USA Today is not giving St. John Vianney any love just yet, as the undefeated Lancers did not crack the latest Super 25 rankings in the nation, or the Top 10 rankings in the East region. However, they are now No. 38 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 in the nation in the latest rankings, if that makes them feel better. University (Newark) is the top-ranked New Jersey team at No. 19 in the ESPN rankings. The Lancers’ chance to blast into the national rankings comes on Sunday, when they face undefeated Murry Bergtraum (N.Y.), which is ranked No. 8 in the nation by USA Today, at 2:40 p.m. at the Battle on the Boardwalk at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. The Lady Blazers’ winning streak is up to something like 70 games at this point, so if the Lancers take them out, it will send a serious message as to the potential of this team.
One thing that is clear is that right now it’s St. John Vianney, Colts Neck, Neptune, Rumson-Fair Haven and then everybody else in the Shore. Those look like your clear SCT semifinalists, with Red Bank Catholic and St. Rose best equipped to prove that scenario wrong.
Now, let’s get to some stuff around the Shore.
Class A North
Congrats to Colts Neck’s Lauren Clarke, who got her 1,000th point earlier this week, as the Cougars continue to plow through the division. They have a hellacious back-to-back this weekend with Shabazz on Saturday and then Christ the King on Sunday. That’s a brutal 1-2 punch and will be a good test of the Cougars’ conditioning considering that their starters all play major minutes. It also will definitely prepare them for the postseason. A good Class A North game on Friday night will be Freehold Township at Middletown South, which is kind of the fight for second place right now. This is the first meeting between the two teams. Meghan McGuinness and Danielle Pankey lead the Eagles, whose only loss heading into Thursday’s game with undefeated Neptune came at the hands of Colts Neck. Freehold Township is led by Stephanie Cardamone and Cristina Barthel and is still looking to see who its go-to scorer will be in the fourth quarter. Maybe Friday’s game will provide more answers. Middletown North picked up a nice win over Ocean this week and has some ground to make up at 3 games below .500 if it wants to qualify for the postseason. However, it shows the progress the Lions are making under new (old) coach Ed Jones.
Class A Central
You better believe that as I was watching Monmouth go up by 20 on Freehold in a match-up of undefeated boys teams on Tuesday night while getting text messages about the unbelievable game that was unfolding in Rumson against St. John Vianney, I briefly thought about high-tailing it to see if I could catch the end. Katelyn Linney’s 25-point second half was clearly the performance of the year thus far, as it included 17 third-quarter points. Rumson often doesn’t allow 17 points in a half to an entire team, so for Linney to that means that somewhere the Fairfield coaching staff was smiling on Tuesday. St. John Vianney faced its first major adversity of the season and got it done, while Rumson showed that it can play with anyone in the state when it is rebounding well and getting a big game from senior Kate Miller, who was sensational by all accounts on Tuesday.
Rumson faces Raritan on Friday night in a game between two teams that have developed a little rivalry in the past few seasons, so we’ll see if the Bulldogs use the SJV game as momentum or whether it left them deflated. Raritan has gotten some good scoring nights from Alexa Ryan and Nicole Lentine and has been under the radar, so we’ll see if the Rockets can remind some people that they were considered a top 10 team in the preseason.
Holmdel has been playing much better as of late behind junior Alex Diekmann and guard Ally Mnich, as they pushed perennial power Red Bank Catholic in only losing by single digits earlier in the week. This team has an uphill battle to qualify for the postseason because A Central is so loaded, but if they get in, they could be a problem in a first-round game.
Class A South
The big one is coming up on Monday when Southern and Jackson Memorial square off for the second time, assuming neither team has suffered a divisional loss until then. Jackson won the first round behind standout center Christa Evans and guard Caitlyn Testa, but Southern has played much better since that game and has only lost to Rumson-Fair Haven since then. That game is certainly one to keep an eye on. Evans against Southern’s Kristen Sharkey in the paint is a match-up of Ocean County’s top pivot players.
Brick Memorial and Toms River North are the next two teams hanging around for their possible shot at the division title, but they will need to find a way to solve Southern and Jackson in their next go-round. Memorial, under coach Rayna Post, really seems to be building a foundation that proved that last season was no fluke, and senior Kathryn Lamastra has really stepped up for the Mustangs. For the Mariners, Dana Coronato was known coming into the season, but senior Sam Heck has emerged as another quality scoring option.
Class B North
Neptune is far and away the best team in this division, while the two behind the Scarlet Fliers, Freehold and Ocean, have taken turns on the roller coaster. When Ocean defends the best that it can and gets balanced scoring, it has upset potential against quality teams. Annie Farrow is an underrated pivot player and Marlena Klein is a solid all-around guard for the Spartans. As for Freehold, this team has a good group of seniors, including standout Shannon Mayrose, but it relies so heavily on one player that it’s hard to compete against the Shore’s top 6 or 7 because those teams are so much deeper. Still, that is a group of girls that have been winners across several sports in their careers, so they should never be counted out.
Definitely the biggest wildcard in the division is Wall, which is led by one of the Shore’s best scorers in junior guard Kathryn Campbell as well as sophomore guard Jess Nevins. The Knights have wins over Jackson Memorial and Manchester to their credit but also some head-scratching losses. If they get into the postseason and the “good” Wall shows up, they could throw a scare into someone.
Class B Central
While St. Rose‘s domination of this division is surprising to absolutely no one, Keansburg is off to a 7-1 start, which includes a win over a solid Point Beach team. The trio of seniors Danielle Ehrhardt, Faith Flannery and Kerri Cassarello have led the Titans in scoring, assists and rebounding, respectively, and have them off to a great start after a 12-win season in 2007-08.
Mater Dei and Point Beach are solid teams that should qualify for the postseason and have a shot to do some things in their respective state playoff brackets, although Mater Dei could just run right into St. Rose again early in Non-Public South B.
Class B South
Manchester quietly dispatched of Point Boro, 65-46, behind 16 points apiece from Arielle Parrish and Precious Allen on Tuesday night. That means that the Hawks look well on their way to rolling to the division title because the Panthers were the last team that was unbeaten in the division and Manchester beat them by 19. So once again, the question involves whether or not Manchester can do damage beyond its fiefdom in Class B South with the Valmons, Gabrielle and Camille, leading the way.
Despite the loss, Point Boro is still off to a solid start under new coach David Drew, and a lot of that is due to seniors Becky Metzger and Kelly Collins, two experienced returners from last season’s B South champs and two reliable scorers. Jackson Liberty was flying high before stumbling against several divisional foes, so we’ll see how the Lions respond in their second trip through the division. Central, Barnegat and Pinelands are also in the hunt for postseason berths.