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After the top three teams made it to the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament and No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy locking up its third straight conference championship, there is now one aspect of the 2023 rankings that is settled: CBA is a lock to finish No. 1 for the fourth straight year.

Meanwhile, it is going to take some major upheaval in the upcoming NJSIAA Tournament to knock either Howell or Toms River North – the other top-three seeds in the SCT – out of the top three spots in the rankings.

After No. 3, however, the field remains wide open, both for teams that are outside the top 10 to break into the top 10, as well as for unranked teams to make a push into the rankings. The state tournament will answer some questions, but more than anything, is likely to trigger even more debate throughout the final rankings.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (15-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 1

The Colts affirmed their status as the top team in 2023 and most other years in the Shore Conference by winning their third straight Shore Conference Tournament championship – the first CBA team to win three in a row and just the second overall team to win three in a row. The Colts went through three Class A North teams – Marlboro, Middletown North and Howell – to finish the job and will now look to defend their Non-Public A championship.

2. Howell (10-2-2, 4-1-1) Last Week: 2

For the second straight year, Howell came up one win short of a Shore Conference Tournament championship and will now try to finish another title pursuit that came up short last year. Monroe ousted Howell on penalties in the Central Group IV semifinals and as the No. 2 seed this year, the Rebels are set up to make another run at the title.

3. Toms River North (12-3, 6-1) Last Week: 3

Although Toms River North lost to Howell in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, the Mariners are not out of it when it comes to the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Like Howell, Toms River North has a top-three seed in a Group IV section, with the Mariners primed for a run at a fourth sectional title in five years. If Toms River North can find its way to the Group IV championship game, the No. 2 spot is back in play.

4. Middletown North (11-5, 3-3) Last Week: 4

Just as Howell has a firm grip on the No. 2 spot, Middletown North has the same on the No. 4 position in the rankings. The race is not over, however, with Middletown South, Colts Neck and Ocean in in the Central Jersey Group III bracket along with the Lions, there will be multiple teams taking aim at Middletown North in hopes of jumping the Lions in the rankings while also bidding for a championship.

5. Middletown South (8-6-1, 3-3-0) Last Week: 6

The rankings after Middletown North are jumbled and there is a high probability the state tournament could significantly alter spots 5 through 16. Middletown South starts the NJSIAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed on the strength of its wins over CBA, Marlboro, Rumson-Fair Haven and Manasquan, but losses to Colts Neck, Ocean and Manalapan leave the Eagles vulnerable for a drop-off if they can’t produce at least a couple wins as the No. 4 seed in the Central Group III Tournament.

6. Southern (9-4-2, 5-1-1) Last Week: 5

Southern’s head-scratching performance at home continued last week with a loss to Shawnee, which left the Rams 2-4-2 on their two home surfaces this season, contrasted with a perfect 7-0 road mark. Among those seven road wins are Toms River North, Central, Toms River East and Manalapan, which suggests Southern could be a serious threat in the South Jersey Group IV if only they can survive a first-round home game vs. Cherry Hill East on Wednesday.

7. Holmdel (12-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 11

The Hornets surge back into the top 10 thanks to a championship run in the Shore Conference Coaches Cup, which ended with a convincing, 2-0, win over Rumson-Fair Haven in the finals. Holmdel is still lacking in wins over top teams in the conference, with a split vs. Rumson, a tie vs. Howell and wins over Manasquan and Shore carrying the résumé, but the Hornets remain capable of winning a Group II championship and that keeps them in the running for a top-five finish.

8. St. Rose (10-3-4, 5-0-2) Last Week: 7

After a tie against Toms River East last week and a loss to Manalapan Monday in what amounts to a glorified pick-up game, the Purple Roses hold on to a top 10 spot as teams like Holmdel and Toms River East make a push. St. Rose has been waiting for a year to get back to the NJSIAA Non-Public B Tournament, which it nearly won last season in reaching the group final and tying Gill St. Bernard before losing in a shootout.

9. Central (9-4-2, 4-2-1) Last Week: 9

With a No. 4 seed in South Jersey Group IV, Central will be guaranteed two home games if the Golden Eagles can get past a first-round challenge vs. No. 13 Bridgeton. Central hit a cold stretch after shocking Holmdel in the Shore Conference Tournament group-play stage, but appears to have righted the ship with wins over Point Boro and Allentown.

10. Toms River East (7-5-5, 3-3-1) Last Week: 10

The Raiders hold strong at No. 10 after tying Marlboro for a second time, picking up a tie vs. St. Rose and cooling off a Shore side that is playing well heading into the postseason. A loss to Middletown North in the SCT quarterfinals was Toms River East’s first loss since Sept. 27 and the Raiders now venture into the South Jersey Group IV Tournament as a dangerous No. 12 seed.

11. Colts Neck (9-4, 5-1) Last Week: 12 – The Cougars missed out on an outright Class B North championship with a loss to Long Branch, but also knocked off No. 6 Middletown South last week.

12. Marlboro (7-4-4, 2-3-1) Last Week: 15 – A trip to Jackson Memorial in the first round of the NJSIAA Tournament will be a tough first dip into state tournament action, but the Mustangs have the pedigree make a deep run as a No. 9 seed.

13. Manasquan (9-6-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 13 – The Warriors backed into a share of the Class B North championship last week with Colts Neck’s loss to Long Branch and will now attempt to seize another title in the Central Jersey Group II playoffs.

14. Ocean (8-5-2, 4-2-0) Last Week: 14 – With wins over Middletown South, Long Branch and Manalapan (in penalties), the Spartans remain solid as a ranked team and will look to finish off a top-16 finish with a strong showing as a No. 9 seed in Central Jersey Group III.

15. Manalapan (8-6-1, 2-4-0) Last Week: 16 – The Braves inches up one spot after picking up wins over Long Branch and St. Rose in the last 10 days, but it could take some tournament success as the No. 10 seed in Central Jersey Group IV to secure the Braves a spot in the final Shore 16.

16. Long Branch (12-4-2, 4-2-0) Last Week: Not ranked – The Green Wave jump back into the rankings behind a win over Colts Neck and also have noteworthy wins over Rumson and Jackson Memorial as part of a 12-win campaign.


Dropped Out

Rumson-Fair Haven (11-3-1, 6-0-0) Last Week: 8 – The Bulldogs take a drop out of the top 10 after losing to Holmdel in the Coaches Cup final and are hoping to get one more crack at the Hornets, which could happen in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals. Outside of that overtime win over Holmdel, Rumson is 0-3-1 vs. ranked opponents.

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