Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Jan. 1
Rarely does a Shore Sports Network Top 10 have as much clarity this early in the season as the boys basketball Top 10 currently has. The WOBM Christmas Classic had six teams ranked in the Top 10, three semifinalists ranked in the preseason top five and another semifinalist that beat two teams ranked ahead of them coming into the season. That leaves the four semifinalists at the Toms River tournament as the top-four teams at the Shore heading into the New Year.
After the top five, things get a little tricky, which is why there are not any dramatic changes to the teams that make up the top 10 compared to the start of the season. Ranney and CBA are off to troubling starts, but both have reason to expect a quick bounceback once missing pieces return and the schedule changes. That means the bottom-half of the top 10 could be volatile in the immediate future but the top half should hold steady.
1. Manasquan (6-0, 1-0) Last Week: 1
With wins over the current No. 2 and No. 3 at the Shore and the preseason No. 6 team in the state, Manasquan’s standing as the No. 1 team in the conference is about as secure as it can be. At this point, Manasquan’s focus is climbing the ranks among the rest of the state, which the Warriors will have a chance to do with some quality opponents coming up this month in West Side Newark, Roselle Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep. Other than that, the goal will be to stay sharp and healthy for the late February.
2. Toms River North (4-1, 1-0) Last Week: 4
During the WOBM Christmas Classic, the Mariners looked like a contender for postseason hardware, but the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to Manasquan showed they still have some work to do to close the gap between themselves and the current No. 1 team at the Shore. Toms River North looks poised to run its division winning streak to 74 by the end of the regular season and out-of-division games against Rutgers Prep and Wall should serve to keep the Mariners on their game ahead of the postseason.
3. Middletown South (4-1, 1-0) Last Week: 3
Like Toms River North, Middletown South played a respectable first-three quarters against Manasquan but had no answer for the Warriors in the fourth quarter during Saturday’s semifinal game. The senior-laden Eagles had a nice bounce-back performance Monday vs. Marlboro in what could be a tune-up for two huge divisional showdowns between the two teams that appear to be the co-favorites in Class A North. Before that, Middletown South will face a desperate CBA squad this coming Tuesday, which could serve as a chance for the Eagles to bury the Colts as it pertains to a division title.
4. Marlboro (3-2, 1-0) Last Week: 10
The Mustangs make the largest jump of the first two weeks of the season, going from No. 10 to No. 4 after defeating preseason Nos. 5 (CBA) and 6 (Wall). Marlboro also picked up a solid win over a Manchester squad that looks primed to make a run at the B South title and did so less than 24 hours after beating CBA. Marlboro could not keep up with Toms River North and having to play the Mariners the night after playing a talented Wall squad could not have helped a team as reliant on a run-and-gun, pressure-heavy style as Marlboro is.
5. Wall (3-1, 1-0) Last Week: 6
A loss to a rested, confident Marlboro team was a setback for Wall, but the Crimson Knights should take comfort in knowing that a rough first half from standout Quinn Calabrese and lots of missed shots in the paint are likely outliers that can be easily corrected. Outside of that loss, Wall has handled Red Bank and Donovan Catholic – two teams that have good wins on their respective early-season resumes.
6. Holmdel (3-1, 1-0) Last Week: 7
The optics of losing in the first round of the Husky Holiday Classic as the tournament’s No. 1 seed are worse than the reality, which is that Holmdel had a slip-up against an under-rated Carteret squad that lost to Union by four points in the championship game. The Hornets bounced back with convincing wins over Old Bridge and Edison to get back on track and should still have their share of success going forward this season. Holmdel will have a chance to test itself on Tuesday, when the Hornets travel to No. 1 Manasquan.
7. Red Bank Catholic (3-1, 1-0) Last Week: 9
Just as Middletown South and Toms River North ran out of gas against Manasquan, Red Bank Catholic did the same against Middletown South. The Caseys are working off some football rust and working in some new rotation members so there is reason to believe their best days are ahead of them. Last year, the Caseys were one of four teams to beat Manasquan, so when it comes to searching for teams that have a shot to take down the Warriors, RBC has to remain in that conversation.
