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In most seasons, the New Year means that some of the biggest games in the Shore Conference are just over the horizon. While there are still some must-watch match-ups to come, December’s holiday tournament lineup already set up some pairings that could be previews of late-round Shore Conference Tournament games – perhaps even a championship preview.

Five of the teams in this week’s Shore Sports Network Top 10 have played three games against teams that were ranked at the time of the game and there have already been matchups pitting No. 1 vs. No. 2, No. 3 vs. No. 4, No. 3 vs. No. 5 and No. 6 vs. No. 7. That is a lot of substance this early in the season – so much so that two of the games at Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase this coming Saturday will be rematches.

As for the bottom of the Top 10, there is not much reason to shake it up this week, but a few teams are beginning to look like obvious challengers for a spot, while the teams in the last four spots will look to solidify their positions after losing to quality competition last week.

2021-22 Shore Conference Boys Basketball Standings

Marlboro senior Jon Spatola (21) guarded by Manchester senior Brandon Sogness. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Marlboro senior Jon Spatola (21) guarded by Manchester senior Brandon Sogness. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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1. Marlboro (6-0, 1-0) Last Week: 1

Before 2022 even arrived, the top two teams in the Shore Conference met for a championship and round one went to Marlboro. The Mustangs won a nip-and-tuck game against Red Bank Catholic in the WOBM championship to cement their spot as the No. 1 team but they will have to defend the top spot this week against some serious competition. On Tuesday, Marlboro pays a visit to fellow Class A North unbeaten CBA and, after another division battle vs. Middletown South on Thursday, will face off vs. RBC in a rematch at Saturday’s Boardwalk Showcase at Brookdale.

2. Red Bank Catholic (5-1, 1-0) Last Week: 2

The Caseys showed this week that they are a worthy contender for the No. 1 spot at the Shore by cooling off St. John Vianney and taking Marlboro to the wire in the last two rounds of the WOBM Classic. This week, they will have to do it again. It starts with a home-opener vs. winless Matawan, then picks up with a match-up against a capable Raritan squad. The week caps off with the big rematch, with Marlboro and RBC set to meet again in the opening game of the Boardwalk Showcase in Saturday.

Red Bank Catholic senior Alex Bauman rises for a shot over St. John Vianney senior Nate Williams. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Red Bank Catholic senior Alex Bauman rises for a shot over St. John Vianney senior Nate Williams. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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3. Christian Brothers Academy (5-0, 1-0) Last Week: 6

Despite an impressive first week that included convincing wins over Holmdel and Freehold Township, CBA did not make a move up the rankings. This week, the wins were even more impressive and the boost in the rankings is very real. The Colts took down preseason No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven and No. 3 Ranney in consecutive rounds of the Albert E. Martin Buc Holiday Classic to win the tournament title and advance their start to the season to 5-0. This week doesn’t get any easier for the Colts, who will host Marlboro and Manalapan before squaring off against Ranney again in Saturday’s Boardwalk Showcase at Brookdale.

CBA junior blocks a shot by Ranney senior Brandon Klatsky. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
CBA junior Joe White blocks a shot by Ranney senior Brandon Klatsky. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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4. Ranney (3-1, 1-0) Last Week: 3

The Panthers had to battle a hot CBA team and some COVID issues, which forced Ranney to withdraw from an NJ Challenge showcase game against Ramapo. As of Monday, Ranney is on tap for a return to action Thursday against Henry Hudson and for a rematch against CBA, which pulled off a nail-biter of an overtime win over the Panthers in the Buc Classic championship game. Ranney was missing junior starter Zack Davis at the end of the week and could possibly be down a key player or two Saturday, so this week will once again test Ranney’s resolve.

5. Rumson-Fair Haven (3-1, 0-0) Last Week: 4

Rumson had to back out of the third-place game vs. Middletown North at the Buc Classic and will be out of action this week as the Bulldogs sort through COVID protocol. Last we saw Rumson, CBA held off a spirited comeback effort by the Bulldogs, who have been playing without standout guard Geoff Schroeder (ankle) during the early part of the season. While it’s bad news Rumson will lose a week’s worth of games – including what would have been an interesting match-up vs. St. John Vianney – the good news is that Schroeder will likely be cleared for a return once his team gets back on the court.

