Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Jan. 21
Another week, more results and no answers. That has been the recurring theme of the Shore Conference boys basketball season to this point. Outside of the No. 1 team in the field, most of the teams are playing one another and it is still not settling the rankings because everyone is both beating and losing to some other team in the pool of contenders.
There appears, at this point, to be six teams entrenched in the competition for the No. 2 spot with a new team joining the periphery of that competition this week. The order of those six teams is extremely tenuous at the moment and with a lot of head-to-head games to be played between them, the order is bound to change over the next three weeks.
The bottom of the Top 10 also looks a little different and the teams on the other side of the glass are starting to get closer to sneaking in the door than they were a week ago. Only one new team broke in this week, but the difference between No. 10 and No. 11 is back to being slim after being a little more clear-cut last week.
1. Ranney (12-1, 6-0) Last Week: 1
The Panthers have just three more games to go before getting senior Ahmadu Sarnor back this coming Sunday against Gill St. Bernard at Kean University. Sarnor is a proven big-game performer and his addition to a rotation that now has Bryan Antoine, Scottie Lewis, Alex Klatsky, Phillip Wheeler, Elijah Perkins and Chris Autino should re-establish Ranney as the team-to-beat in N.J. A tough game vs. Federal Way of Washington State Monday in Springfield, Mass. is the first of four remaining high-profile matchups before the start of the Shore Conference Tournament, including two big in-state games vs. Gill and Roselle Catholic.
2. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-1, 7-1) Last Week: 2
The Bulldogs played this past week without senior standout Jackson McCarthy and managed to get by Raritan, Monmouth and Marlboro without slipping up. McCarthy will be a game-time decision for Tuesday’s big rematch with Manasquan and if Rumson has any notion of avenging a Dec. 17 loss to the Warriors, McCarthy will likely have to be healthy enough to contribute. McCarthy played through his ankle sprain on Jan. 12 against Middletown North – the game in which he injured it – and was effective. The home game vs. Manasquan is the first of three games against top-10 opponents this coming week, to be followed by games against Red Bank Catholic and Middletown South.
3. Red Bank Catholic (13-1, 7-1) Last Week: 3
The longest active winning streak in the Shore Conference belongs to Red Bank Catholic and the Caseys will put their 11-game winning streak on the line this week against three .500-or-better teams in St. Rose, Rumson and St. John Vianney. If RBC can get past St. Rose on Tuesday, it will take a dozen-game streak into Thursday’s showdown with Rumson – the only team to beat RBC this season. In its lone loss of the season, the Caseys gave up nine Rumson three-pointers and failed to get going from the three-point line on their own end, so a change of venue from Rumson to the Eck Center will be a welcome one.
4. Christian Brothers Academy (11-2, 7-1) Last Week: 5
After giving Middletown South a taste of its own medicine on Saturday by hitting 11 three-pointers, CBA moves up a spot and is, once again, the top-ranked team from Class A North. CBA’s only loss in the Shore Conference in a one-point loss to Freehold Township. By contrast, every other team ranked in the No. 2 through 7 pack has a double-digit loss to another team in the same group. CBA also lacks a noteworthy win outside of the one over Middletown South, so there is still some work to be done for the Colts to get back to that No. 2 spot. With games remaining against Middletown South, Freehold Township and Red Bank Catholic, CBA will have its chances to prove it is No. 2.
5. Manasquan (13-2, 7-1) Last Week: 6
Like CBA, Manasquan inches up a spot since last week, although in this case, it is not the result of a particularly big win. Instead, Manasquan benefits from Freehold Township’s 16-point loss to Middletown South, which the Warriors defeated by 12 in December. The loss to Marlboro doesn’t hurt Manasquan too much because Alex Ratner played that game and did not play in the Mustangs’ loss to Freehold Township. A second win over Rumson could propel Manasquan back into the conversation for No. 2.
6. Freehold Township (10-2, 7-1) Last Week: 4
If a road win over CBA showed the Patriots could take their act on the road, Monday’s 70-54 loss at Middletown South countered that sometimes the road is cruel. Middletown South hit 17-of-28 three-pointers in that game and while the Patriots will probably have to make some defensive adjustments to defend the three-point line, there is also only so much a team can do to keep the ball from going in the basket on perimeter shots. With a better divisional record, Freehold Township still has to be considered ahead of Middletown South for the moment.
7. Middletown South (9-5, 6-2) Last Week: 7
Although Middletown South did not climb in the rankings, the Eagles solidified their spot in the top-seven of the ranking this past week with a convincing win over Freehold Township. They missed a chance to vault into the top five by losing to CBA on Saturday, but with wins over Toms River North and Matawan to go with the win over Freehold Township, the Middletown South resume to date is pretty ironclad as long as the Eagles can avoid any major slip-ups.
8. Toms River North (10-3, 8-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The Mariners have been piling up the wins ever since their consolation loss at the WOBM Christmas Classic but they were all within Class A South and none really moved their top-10 needle. On Saturday, Toms River North indeed moved the needle by knocking off Cherokee, the No. 16 team in the state, according to NJ.com heading into the game, and did so by erasing an 18-3 deficit at the end of the first quarter. If Toms River North keeps adding to their 54-game A South winning streak, it appears the Mariners will be a safe bet to settle into the No. 8 spot.
9. Wall (10-3, 8-0) Last Week: 8
With so much parity throughout the Shore, Wall’s 8-0 record in the division is still meaningful as it pertains to the Top 10. A loss to Jackson Memorial, however, puts the Crimson Knights’ standing in peril and it definitely drops them behind Toms River North. With a three-game lead in the standings over Matawan, Wall still looks like the divisional front-runner, but in order to stay in the top 10, the Knights will have to keep racking up the division wins. They also have a showdown with Manasquan just before the Shore Conference Tournament that will represent an opportunity to climb back into the top eight.
10. Matawan (9-4, 5-3) Last Week: 9
Matawan lost at Wall and Neptune this week and played the latter without junior center John Beukers. The Huskies will get break this week based on that injury but there are now some teams starting to nip at their heels for the No. 10 spot in the rankings. With Class B North teams all beating up on one another, it’s hard to pick a standout win among the bunch for Matawan, although a win over Old Bridge (11-1) has held up well.
Marlboro (6-9, 2-6) Last Week: 10 – The absence of Alex Ratner due to a sprained ankle has sent Marlboro into a tailspin (0-6, including the game he was injured). The Mustangs will try to get right this week vs. Manalapan, Freehold Boro and Mater Dei.
Top 10 Watch List
Brick Memorial (10-3, 7-1) – With a win over Jackson Memorial (which beat Wall) and a recent win over Ocean, the Mustangs are mounting the evidence for a push into the top 10.
Middletown North (8-7, 4-4) – The Lions continue to run hot-and-cold, but with the supporting cast continuing to grow around Rob Higgins, they figure to get more-and-more dangerous with each passing week.
Neptune (7-5, 4-4) – The ceiling is lower without Sam Fagan, but he Scarlet Fliers had a good week last week in taking down Colts Neck and Matawan behind a pair of stellar performances by Dwaine Jones.
St. John Vianney (7-7, 3-5) – Another B North teams with some solid wins (Matawan, Middletown North, Neptune), the Lancers are hanging around the Top 10 picture while trying to stay above the .500 mark.