Boys Basketball – A Change at the Top Highlights Another New-Look Shore Sports Network Top 10
There are only two weeks left in the Shore Conference regular season and with the Shore Conference Tournament approaching, it is as hard as ever to rank the field. The parity throughout the conference has been a topic of conversation in this space and now there is also a real debate over which team should be No. 1. Manasquan earned a season split with St. Rose by handing the Purple Roses their first loss of the season on Thursday.
After the top two, Raritan remains a clear No. 3, but only as long as the Rockets can remain unbeaten. With no games against a team currently in the Top 10, Raritan is more the easy choice than the obvious choice for No. 3 and if some other team closes the season on a long winning streak, the No. 3 seed could be up in the air, even with an unbeaten Raritan.
Beyond that, it’s still a free-for-all. Your guess is as good as mine and that’s exactly what you are about to read: a best guess.
1. Manasquan (14-3, 6-1) Last Week: 2
The Warriors return to the top of the rankings after beating previous No. 1 St. Rose last week. That 41-37 home victory over the Purple Roses was one of three Manasquan wins over state-ranked teams in its last five games. Manasquan has won nine in a row overall and last week’s bounty include wins over Ranney and Rutgers Prep to go with the victory over St. Rose.
2. St. Rose (14-2, 6-1) Last Week: 1
While waiting for its three transfers, St. Rose went 12-0 and since the three players became eligible, the Purple Roses are 3-2. That is as much a reflection of the schedule than it is of the quality of play St. Rose has produced. The Purple Roses beat the Patrick School on Monday, lost a competitive game at Manasquan without starting guard Peter Mauro, then got slammed by Roselle Catholic over the final 12 minutes while playing without leading scorer Jayden Hodge.
3. Raritan (14-0, 7-0) Last Week: 3
While Manasquan and St. Rose slug it out for the No. 1 spot, the rest of the rankings have become a war of attrition that is ultimately going to favor teams that are either displaying consistency or playing especially well in the here-and-now. Raritan fits both description as the last undefeated team in the Shore Conference, and while the Rockets’ schedule leaves much to be desired when compared to other teams in the conversation for No. 3, Raritan has had opportunities to slip up and has not.
4. Middletown South (10-4, 5-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Outside of Raritan’s 14-game winning streak to start the season, Middletown South holds the longest active winning streak in the Shore Conference heading into Monday’s action. What makes Middletown South’s hot streak so unique is it came after a 0-4 start, during which the Eagles were in all four games until the very end. The Class B North division title still hangs in the balance, so Middletown South will have to keep it going for another week-and-a-half. If that happens, this debut in the Top 10 will just be the beginning for the Eagles.
5. Point Pleasant Boro (10-3, 4-3) Last Week: 6
Last week featured two more close games for the Panthers, who survived a low-scoring battle at Neptune, 33-32, and lost a higher-scoring, 66-61, shootout at Ranney – which was playing with its full team for the first time last week. One standout characteristic of Point Boro that can’t be said about the vast majority of teams in the Shore Conference so far is the Panthers don’t have a bad loss, which is reason enough to fit them into the top five.
6. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-4, 5-2) Last Week: 10
The Bulldogs were staring a second straight loss in the face Saturday against Brick Memorial at Central, but scored four points in the last 40 seconds to go with a big stop in prevailing with a 52-51 win over a fellow ranked opponent from last week. A loss to Middletown South means Rumson will have to battle it out for a Class B North championship, with the Bulldogs and Eagles tied at the top of the standings going into next week.
7. Southern (11-4, 6-1) Last Week: 4
After completing a dream week that included wins over Jackson Memorial, Toms River North and Cumberland, Southern stubbed its collective toe last week. The Rams barely got past Toms River East, then got picked off at Toms River South – which could be a game that eventually costs them the division and a Top 10 spot. For now, they are still the Class A South leader, but will have to regroup for remaining games against Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial and Toms River North.
8. Toms River North (12-4, 5-2) Last Week: Not ranked
A second-half unravelling cost Toms River North its first clash with Southern, but the Mariners have bounced back by beating both Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial within the division, positioning them as the team best set-up to win Class A South if it is not Southern. Toms River North will have to avoid the same fate as Southern when playing against Toms River East and Toms River South a second time, but everything is pointing toward the A South title being decided in Toms River on Jan. 30 with the second Southern-Toms River North meeting.
9. Jackson Memorial (12-4, 4-3) Last Week: 5
The Jaguars have struggled to get their entire team on the floor for full games this season, but have still put together a strong collection of wins, the latest of which was a neutral-court-win over a good Cherokee team on Saturday. Winning the Class A South title outright is probably no longer possible, but Jackson Memorial is still alive for a share of it.
10. Ranney (7-8, 2-5) Last Week: Not ranked
For the first time since the preseason Top 10, Ranney is back in the rankings and it comes off a week in which the Panthers lost by double-digits to a pair of state-ranked teams – Manasquan and Rutgers Prep. Last week also included a win over Point Boro, and when that win is included in a Ranney resume that also includes a road win over Rumson-Fair Haven, it’s enough to outweigh the sub-.500 record, especially considering Ranney is now at full strength with transfer Jahlil Bethea now eligible.
Freehold Township (10-3, 3-2) Last Week: 7 – The Class A North and B North divisions have beaten on one another and Freehold Township’s recent losses to Marlboro and CBA drag the Patriots out of the Top 10 for now.
Brick Memorial (10-5, 4-3) Last Week: 8 – Losses to Jackson Memorial and Rumson-Fair Haven bump Brick Memorial from the latest rankings, but a share of the Class A South title is still a possibility if the Mustangs can win out and get some help.
Colts Neck (10-4, 4-3) Last Week: 9 – Middletown South displaced the Cougars both in a top spot in Class B North and in the Top 10, but Colts Neck got back on track with wins over Red Bank and Old Bridge to finish off last week.
Top 10 Watchlist
Christian Brothers Academy (8-6, 5-1) – The Colts have struggled to make shots for a lot of the season, but the last 10 minutes of a win at Freehold Township displayed a dangerous offensive attack that could make CBA dangerous down the stretch.
Manalapan (10-6, 4-3) – Manalapan is one of the Shore’s hottest teams, heading into this week’s schedule on a five-game tear and with an outside chance to steal a share of the Class A North championship.
Marlboro (6-6, 2-3) – A little more than a week after stunning Freehold Township, Marlboro collected another noteworthy win this past Saturday when the Mustangs dismantled Red Bank Catholic to get back to .500.
Red Bank Catholic (8-8, 4-3) – The Caseys have hit a slide after beating CBA last weekend, losing to Middletown South and Red Bank Catholic last week.
Central (11-3, 7-0) – The Class B South championship is Central’s to lose and the Golden Eagles continue to rack up wins. None of those wins is against a team with a winning record, which is keeping Central on the outskirts of the Top 10 for now.