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As was written in this space a week ago, the Shore Conference rankings are going to get harder each week rather than easier and with two weeks still left in January, it’s already a complete mess. The world beyond the top two teams is a jungle – one that nearly dragged both St. Rose and Manasquan into the wilderness last week, when both favorites had to overcome fourth-quarter deficits to division opponents.

Both teams survived their respective scares to stay way ahead of the rest of the field, but the teams ranked at No. 3 and No. 4 were not as lucky last week. Losses by Jackson Memorial and Freehold Township have led to another major shakeup in the rankings and with a little less than three weeks to go before the Shore Conference Tournament is seeded, there is a lot more madness on the way.

1. St. Rose (13-0, 5-0) Last Week: 1

The Purple Roses welcomed in the rest of their revamped, transfer-loaded team on Saturday vs. Keyport and will be immediately put to the test this week. They already past test No. 1 by taking down the Patrick School to run their start to 13-0 and the week will end with St. Rose going on the road to play Manasquan with the Class C North title on the line, followed by a trip to Roselle Catholic on Saturday.

2. Manasquan (11-3, 4-1) Last Week: 2

While St. Rose is in for a big week, Manasquan’s might be even bigger. The Warriors will play a Ranney squad that just added Patrick School transfer Jahlil Bethea, followed by a rematch with St. Rose Thursday at home. After those two huge division games, Manasquan will finish its week with a showcase test against Rutgers Prep at Ramapo.

3. Raritan (11-0, 5-0) Last Week: 5

Every team after the top two is going to have its share of flaws, but Raritan is one of only three squads in the conference at least has a record that remains flawless. The strength of schedule leaves something to be desired and that means the Rockets will be required to keep winning to hold onto a top five spot, but for the time being, Raritan continues to handle its business.

4. Southern (10-3, 5-0) Last Week: 9

The Rams made a pretty strong case for the No. 3 ranking last week by cutting down two major obstacles in their pursuit of a Class A South championship: Jackson Memorial and Toms River North. They now have a firm grasp on first place in their division and with so much volatility and parity in the conference, a Class A South champion is going to be very likely to grab a top-five ranking when the Shore Conference Tournament rolls around.

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

While teams have been welcoming transfers into the fold over the past several days, Jackson Memorial welcomed back a key member of their 2021-22 team back. Senior Charlie Meglio made his season debut in Jackson Memorial’s Friday win over Brick Memorial, giving the Jaguars another returning starter back after Meglio had missed the start of the season due to a shoulder injury. The division is now a longshot, but the Jaguars still have a solid resume headlined by wins over Red Bank Catholic, Brick Memorial and Freehold Township.

6. Point Pleasant Boro (9-2, 3-2) Last Week: 8

The Panthers nearly pulled off the stunner of the year, falling to St. Rose, 30-28, on Thursday. Point Boro’s only two losses are a rout at the hands of Manasquan and that heartbreaker vs. St. Rose, so there are no bad losses of which to speak. They also have a win over Ranney and another over a Neptune squad that beat Ranney and nearly took out Manasquan last week. If the second time through the division looks similar to the first, Point Boro may push into the top five.

7. Freehold Township (9-2, 3-1) Last Week: 4

With its loss to Marlboro last week, Freehold Township now has the first bad loss to a Shore Conference team on this week’s list, which is why the Patriots fall to No. 7. It also does not help that CBA has not had its typical season, which is taking some shine off Freehold Township’s win over the Colts at the moment. The rematch with CBA is on Friday and if both teams are poised to avoid any other divisional slip-ups, that showdown will essentially be for the Class A North title.

8. Brick Memorial (9-3, 3-2) Last Week: 10

Despite losing to Jackson Memorial last week, Brick Memorial not only hangs around the Top 10, but climbs a couple of spots. The Class B North teams continue to beat one another while experiencing mixed results outside the division, while Brick Memorial is holding onto losses to Southern, Manasquan and Jackson Memorial – all teams ranked in the top five.

9. Colts Neck (8-3, 3-2) Last Week: 6

Colts Neck enters Tuesday one game behind Rumson for the division lead in Class B North, but a neutral-court, non-division win over Red Bank Catholic levels up the resumes somewhat. Throw in Colts Neck’s head-to-head win over the Bulldogs, and they hold onto a Top 10 spot for another week. As for the Class B North race, it’s anybody’s game and the Cougars will have a chance to shake things up again Tuesday with a rematch vs. Rumson.

10. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-3, 4-1) Last Week: Not ranked

Like the rest of its Class B North counterparts, Rumson has experienced some inconsistency, but in the Bulldogs case, its letdown games have more frequently come outside of divisional play, which is why Rumson finds itself in first place. While the Bulldogs have been the best team in the division one turn through the schedule, it hasn’t been a blowout on the scoreboard: none of Rumson’s five division games – wins and losses – were decided by more than six points.

 

Dropped Out

Red Bank Catholic (7-6, 3-2) Last Week: 7 – The Caseys recovered from two losses earlier in the week by beating CBA in the Founder’s Cup game for the second straight year. That game is worth some bragging rights, but in light of CBA’s struggles, it’s not quite enough to keep RBC ranked at the moment.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Toms River North (9-4, 3-2) – The A South title may be a long shot, but there are still plenty of statements to be made in that very competitive division.

Middletown South (7-4, 3-2) – The Eagles have ripped off seven straight wins and might be rounding into form as the B North favorite.

Ranney (6-6, 1-4) – A loss to Neptune slowed Ranney’s upward momentum, but adding transfer Jahlil Bethea this past weekend makes the Panthers an even tougher game through the rest of the season.

Christian Brothers Academy (6-6, 3-1) – The Colts should be fine with respect to making the Shore Conference Tournament, but their status as the top team outside the top two has faded. A deep SCT run is never out of the question, but it’s looking like it will have to be as a double-digit seed.

Shore (9-0, 3-0) – In its toughest test to date, Shore showed it could pull out an improbable win in the final seconds by beating Ocean in a huge Class C South division game. A light schedule will be a roadblock to pushing into the Top 10, but the more the Blue Devils win, the harder it is to keep them out.

Neptune (4-5, 2-3) – Although under .500, the Scarlet Fliers deserve a shoutout for taking Manasquan down to the wire, then finishing the job in an overtime win over Ranney three nights later.

Manalapan (7-6, 2-3) – With a tight loss to Freehold Township and a couple solid wins over Allentown and Red Bank, the Braves appear to be rounding into form as an SCT that could be a headache for someone in the early rounds.

Marlboro (5-4, 2-1) – After a frustrating overtime loss at Allentown, Marlboro bounced back with an enormous road win over Freehold Township to get back over .500 and put the Mustangs on the rankings radar.

Red Bank (6-6, 3-2) – The Bucs have had trouble stringing big wins together, but they have enough of them (CBA, Red Bank Catholic) that they are still on the radar.

Matawan (7-5, 2-3) – A loss to Long Branch was some very cold water for a hot Huskies team that still has seven wins in its last eight games.

 

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