Boys Basketball – Top 10, Jan. 11
The Shore Conference Tournament is getting closer and yet, answers to the tough top 10 questions are farther out of reach than they have been all season. While no team has emerged as an obvious contender to knock off CBA, the Shore’s preseason No. 1 has looked more vulnerable since a resounding opening-night win over Freehold Township.
The up-and-down nature of the Shore Conference is reflected in four new top teams this week. It’s also worth noting that Class B North looked like a loaded division coming into the season and it has mostly lived up to the billing. Defending division champ Matawan has lost a couple of non-division games, but the rest of the division has carried the flag to this point. With that said, the top two spots in the Shore Conference this week are a couple of “A” division powers.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (6-3, 4-0) Last Week: 1
It is hard to make the case that CBA’s wins are more impressive than those of Toms River North, Red Bank Catholic or Red Bank, and if the Shore Conference Tournament were seeded today, the Colts’ case to be No. 1 would have some serious holes in it. With that being said, CBA also hasn’t done anything to seriously damage their No. 1 spot, with losses to Don Bosco, Cardinal McCarrick and St. Anthony – three teams with a combined record of 23-2.
2. Toms River North (9-0, 4-0) Last Week: 5
The Mariners continue to scale the rankings as they have piled up nine straight wins to open the season. Toms River North got its big early divisional win over Southern, they have already beaten Toms River South twice, and they also have a strong win over a Red Bank Catholic team that has upped its stock since a 16-point home loss to an improved Wall squad. In a blind résumé test, Toms River North would probably come out ahead of CBA, but we’ll give it at least another week to simmer before the Mariners make the big jump.
3. Red Bank Catholic (7-2, 4-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Caseys have been all over the map in the three top-10 lists so far this season, opening at No. 7 before falling out in the last installment. This week, RBC is back as the No. 3 team, which makes this this second straight top 10 that saw a team go from unranked to No. 3 (Red Bank did it last week). The loss to Wall is a bit of a hang-up right now, but considering how well RBC has played outside of that game, the result is only serving to boost Wall’s stock. Monday’s game at Colts Neck is a chance for RBC to solidify their spot in the top five and, more importantly, at the top of B North.
4. Red Bank (7-1, 4-1) Last Week: 3
After shooting up to No. 3 in the last top 10, the Bucs take one step back after dropping a road game at Red Bank Catholic. Three days after taking that loss, Red Bank beat Matawan in resounding fashion and remains in the mix for the top spot in Class B North with RBC and Colts Neck. Through its first eight games, Red Bank has shown it can match up against a number of different styles while showing teams a lot of different looks themselves. Thursday’s home game against Colts Neck could be a pivotal game in the division race, or at least as pivotal as a mid-January game can be.
5. Freehold Township (6-3, 2-2) Last Week: Not ranked
The Patriots have quietly looked great ever since senior starters Danny Saunders and Kyle Czajkowski returned from injury. Of Freehold Township’s three losses, two came with the two starters out (CBA and Marlboro) and the other was a three-point loss to RBC on a neutral court with the Caseys catching fire from behind the arc. On top of the “excusable” losses (for lack of a better term), Freehold Township has a couple nice non-division wins over Toms River South and Rumson-Fair Haven to strengthen its case.
6. Manasquan (8-1, 3-0) Last Week: 8
We still haven’t seen Manasquan at full strength this season and yet the results have been about as good as they can be. The Warriors pulled out a hard-fought win over Matawan on Saturday at the Boardwalk Showcase and have managed to lose just one game as they wait for all of their talent to get back on the court at the same time. A loss to Toms River South keeps them below Freehold Township for now, but Manasquan is still in prime position as it pertains to challenging for a top-four spot in the Shore Conference.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-2, 3-1) Last Week: Not ranked
After rolling to a win over previous No. 9 Point Beach, the Bulldogs make their 2014-15 top-10 debut at No. 7. The teams that have been able to beat Rumson – which includes Freehold Township and Manasquan – have been able to slow down junior Brendan Barry enough to limit the overall offense, but that has not gone so well for most teams. Barry torched Point Beach for 34 points and earlier dropped 32 on St. John Vianney and 25 against Shore, both of which also turned out to be double-digit wins for the Bulldogs.
8. Colts Neck (6-1, 4-0) Last Week: Not ranked
Another new team to the top 10, Colts Neck is actually alone atop Class B North, ahead of both Red Bank and Red Bank Catholic. The Cougars have benefited from a soft landing into the B North schedule having played the three teams with a combined 0-12 division record (Long Branch, Ocean and Neptune) to open their division slate. That’s changing now, and Colts Neck got its tough stretch of games off to a good start with a gritty road win over Matawan. The Cougars will start their week hosting Red Bank Catholic and then travel to Red Bank, where the Bucs have looked rather invincible.
9. Neptune (3-5, 0-4) Last Week: 10
Just when it looked like the Scarlet Fliers were on their way out, they pull themselves out of the fire with a big win over Lakewood. It’s still pretty remarkable that a team good enough to beat Lakewood is 0-4 in its division, but Neptune is trying to turn its fortune around as it wraps up its first turn through B North. The four losses came against Matawan, Red Bank, Red Bank Catholic and Colts Neck, so the going gets a little easier against Ocean, Long Branch and Wall to wrap up the first turn through the schedule.
10. Lakewood (7-1, 3-0) Last Week: 2
While Red Bank Catholic took the ladder from unranked to No. 3, Lakewood ended up in the chute from No. 2 to No. 10. While the Piners have looked impressive for most of their season, some questions remain after a loss to Neptune on Saturday. Lakewood’s three noteworthy in-state wins are Newark Tech, Point Beach and Donovan Catholic, and all three of those teams have had their struggles early in the season. The Piners are still 7-1 and probably just had a bad day finishing around the basket on Saturday, but the loss raises a few questions that still need to be answered for Lakewood to get back into the top five. Lakewood should win its two division games this week against Jackson Liberty and Point Boro, and then the Piners will have a chance to prove themselves against a strong Rutgers Prep (7-2) team on Saturday.
Southern (5-3, 2-2) Last Week: 4 – The Rams don’t have a win quite as good as the one Neptune has over Lakewood, so they are the team that gets bumped this week. There is still plenty of time for the talented Rams to make an impression.
Manalapan (5-2, 2-2) Last Week: 6 – The Braves have done enough to stay in the conversation, but a couple losses to CBA and Middletown North show that they could use some more scoring – which they will get when NyRhique Smith debuts later this month.
Matawan (4-4, 2-2) Last Week: 7 – Ever since the Manalapan loss, all the breaks that seemed to go Matawan’s way last year have started to go the other way.
Point Beach (5-3, 4-0) Last Week: 9 – The Gulls are still figuring things out, but a 1-3 record against teams with a winning record keeps them out of the top 10.
On the Bubble
Wall (5-2, 3-1) – The Crimson Knights have a pretty good case to be in right now. Southern is ahead in the pecking order, but Wall might be next in line, especially with wins over Matawan and Neptune this week.
Shore (6-2, 2-1) – The Blue Devils have two losses to top 10 teams and have one of the Shore’s most productive players so far this season in Dan Largey.
Manchester (4-2, 3-0) – The Hawks don’t have that signature win to this point, but their only two losses were to No. 2 Toms River North and No. 6 Manasquan, and each game was fairly competitive.