8. Ranney (1-3, 0-0) Last Week: 2
Ranney remains a very difficult team to rank because the Panthers are still two significant players away from having their complete roster. Until sophomore Charles Anyichie and junior Kyle Rhoden debut, it will be hard to ascertain Ranney’s potential once the postseason starts. Currently, the Panthers clearly have some questions following a 1-3 start that includes a loss to Red Bank Regional. They could very well get on track but there are very limited opportunities to prove themselves worthy of a top ranking at the Shore, with a showdown vs. Middletown South at the Jan. 11 Boardwalk Showcase looming large.
9. Christian Brothers Academy (1-4, 0-1) Last Week: 5
The other team hard to rank early on is CBA, which lost its first four games in lopsided fashion. The quality of competition has a lot to do with it as the Colts dropped decisions to Marlboro and Hudson Catholic within the first two days of the season. Another factor has been health, with sophomore Ryan Mabrey limited to one game due to a knee injury. If the Colts can get healthy, there is still enough time to get back in the Class A North race but it is going to take some work for CBA to get back into the running for a top-five spot.
10. Ocean (2-1, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked
There is no shortage of candidates for the open spot in the Top 10 and that is both because there are some quality teams and because not many of those teams have scored that eye-opening win yet. Ocean began the season on the Top 10 Watch List and has not so much won its way into the Top 10 as much as the Spartans have not messed things up. Jack and Corey Miller have started strong and will try to keep climbing by running through a deep, even Class B North field.
Neptune (2-3, 0-1) Last Week: 8 – The Scarlet Fliers have been offensively-challenged in the early going, particularly in losses to Matawan, Elizabeth and Lincoln – all of which saw Neptune score under 40 points.
Top 10 Watch List
Barnegat (3-0, 1-0) – Without any marquee opponents outside B South, Barnegat’s top-10 cases is going to be about quantity, which means racking up B South win after B South win while minimizing the slip-ups. So far, so good.
St. John Vianney (4-0, 1-0) – For the first time in 14 years, the Lancers are 4-0. While the four victories are more solid than spectacular, the B North schedule presents plenty of opportunity for the Lancers to prove themselves.
Rumson-Fair Haven (3-0, 1-0) – The revamped Bulldogs are off to an ideal start and are approaching a major test to open 2020 with No. 1 Manasquan up next.
Donovan Catholic (2-2, 1-0) – The Griffins have a nice win over Freehold Township and their two losses are against two top-five teams (Toms River North and Wall) and they have done all that while playing without injured starter Jaden Anthony.
Freehold Township (3-1, 1-0) – The Patriots’ lone loss came with starter Jayce Schapiro out of the lineup and they bounced back by beating Point Boro and Manchester. The apparent A North favorites (Middletown South and Marlboro) best beware of junior-laden Freehold Township.
Southern (4-1, 1-0) – A tournament championship game against a strong Lenape team was a good test for the young Rams and while it was not a win, Southern played the Indians tough and took second at the Score at the Shore Tournament.
Manalapan (2-2, 0-1) – Wins over Old Bridge and Matawan suggest the Braves have some potential to be a tough tournament out this season, which would make sense considering the senior influence on the roster. The two losses – Middletown South and Carteret – are both to quality opponents.
Manchester (2-2, 1-0) – The Hawks have flashed their talent and played Marlboro tough but with two wins against teams that have combined to win zero games (Toms River South and Lacey), they still need to turn it into some big wins.
Mater Dei Prep (2-1, 1-0) – The Seraphs lost a lopsided game to a loaded St. Thomas Aquinas squad, then followed it up with a dramatic win over Atlantic City the next day.
Red Bank (2-3, 0-1) – The Bucs are the first Shore Conference team to beat Ranney since Marlboro upset the Panthers in the 2017 SCT semifinals, which puts Red Bank on the radar despite a 27-point loss to Wall and another loss to West Windsor-Plainsboro South.