressive in beating Point Boro on the road and held on to top Neptune to cape a 3-0 week.
Rumson-Fair Haven (10-7, 6-4) – Last week was a mixed bag for Rumson against an incredibly tough schedule. The Bulldogs played No. 1 Manasquan tough, handled Raritan, got hammered by No. 8 RBC and could not keep up with No. 2 Middletown South.
Mater Dei Prep (10-7, 8-1) – The Seraphs continue to operate without a glaring loss and an early-season win over Atlantic City remains a pretty strong result. In order to become a top 10 candidate, Mater Dei will have to knock off Ranney at home on Feb. 13.
Freehold Township (10-7, 5-5) – Despite a shaky week that included a loss to Freehold Boro and a three-point win over Middletown North, the Patriots still have some quality results that put them in position to climb if they can finish the regular season strong.