Basketball: New Top 10

Big shakeup this week as Shawnee and Camden Catholic tumble out of the Top 10 after both lost two in a row and undefeated Westampton Tech and Holy Spirit move in.

Camden's 31-point victory over Shawnee was further evidence of something I've been thinking about all season: On any given night, there are about 30 teams out there than could knock off most of the teams in the Top 10.

Not sure if that's parity or a sign that we really don't have that many strong teams -- or maybe a little of both -- but it sure seems like anything goes out there.

I mean, Bridgeton went into RV and won by 9. Who saw that coming?

I kept Camden Catholic in the Under Consideration list because the Irish's three losses are all to Top 10 teams and they bounced back from that tough showing against BE with a strong effort against PVI.

But I dropped Shawnee after losing to Triton and Camden in a space of three days, including that tough game at Camden on Satursday.

Anywhere, here's the Top 10, plus a few UC teams, as of Sunday, Jan. 8:

Previous ranking in parentheses

1. Paul VI (1) 7-0
Senior guard Kris O'Connor, who is known more for his defense, has scored 20 or more in three games. The Eagles are playing at a high level. They just need to stay healthy and sustain it through the long season. Senior guard Ron Curry has scored 20, 26 and 20 in the last three games.

2. Eastern (2) 7-0
Junior Avery Walker had eight blocks in a 67-53 victory over Timber Creek on Saturday. This team is scoring a SJ-best 74 a game. They haven't been under 67 all season. Senior guard Mike Wilson (19.7) and junior forward Devon Bell (18.4) have been in double figures every game. Not sure these guys have been fully challenged yet. Big ganme Thursday at Lenape. 

3. St. Augustine (3) 7-0
Senior forward Brent Slotoroff is a tough defender and rebounder for the Hermits. Penn State football recruit Austin Johnson is playing very well, and junior guard Mike Greenman is a baby-faced killer on the perimeter. I like this team because of its balance, depth and commitment to defense. These are just tough, competitive kids.

4. Cherry Hill East (5) 9-0
Freshman guard Jake Silpe is averaging 9.4 points in the last seven games. The Cougars are 30-2 in their last 32 games, dating back to the start of that 20-game winning streak last January. Seniors Marc Schlessel and Jake Gurkin have taken their games to another level. This team was so set in its ways the last few seasons, with a dominating player in Chris Santo and a powerful personality at coach in veteran John Valore. But sometimes change can have an invigorating effect.

5. Bishop Eustace (6) 8-1 2-0
The Crusaders have won their last three games by an average of 33 points. These guys are starting to play like the team that was No. 1 in the preseason rankings. Senior forward Sho DaSilva passed the 1,000-point career mark the other day. Steaming toward the first of at least two and maybe three showdowns with PVI.

6. Willingboro (4) 6-1
Senior guards Ronny Paden (30) and Tyrell Maloney (23) combined for 53 in a 78-57 victory over Bordentown. Maloney has been red-hot of late. He went for 33 the other day. The talent is there. If these guys play together, watch out Group 2.

7. Lenape (7) 7-1
The Indians are scoring at a high rate as Evan Ward, Kyle Robostello and Tabu Gaither each have 20-point games and Avery Brown has a 18-point game. Lenape used to win a lot of 42-38 games. These guys are scoring more than previous teams, while allowing a few more points, too. Still one of South Jersey's most committed defensive teams. Will they go up-and-down with Eastern on Thursday night?

8. Westampton Tech (NR) 7-0
Senior forward Bazil Jackson scored 18 in a 67-49 victory over Delran. A surprise team to some folks, although Burlington County basketball people saw this team coming. Junior guard Shaun Russell (16.7) is the real deal.

9. Holy Spirit (NR) 5-0
Junior guard Paul Moore is averaging 20.6 points. As if South A wasn't loaded enough, these guys have no intention of taking a step back after losing five of the top seven from last year's team. Watch out for sophomore Junior Saintel. And this team could get a big lift when senior point guard Liam McMenamin, a transfer from The Hun School, becomes eligible next week.

10. Paulsboro (10) 6-0
Junior center Julien Davenport is averaging 9.9 points and is a top shot-blocker and rebounder. Junior forward Xavier Lundy has scored between 21 and 32 in every game. Big test at Haddon Heights on Thursday night.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Camden Catholic (6-3): Like the way the Irish bounced back from that tough loss to BE with a strong effort against PVI. All three losses are to Top 7 teams.

Florence (7-0): They haven't allowed 50 all season and have balanced scoring led by Cornell Miller and Kevin Allison. That win over Haddonfield (7-1) looks better and better.

Haddon Heights (8-0): The backcourt of junior Brandon Joyner and senior Davon Jones has been in double figures every game. Big week included a visit to arch-rival Haddonfield on Tuesday and a home game against Paulsboro on Thursday. We'll know a lot more about the Garnets on Friday morning.

-- Phil Anastasia

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