Boys Basketball – St. Rose Officially Takes Over as the New No. 1 Team at the Shore
It took only a week for the No. 1 ranking in the Shore Sports Network to change hands – the second straight season a new team climbed to No. 1 with a divisional win during the first time through the schedule. Manasquan is hoping this season goes like the 2021-22 campaign did, with Marlboro relinquishing its No. 1 ranking in early January before regaining it with Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey Group IV championships. The Warriors are capable of doing the same, but will have to overcome a St. Rose team that is going to add three talented transfers to its rotation by the time the two teams meet again on Jan. 19.
As for the rest of the Shore Conference, it is as unpredictable as anyone could have expected. The early returns suggest that while CBA might still be a solid No. 3 team, the fight for No. 4 is going to be a thrill-ride. Four new teams enter the Top 10 this week, while a team from the top five and one from the bottom of the rankings essentially flipped positions. There are unbeaten teams that have survived come close calls and winless teams who have not caught a break yet, which suggests the chaos is only just beginning.
1. St. Rose (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: 2
With three transfers still ineligible until Jan. 14, St. Rose figured to be a length behind Manasquan for the No. 1 spot and in their first three games, the Purple Roses appeared to be at least that far behind the preseason No. 1 team. When the two teams met on Thursday, it was St. Rose that rose to the occasion to beat Manasquan and earn the No. 1 ranking at the Shore for the first time in recent memory. St. Rose will be tested as the new No. 1 this week at the Buc Classic, where the Purple Roses could run into several of Ranney, Notre Dame, CBA and Red Bank Regional.
2. Manasquan (3-2, 1-1) Last Week: 1
The last week before the winter break was set to be a challenging one for Manasquan and it proved to be exactly that, even with a home date with nationally-ranked Roselle Catholic postponed from its original Dec. 23 date until Jan. 2. The Warriors dropped a showcase game against a tough Linden squad in overtime and after taking care of Ranney on the road, lost at St. Rose. In its first loss to St. Rose in nearly 12 years, Manasquan had trouble getting its offense in gear and knocking down perimeter shots, while St. Rose lit it up with a 10-for-17 performance from three-point range. The Warriors remain a serious threat to win the Shore Conference Tournament, but in order to do so, they may have to do so while trying to chase down St. Rose instead of leading the pack.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (1-2, 0-0) Last Week: 3
After dropping its first two games at the Kreul Classic in Florida, CBA got in the win column and headed back to the Garden State as the No. 3 team in the Shore Conference with an eye on No. 1. The Colts are the defending champion and the No. 1 seed in the Albert E. Martin Buc Holiday Classic and could very well earn themselves a shot at St. Rose in the championship game on Friday. A year ago, the Colts were the hottest team in the Shore Conference to start the season and another similar start – at least against New Jersey competition – could net them the top ranking in short order.
4. Freehold Township (4-0, 0-0) Last Week: 5
Eleven days after hammering Donovan Catholic by 43 points on opening night, Freehold Township needed to overcome an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Griffins in the rematch in the WOBM Christmas Classic first round. The Patriots, though, found a way and with another win, they extended an unbeaten start that has them looking like a top-five squad in the Shore Conference. With move up one spot comes with Jackson Memorial suffering a loss, but either way, Freehold Township entered the season among the teams within shouting distance of No. 4 and more than any of their competition, the Patriots have looked the part.
5. Brick Memorial (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: 9
With a road win over Toms River North followed by a Toms River North win over Jackson Memorial, Brick Memorial is now the early leader in what is shaping up to be a competitive Class A South race. Like Freehold Township, the Mustangs had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the first round of the WOBM Christmas Classic and ultimately prevailed with a 54-52 overtime win over Middletown South. Brick Memorial will get its shot to shake up the rankings even more when the Mustangs play Manasquan Wednesday in the WOBM Classic Ruhnke Bracket semifinals in Toms River.
6. Colts Neck (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
Through the first week-and-a-half of the season, Colts Neck has laid claim to the biggest surprise at the Shore. The Cougars are not only 4-0 coming off four straight losing seasons and replacing its coach of 23 seasons, but they have done it against some stiff competition. Colts Neck’s four wins are over three one-loss teams and another that is currently ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Wins over Red Bank and Rumson-Fair Haven knocked those two divisional foes out of the Top 10 this week and gave the Cougars an early leg up in the Class B North race.
7. Raritan (3-0, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The second of four teams debuting in the Top 10 this week, Raritan has stormed out to an unbeaten start that includes a convincing, 19-point win over a Holmdel squad that opened its season with a win over St. John Vianney. Senior-heavy Raritan also battled for wins over Monmouth and Matawan, which lead into an interesting test this week against Trenton Catholic at the Bulldawg Classic – hosted by Rumson-Fair Haven at the Fort at Fort Monmouth.
8. Toms River North (3-2, 1-1) Last Week: Not ranked
Despite going 1-2 during the calendar week, Toms River North debuts in the Top 10 thanks to a big win over Jackson Memorial that knocked the Jaguars from the No. 4 spot that they occupied to open the season. Toms River North’s losses were to two 4-0 teams – Brick Memorial and Colts Neck – and has also beaten a 3-1 Moorestown team that entered the season with high expectations. Navigating through the consolation bracket of the WOBM Christmas Classic will limit Toms River North’s chances to move up in the near-term, but the Mariners have played like a team that will be a factor coming out of Class A South.
9. Jackson Memorial (4-1, 1-1) Last Week: 4
Not much went right for Jackson Memorial in the second half of their loss to Toms River North on Thursday and it looked like those second-half struggles carried into the WOBM Christmas Classic on Monday. The Jaguars trailed Wall, 10-5, after one quarter before flipping the switch and rolling to a 57-30 win over the Crimson Knights, setting up a Wednesday match-up with Red Bank Catholic in the WOBM semifinals.
10. Red Bank Catholic (3-2, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
After opening the season with a two-point loss at No. 1 St. Rose, followed by a loss on Staten Island to Monsignor Farrell, Red Bank Catholic has found the winning formula. The Caseys took out both Middletown teams (South and North), then pulled away to beat Manchester in the WOBM Christmas Classic first round. RBC will get a heat-check on Wednesday against top-seeded Jackson Memorial in the Gepp Bracket semifinals in the WOBM Christmas Classic.
Rumson-Fair Haven (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 6 – A loss to Colts Neck drops the inexperienced Bulldogs out, but not off the radar.
St. John Vianney (2-2, 2-1) Last Week: 7 – Losing to Holmdel on opening night was probably enough to knock St. John Vianney out and after a loss to Toms River East at the WOBM Classic, the Lancers have some work to do.
Ranney (0-3, 0-2) Last Week: 8 – With a tough Buc Classic field to navigate, three games still left against St. Rose (two) and Manasquan, and Jahlil Bethea still not eligible until mid-January, the Panthers will have to scratch and claw just to make the Shore Conference Tournament.
Red Bank (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 10 – Like Rumson, the Bucs dropped a game to Colts Neck and are looking to jump right back into the Top 10 with a strong week, with Red Bank hosting the Buc Classic.
Top 10 Watchlist
Point Pleasant Boro (4-0, 2-0) – A home win over Ranney prolonged an undefeated start for Point Boro, which means the Panthers could very well head into a Jan. 3 game vs. Manasquan with a perfect record.
Holmdel (2-1, 2-1) – An opening-night win over St. John Vianney lost a little impact when the Lancers lost to Toms River East, but the Hornets are a team that should keep improving.