6. St. John Vianney (6-1, 1-0) Last Week: 7

Last week, St. John Vianney moved up by virtue of being unbeaten and Freehold Township losing its way out of the No. 7 spot. This week, it was a specific win that pushed the Lancers up one more spot in the rankings. St. John Vianney showed it was ready for the big stage by taking down Manasquan in the WOBM Classic quarterfinals. This is a young version of the Warriors, but it is still a name-brand win for an SJV squad that is challenging itself with a souped-up schedule and looking to show it is a favorite to land in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

7. Manasquan (4-2, 1-0) Last Week: 5

The Warriors have already lost more games in 2021-22 than they did in the past two seasons combined (43-1) but they still have plenty about which to feel good. After each of the two losses – one to Rutgers Prep and the other to St. John Vianney, Manasquan responded by winning its next two games. After beating Jackson Memorial and Immaculata, the Warriors will try to get by both Jackson Liberty and Point Pleasant Boro in important Shore Conference Class C North divisional games before closing out the week against St. Joseph of Metuchen in the Boardwalk Classic.

8. Manchester (3-2, 0-0) Last Week: 8

After picking apart Class B South rival Donovan Catholic to start the week, the Hawks dropped a pair of games that served as good tests heading into 2022. They were the first team to hold Marlboro under 80 points in a 70-53 loss, then lost a competitive game to St. John Vianney in the WOBM third-place game. The Hawks will have to stay on their game this week vs. Donovan Catholic and Pinelands – both of which are off to solid starts.

9. Brick Memorial (2-1, 1-0) Last Week: 9

The Mustangs hold the line at No. 9 despite playing just one game and losing it last week. That one game came against No. 1 Marlboro, while the next game at the WOBM was to be a consolation game vs. Donovan Catholic that was cancelled. The coming week is slated to begin with a huge Class A South divisional game against Jackson Memorial and if the Mustangs can secure that win, they have a good shot at an undefeated week that would keep them ranked.

10. Jackson Memorial (3-2, 2-0) Last Week: 10

Jackson Memorial will also be looking to stay ranked by beating Brick Memorial on Tuesday and will then face another tough challenge on Friday when the Jaguars host Toms River North. With its two losses coming against No. 2 Red Bank Catholic and No. 7 Manasquan, Jackson Memorial would make a strong statement with a 2-0 week and might even stay in the conversation by going 1-1 against two quality opponents, although there are some teams breathing down the Jaguars’ collective neck as the New Year begins.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Raritan (2-0, 0-0) – The Rockets have a pair of double-digit victories over St. Rose and Steinert and will get their first major test this week when they take on No. 2 Red Bank Catholic.

Howell (4-1, 1-0) – Speaking of tests, Howell took a loss against state-ranked Lenape at the Score at the Shore and is still sitting in a good spot at 4-1. The Rebels will be challenged again this week with games against Middletown South, Freehold Township and St. John Vianney.

Donovan Catholic (3-2, 0-0) – Both the Griffins’ losses (Rumson and Manchester) are to top 10 teams and they also beat a Freehold Township squad that opened the season ranked.

Freehold Township (3-2, 1-1) – With two straight wins following a 1-2 start and lots of opportunities on the schedule to take down ranked opponents, it’s still much too early to forget about Freehold Township as a Top 10 threat.

Keyport (2-0, 2-0) – The Red Raiders got a huge win over Mater Dei just before the break and are primed for another key game Tuesday against St. Rose. Their first real shot to break into the rankings will be a scheduled home game vs. No. 4 Ranney next week.

Point Pleasant Boro (4-0, 0-0) – After a two-point win over Bridgewater-Raritan in its season-opener, the Panthers have overwhelmed Matawan, Freehold Boro and Brick. Point Boro will start its week vs. Wall, then look to step it up on Thursday, when the Panthers visit No. 7 Manasquan.

 

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