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The New Year began with five teams that appeared to had separated themselves from the rest of the pack (and one that made it abundantly clear it was the No. 1 team) but now that January is nearly two weeks old, the cutoff for the unofficial second tier of teams has moved up to No. 4.

Wall's loss to Red Bank Catholic at the Boardwalk Showcase throws the 5-through-10 range of the rankings into a battle royale that is likely to rage for the remainder of the season. With that being the case, the door is open for some fresh faces to step through and two teams this week are making their Top-10 debuts - one for the first time in five years and another for the first time ever.

1. Manasquan (10-1, 4-0) Last Week: 1

Had Manasquan pulled off a win Saturday against Roselle Catholic, an unbeaten season heading into the state tournament would have been in play for the Warriors. Instead, Manasquan walked off the floor knowing it should have a chance beat any team in N.J., especially considering Alex Galvan did not play on Saturday and likely won’t until the end of the month. It was further evidence that within the landscape of the Shore, Manasquan is in a league of its own.

Manasquan senior Tim McEneny and Toms River North senior Colin Baker battle for positioning. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

2. Toms River North (8-2, 4-0) Last Week: 2

The pressure is increasing on Toms River North as the No. 2 team at the Shore with Middletown South playing exceedingly well but for now, the Mariners hold onto the No. 2 spot. Losses to Manasquan and Rutgers Prep are plenty excusable and they added a nice win over Mainland on Saturday. Either way, Toms River North controls its own destiny to stay in the top-three going to the Shore Conference Tournament next month, and that’s what matters most.

3. Middletown South (9-1, 4-0) Last Week: 3

The Eagles turned in an impressive week, with wins over CBA and Ranney bookending a win over Freehold Boro. If Middletown South keeps racking up A North wins, it will be tough for Toms River North to hold the Eagles off for the No. 2 spot while playing in what, so far, appears to be a much weaker division.

4. Marlboro (7-2, 4-0) Last Week: 4

Marlboro’s hurdles to the No. 2 spot are head-to-head losses against No. 2 Toms River North and No. 3 Middletown South and the Mustangs will have a chance to avenge one of them on Monday, when they travel to Middletown South in the first Class A North game between the two contenders (the first meeting was the WOBM Classic third-place game).

5. Holmdel (7-2, 3-1) Last Week: 6

After swallowing a tough loss in the Husky Holiday Classic first round, the Hornets have been mowing down opponents, with the noteworthy exception of Manasquan on the road. Two of Holmdel’s next three games will be against Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic, which will be crucial games to win for the Hornets to maintain a top-five-caliber resume.

6. Christian Brothers Academy (4-6, 2-2) Last Week: 9

Sub-.500 teams in the top 10 are a rarity but schedules as challenging as the one CBA has played to date are also a rarity. The Colts’ losses are to No. 3 Middletown South, No. 4 Marlboro, Hudson Catholic, Wildwood Catholic and two out-of-state opponents while banged-up over the holiday break. Meanwhile, a win over St. Joseph of Metuchen with sophomore guard Ryan Mabrey still out showed the young Colts are coming along. They will have to get through three quality teams this week trying to make a statement themselves (Freehold Township, Manalapan and Mater Dei Prep).

7. Red Bank Catholic (6-3, 2-2) Last Week: 7

It has been a whirlwind 10 days for RBC since winter break ended. The Caseys lost in resounding fashion at St. Rose and dropped a high-scoring affair against a retooling-but-solid Rumson-Fair Haven squad to walk to the edge of the top 10. Then RBC ran Wall out of Collins Arena on Saturday and asserted their top-10 worthiness. Although Manasquan showed their strength without Galvan on Saturday, RBC has its best chance to take down Manasquan when the two meet on Thursday with Galvan out with his ankle injury. The Caseys were one of four teams to beat Manasquan last season.

8. Wall (6-3, 4-0) Last Week: 5

Two of Wall’s losses are to teams in the top 10 (Marlboro and Red Bank Catholic) and the other is to state-ranked Irvington, so the Crimson Knights are not sitting on any bad losses. They have, however, had to gut out wins over St. John Vianney and Neptune so far and they also have not shot the ball from the perimeter quite as well as they did last year. While that has hurt Wall in the present, it could be a good thing over the long haul with the Crimson Knights finding other ways to score while putting an emphasis on the defensive end.

9. Manalapan (4-3, 2-2) Last Week: Not ranked

For the first time since 2015, the Braves crack the top 10 and do so on the back of a big home win over Freehold Township on Friday. They also have a road win over Matawan, which remains unbeaten in Class B North play. To round out the resume, two of Manalapan’s losses are to the top two teams in A North – Middletown South and Manalapan – while the other is to an 8-2 Carteret squad. Another big game this week looms with the Braves heading to CBA on Thursday.

10. Barnegat (6-0, 4-0) Last Week: Not ranked

While Manalapan makes its first Top-10 appearance in five years, Barnegat’s wait was infinitely longer. The Bengals are in the Top 10 for the first time in program history on the heels of an undefeated start to the seasons. Other teams have more noteworthy wins, but Barnegat has handled its business and as the last remaining unbeaten team at the Shore, the Bengals deserve a little love as they pursue their first ever Class B South championship.

 

Dropped Out

Ranney (4-5, 3-0) Last Week: 8 – With Ranney still getting players back and caught up, it would be easy to say the Panthers will be back in the Top 10, but without any chances to play current Top 10 teams and out-of-conference games vs. Roselle Catholic and Hudson Catholic, it’s hard to see what the path to a re-entry into the Top 10 looks like.

Ocean (3-4, 1-3) Last Week: 10 – The Spartans broke into the Top 10 and promptly lost three out of four, with the lone win coming over Monmouth Regional. B North is going to be a fight to the finish but with three losses already, Ocean has little-to-no margin for error.

 

Top 10 Watch List

Matawan (5-4, 4-0) – Inconsistency has been an obstacle early, but Matawan’s best can give most teams problems.

Neptune (5-4, 2-2) – As usual, the Scarlet Fliers are steadily getting better and should be in the Top-10 mix over the next several weeks.

Rumson-Fair Haven (5-2, 3-1) – A tough, controversial loss to Neptune at the Boardwalk Showcase keeps the Bulldogs out of the Top 10 for now but the foundation of talent and quality play is there for Rumson to keep pushing its way in.

St. John Vianney (6-3, 2-2) – St. John Vianney has a close loss to Wall and was up 16 points on Matawan at halftime and if the Lancers could have closed out either game, it would be hard to deny them a ranking.

St. Rose (5-3, 2-2) – After scoring a blowout win over Red Bank Catholic, St. Rose had no answer for Rumson-Fair Haven to cap the past week. Just another example of how hard it is to figure out the middle of the Shore Conference right now.

Mater Dei Prep (6-2, 4-0) – The Seraphs have balanced a solid out-of-division schedule with a breeze of a division slate so far but things get much tougher at the end of the week when Mater Dei plays CBA and Ranney in a span of three days.

Southern (7-2, 4-0) – The Rams still haven’t lost in Class A South play but that gets put to the test on Tuesday at Toms River North, which hasn’t lost an A South game since Southern beat the Mariners…in 2015.

 

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