Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Jan. 7
This week started with a legitimate chance to see a change at No. 1 and although that did not happen, the top 10 did get its first overhaul of the season thanks to Ocean’s upset of Neptune at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase. As expected, the Boardwalk shook things up a little bit when it comes to the rankings, which welcome two new teams into the top five and one new one into the top 10.
For now, the preseason rankings still hold some weight as it pertains to the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, but that will most likely change this week thanks to three major matchups in A North, with CBA, Neptune and Colts Neck all playing one another. It took a couple of weeks, but the Shore Conference landscape is starting to take shape.
1. Ranney (6-2, 2-0) Last Week: 1
If there was any debate about who should be the No. 1 team at the Shore heading into the Ranney-Mater Dei showdown this week, the Panthers put it to rest with an impressive second-half Saturday at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase to nail down a 16-point win over defending NJSIAA Tournament of Champions winner the Patrick School. That could, of course, change on Thursday if Ranney can’t hold serve at home against Mater Dei, but for now, the Panthers proved they are still the best team on their best day.
2. Mater Dei Prep (6-1, 3-0) Last Week: 2
Although Saturday’s loss to Roman Catholic was the first of the season, it was the continuation of a troubling trend for the Seraphs. Mater Dei has been in three competitive games so far this season and in all three, it has given up a comfortable lead in a short amount of time. Against St. Mary’s of Elizabeth, it was a five-point lead in less than a minute before winning at the buzzer and against Teaneck, it was a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on for a four-point win. On Saturday, Mater Dei took a nine-point lead into the fourth and was outscored 23-4 in the fourth. On the bright side, the Seraphs have a chance to put all of it behind them if they can beat Ranney on Thursday and even if that doesn’t happen, help is on the way in the form of sophomore transfer Jamir Watkins, who will be eligible to play on Jan. 16 against Point Beach.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-1, 2-0) Las Week: 3
Unlike Mater Dei, Rumson has had all kinds of problems at the start of games and has rallied in nearly all of them during a 5-1 start. That trend continued on Saturday, when Rumson fell behind 26-13 against CBA by the opening minute of the third quarter before rallying for a 46-43 win over the Colts. While the obvious hero for Rumson during this six-game stretch has been Ian O’Connor, who scored 24 of the 46 points on Saturday and 22 in the second half, the other factor is Rumson’s depth. The Bulldogs only go seven deep, but the seven players are almost interchangeable, so they don’t lose much if a player is in foul trouble or needs a breather. They may not be totally clicking offensively, but Rumson is wearing teams down.
4. Colts Neck (8-0, 3-0) Last Week: 6
The Cougars make a big move up the ranks this week thanks to a double-digit home win over a ranked Toms River North team combined with losses by Neptune and CBA. One of two unbeaten teams remaining in the Shore Conference, Colts Neck has a big week coming up, with games against CBA (Tuesday) and Neptune (Saturday) set for this week. If Colts Neck gets through this week without a loss, it will have a compelling case to be No. 3 and certainly hard to touch at No. 4.
5. Manasquan (7-0, 3-0) Last Week: 7
Like the Cougars, the Warriors jump up two spots in the rankings and remain in great position to keep climbing over the course of the season. Manasquan has size, it has shooting, it has a breakout point guard in Ryan Flanagan and it has a reasonable amount of depth to keep plugging along in B North. With the depth of the division, it’s unlikely Manasquan makes it through the schedule 14-0, but if the Warriors can continue to set the pace in B North and come up big against Rumson later in the year, that No. 3 spot is well within their sights.
6. Christian Brothers Academy (3-3, 2-0) Last Week: 5
CBA fell to .500 with a loss against Rumson Saturday that has to be a tough one to swallow. CBA had a 13-point lead early in the third quarter and it was gone by early in the fourth. On top of that, the Colts lost leading scoring Stephen Braunstein with five minutes left after the junior committed his fifth foul and still almost fought their way to a win. Ultimately, CBA has three losses to good teams and can fight its way back in to the top five with a good week this week, which includes games against Colts Neck and Neptune.
7. Toms River North (6-2, 3-0) Last Week: 8
Although Toms River North lost a top-10 showdown with Colts Neck on Wednesday, its biggest loss came before the game. Senior Holden Petrick continues to struggle with an ankle injury, which relegated him to a walking boot for the game in Colts Neck, which the Mariners lost, 52-41. Toms River North has enough depth to manage in Class A South, so it’s likely the best course of action is to allow the senior guard to heal over the next few weeks so he is healthier come February.
8. Point Pleasant Beach (5-2, 2-1) Last Week: 9
For the first three quarters of Saturday’s Boardwalk Showcase game against Middletown North, Point Beach appeared to be making a statement by taking a 17-point lead into the final quarter. Then, Middletown North closed the gap to one in the final minute and it took a few clutch scores by Trevor Covey, Josh Yates and Danny Frauenheim to escape with a 54-51 win. At the end of the day, even of it could have been more convincing with a better fourth quarter, that’s still a solid win for a Point Beach team that is closer to welcoming senior guard Mohamed Traore into the fold once he is eligible for the Jan. 16 game against Mater Dei.
9. Matawan (5-2, 2-1) Last Week: 10
Like Point Beach, Matawan added a win over Middletown North to its resume, which is still good enough to keep the Huskies squarely in the top 10. They move up a spot this week with Neptune losing to a 3-5 Ocean team, but the path to stay in the top 10 is a tough one. Matawan has three tough games coming up, with divisional games against fast-improving St. John Vianney and Holmdel before a MLK Day visit to Long Branch. None of those teams are currently in the top 10 picture but all three have already proven good enough to beat a good team, so Matawan will have to have to remain sharp.
10. Red Bank Catholic (6-2, 2-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Caseys make their top 10 debut during the 2017-18 season in the wake of Neptune’s loss to Ocean. RBC’s wins include Point Boro, Marlboro and Middletown North, among others, and its two losses are both to No. 4 Manasquan. It’s not clearly better than the resume that Neptune has authored to this point, but the Caseys have been a little more consistent and handles their business against teams at .500 or worse, like Wall, Lacey and Red Bank.
Neptune (5-2, 3-0) Last Week: 4 – Going from No. 4 to unranked off one loss is a harsh drop, but scoring only 29 points at the Boardwalk Showcase against an Ocean team that entered 2-5 and was coming off a loss at Pinelands is not the best way to make an impression right before the next set of rankings come out. Despite that, Neptune is still next in line thanks to wins over Marlboro and Ewing and a good fight against a very good Seton Hall Prep team.
On the Bubble
Point Pleasant Boro (6-1, 4-0) – With a 29-point win over Jackson Liberty on Saturday, Point Boro continues to look like it will overwhelm B South, but the best development of the week was likely a Pinelands win over Ocean that greatly boosts the B South reputation.
Marlboro (3-4, 1-2) – The Mustangs did not get a game in this week, but are still in the top 10 conversation based on four competitive losses to good teams (Neptune, Colts Neck, Toms River North, RBC).
Middletown North (4-4, 2-1) – If not for a loss to Freehold Boro, the Lions would be ahead of Marlboro on the pecking order and even with that, they are a couple plays here and there away from only having one or two losses.
Brick (5-1, 2-1) – Brick’s only loss was to rival Brick Memorial on a last-second shot and although the resume is not overwhelming, the Green Dragons have racked up some dominant performances in the early going. The Green Dragons will look to handle their business this week against Toms River South and Southern ahead of a huge home game against Toms River North on Jan. 16.