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For the first month of the season, the top of the Shore Sports Network rankings was about as ironclad as can be. Up until this week, none of the top four in the rankings – and none of the current top six, for that matter – had lost to another Shore Conference team outside the top four.

That changed this past week, when Christian Brothers Academy – which had just fallen out of the top 10 for the first time all year – upset No. 4 Marlboro on the road, stating its case to rejoin the rankings and putting a dent in the top-four armor.

The battle for position at Nos. 6 through 10 has been raging all year but CBA showed last week that maybe there is enough time for the right team or teams to close the gap between the Shore’s top handful of teams and the rest of the field.

1. Manasquan (15-1, 8-0) Last Week: 1

The only real intrigue left in Manasquan’s regular season will be to see if any of its Class A Central opponents can close the gap between themselves and the Warriors the second time through the division. That, plus the lookout for the return of Alex Galvan from a sprained ankle, which is slated for sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Middletown South senior James Anderson. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

2. Middletown South (13-1, 8-0) Last Week: 3

Even if Toms River North had not lost this week, Middletown South had already made a very compelling case to be the No. 2 team at the Shore. A North remains arguably the Shore’s toughest division, at least in its top-five teams, and the Eagles are 8-0 with two wins apiece over ranked division opponents Marlboro and Manalapan. If Middletown South indeed runs the table in A North, it’s hard to entertain anyone else for No. 2.

3. Toms River North (13-3, 8-0) Last Week: 2

With the way Toms River North has handled A South competition, the Mariners need to go through some weekend tests and they have done that so far. Included in those games are a loss to still-unbeaten Rutgers Prep, a tight win over Mainland, and a two-point loss to Lincoln on Saturday. The loss to the Lions ensured a drop from No. 2 to No. 3 but it should also provide a reality-check for a Toms River North team that remains a favorite to reach the SCT final and make a run at the program’s first NJSIAA sectional title.

4. Marlboro (11-4, 6-2) Last Week: 4

Marlboro was the first of the top-six teams in the SSN Top 10 to lose to a Shore Conference team outside the top six in the field. The Mustangs nearly rallied from a 12-point deficit but ultimately fell to CBA at home, which significantly damages their chances at a Class A North championship. It does not, however, bury their chance at a top-five spot – with wins over CBA, Wall, Neptune, Manalapan and Freehold Township, the Mustangs are still looking strong.

5. Holmdel (11-2, 7-1) Last Week: 5

The wall into the top-five became slightly less impenetrable this week thanks to Marlboro’s loss to CBA, and Holmdel remains the team with the most to gain from any slip-up among the top four teams. The Hornets won’t get a shot to play Middletown South, Toms River North or Marlboro before the tournament, but they still have a chance to make major headlines with a home date vs. Manasquan slated for Thursday. Even if Manasquan is too much to handle, Holmdel is still in good position to remain a top-five team.

6. Manalapan (7-4, 5-3) Last Week: 6

Manalapan was no match for Middletown South this week, which ended a five-game winning streak by the Braves. Their only losses to this point are twice to Middletown South, one to Marlboro and one to Carteret, so there is no result that should knock them off their perch. Manalapan still has two chances to climb into the top five with one more game against Marlboro and one against Holmdel on Feb. 15, SCT cutoff Saturday.

7. Wall (11-4, 8-0) Last Week: 9

Wall’s troubles this season have come outside of Class B North play, but just like last season, Wall continues to produce near-spotless work inside the division. With just three out-of-division wins against Jackson Memorial, Toms River South and Donovan Catholic, the Crimson Knights have a lot of work to do to climb higher but as the clear leader of a deep B North field, especially coming off a win over Matawan this week, Wall deserves a bump.

8. St. John Vianney (12-3, 6-2) Last Week: 10

The Lancers climb two spots this week on the strength of a nine-game winning streak that has them tied for second place in Class B North. SJV has had to deal with losing guard Kevin Greene to a season-ending knee injury but has managed surprisingly well. The schedule gets considerably tougher this week, with Matawan and first-place Wall on tap.

9. Christian Brothers Academy (8-8, 4-4) Last Week: Not ranked

The Colts return to the Top 10 on a four-game winning streak that includes a road win over No. 4 Marlboro. That win is better than any other win boasted by the rest of the teams ranked after No. 4 and when you figure in a quality win over St. Joseph Metuchen as well, CBA has some high points. The Colts will have to pay back Freehold Township and perhaps Manalapan to keep this momentum, or they could just land their biggest fish of the season by beating Middletown South later this week. Either way, it appears talk of the Colts missing the SCT can be put to rest for the time being.

10. Neptune (8-6, 5-3) Last Week: Not ranked

Neptune got two big results this week, first by beating Matawan and then with Lincoln beating Toms River North. Neptune lost to the Lions by four in December so watching Lincoln beating the Shore’s No. 3 team in similar fashion is validating for a Scarlet Fliers squad that again appears to be improving as the season progresses.

 

Dropped Out

Matawan (7-7, 6-2) Last Week: 7 – The Huskies played without two key players for most of the week, with Niles Haliburton and Elijah McKenzie on the shelf with illness and injury, respectively. There will still be a handful of chances for Matawan to play their way back in.

Red Bank Catholic (9-5, 4-4) Last Week: 8 – The Caseys responded to a loss to Holmdel with wins over Shore and Toms River East but they still have a little more work to do. The win over Wall remains important and could carry RBC higher with a strong showing over the next three weeks.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Rumson-Fair Haven (9-4, 5-2) – With a win over Red Bank Catholic and a controversial loss to Neptune, Rumson is right on the Top 10 doorstep.

Ranney (7-6, 6-0) – The Panthers are still waiting on Kyle Rhoden to join the lineup but a double-digit home win over Mater Dei should boost the Panthers’ stock somewhat.

Freehold Township (8-6, 5-3) – A loss to Donovan Catholic and a one-sided loss to Allentown are ugly results for the Patriots as a top-10 contender, but this is a young team that is coming along. A more recent win over CBA suggest maybe they are ready for a trial run.

Point Pleasant Boro (11-2, 8-0) – Point Boro’s chances to climb into the Top 10 likely hinge on its ability to remain unbeaten in Class B South but the way they have been finishing games, the Panthers just might force their way in.

Mater Dei Prep (8-5, 6-1) – The win over Atlantic City in December is looking better and better but the Seraphs will have to find another big win for 2020 to match it.

 

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