With the basketball season moving into February, a few Shore Conference teams are on the cusp of locking down favorable postseason position in both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments. There is still plenty of basketball to be played, however, and Christian Brothers Academy proved this week that anything can still happen by beating undefeated Freehold Township. That should put the other teams in the top 10 on notice that nothing is guaranteed and should also remind the prospective top 10 teams that on any given day, the landscape can change.

1. Ranney (14-2, 10-0) Last Week: 1

Things shouldn’t get too interesting with the Shore’s No. 1 team until a Feb. 6 rematch with Mater Dei. Ranney overcame a slow start to beat Keansburg on senior night and hammered Keyport on Saturday, with Scottie Lewis scoring 31 points in 16 minutes. As for this week, Ranney will take on Asbury Park and Henry Hudson before things ramp up in the week leading up to the Shore Conference Tournament.

2. Mater Dei Prep (14-3, 9-1) Last Week: 2

The Seraphs still have a chance to steal the No. 1 seed from Ranney and they showed some encouraging signs in a Sunday win over Lakewood at the Valerie Fund Classic. Mater Dei hit 10 three-pointers in a 21-point win over the Piners, and while the three-point shooting still might come and go, the Seraphs had all of their shooters knocking shots down in one game and the result was impressive. It’s possible they hit a wall during a three-game losing streak to Patrick School, Ranney and Newark East Side, but if Mater Dei gets a second wind, that adversity could prove valuable.

3. Freehold Township (16-1, 9-1) Last Week: 3

There was little-to-no margin for error for the Patriots in their pursuit for a top-two seed in the Shore Conference Tournament and that opportunity probably slipped through their grasp when they finally suffered their first loss last week against CBA. Despite taking its first loss, Freehold Township showed plenty of fight against a CBA team that caught fire from behind the arc and the Patriots still own an impressive resume with wins over Toms River North, Marlboro, Neptune (twice), Manasquan and on the road against CBA.

4. Rumson-Fair Haven (14-1, 10-0) Last Week: 4

The Bulldogs are in hot pursuit of the No. 3 seed and welcoming back shot-blocking dynamo Elijah McAllister this weekend certainly helps that pursuit. Rumson’s lone loss is to a loaded Roselle Catholic team by a three-point margin and the Bulldogs have a few noteworthy wins outside of A Central that include Marlboro, Point Beach and Red Bank Catholic. A down year for the rest of A Central will make it hard for Rumson to build a better resume than any of the top three teams, but if the Bulldogs remain impressive over the next two weeks, they will remain in the conversation.

5. Toms River North (17-1, 9-0) Last Week: 5

While Rumson tries to chase down the No. 3 seed, Toms River North remains close to the No. 4 after the Mariners picked up a solid overtime win over Wildwood Catholic. Toms River North’s resume also gets a boost thanks to CBA’s win over Freehold Township, which adds a little extra weight to the Mariners’ win over CBA. Toms River North has shown a tick more shooting and athleticism from a year ago and to this point, the Mariners have put themselves in good position to see if that improvement can get them over the hump in the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments.

6. Neptune (10-6, 7-3) Last Week: 6

The Scarlet Fliers hold their spot at No. 6 despite losing twice last week. That is because Neptune’s two losses were to a Freehold Township team that was still unbeaten at the time and later to a St. Joseph Metuchen team that is still undefeated. Neptune has been very close to some very big wins and while close calls don’t count in the standings, they suggest the Fliers are still dangerous against a lot of teams in the Shore Conference field.

7. Marlboro (11-4, 8-2) Last Week: 8

Howell gave Marlboro a stiff challenge last week, but the Mustangs reined in the Rebels and stayed in the mix for the A North title. P.J. Ringel has found his offensive rhythm, which has made the Mustangs a more dynamic team than they were when Ringel was injured. Marlboro gets what appears to be a break in the schedule this week with the bottom two teams in A North (Manalapan and Freehold Boro) before a huge week next week against Freehold Township and CBA.

8. Christian Brothers Academy (11-5, 6-4) Last Week: Not ranked

With so much sophomore influence on the roster, it stands to reason that CBA’s blueprint would likely require patience. The Colts endured a week in which they lost to both Neptune and Colts Neck, then later lost to Marlboro to conclude a 3-4 first trip through the A North schedule. Last week, however, the Colts showed the Shore how far they’ve come by knocking off previously unbeaten Freehold Township in Freehold. The proving ground will continue into this week, when CBA plays Colts Neck again on Thursday and takes a trip to Atlantic City to play Wildwood Catholic.

9. Central (15-2, 8-1) Last Week: 9

The Golden Eagles continue to roll through A South and added a win Saturday over a solid Ridge team that is much better than its 6-11 record suggests. The A South title is going to come down to a Feb. 6 showdown between Central and Toms River North at the Pine Belt Arena and the Golden Eagles will have to find an answer for Toms River North’s well-rounded attack.

10. Point Pleasant Boro (11-4, 7-2) Last Week: Not ranked

The Panthers kicked down the door to the top 10 for the first time this year by scoring a big win over Point Beach on Saturday. With John Venturi making his way back from ACL surgery, Point Boro was always going to be a team to watch during the second half of the season and with recent wins over Lakewood and the rival Garnet Gulls, the Panthers are delivering on that promise.


Dropped Out

Point Pleasant Beach (11-6, 7-3) Last Week: 7 – The Garnet Gulls have four tight losses to quality opponents and while they take a back seat this week, they are still in the mix for a spot in the top 10, perhaps in the top eight.

Manasquan (11-5, 8-2) Last Week: 10 – A loss to RBC drops the Warriors out of the rankings for the moment, but they are in the driver’s seat in B North and will have a chance to climb when they play Rumson-Fair Haven on Saturday.


Top 10 Watch List

Lakewood (10-7, 7-2) – The Piners will have every chance to win a share of a division title for a ninth straight year and with one Point Boro slip-up, Lakewood can make it seven straight outright crowns.

Colts Neck (9-6, 6-4) – The Cougars have seemingly been lying in wait and can make a big move this week with games against Freehold Township and CBA.

St. Rose (11-6, 7-4) – The Purple Roses pulled away against a Donovan Catholic team that has a couple of big wins, which should further validate the strength of St. Rose and the top of B Central.

Long Branch (10-5, 7-3) – Despite losing a nine-game winning streak, Long Branch still looks to be in good shape heading into the postseason.

Red Bank Catholic (10-6, 7-3) – Although the week ended with a loss at Rumson, the Caseys made significant strides in building their SCT case by beating Manasquan by 11.

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