Basketball: New Top 10

Another week, another upset of the No. 1 team.

This time, Eastern lost to Cherry Hill East in OT as the Cougars Marc Schlessel hit a layup at the buzzer. It marked the second time in 13 games that CHE knocked off the No. 1 team (they beat No. 1 Bishop Eustace earlier this season).

When's the last time CHE knocked off the No. 1 team twice in the span of 13 games?

PVI rises back to No. 1 based on that dramatic 62-60 win over BE on Ron Curry's buzzer beater. I think the Eagles belong in that spot, but I suspect more and more this is a wide-open season and that the gap between teams in the Top 5 and teams in the Top 25 is paper thin.

Anyway, here's the new  Top 10, as of Sunday, January 22:

Previous ranking in parentheses
1. Paul VI (3) 11-1

The Eagles' last three games with archrival Bishop Eustace: 62-60 win, 53-51 win, 67-65 loss. The teams meet again Feb. 23. Tuesday's game was wild and weird -- PVI dominated for 20 minutes and BE dominated for 12 minutes. Wild scene after Curry's game winner with Curry, some other players and the PVI student section racing down to taunt the BE student section. More than a couple people emailed to express concerns that the thing could have gotten out of hand. It's a great rivalry and all but the last thing we need is for somebody to throw a punch and for things to get out of hand. Because it could happen in a heartbeat.

2. Eastern (1) 11-1
Sophomore forward Matt Klinewski scored 13 in a 43-38 win over Williamstown.  The Vikings stay at No. 1 lasted just one week but this team is more than capable of getting back on top. And with that schedule, they'll have plenty of chances. A good sign at Klinewski had a good game against Williamstown. Mike Wilson and Devon Bell have been consistent all season, and Avery Walker has been coming on. But the Vikings need all their elements to negotiate the Olympic American, the non-league slate and that SJ Group 4 tournament.

3. Willingboro (4) 11-1
Senior guard Ronny Paden scored 59 points in his first three games back after missing two games with a dislocated finger. This team keeps rolling along. Seems like Paden and senior guard Tyrell Maloney have figured out the best way to play together. Some big challenges ahead on the schedule, and SJ Group 2 will be dangerous as Middle Township looks like a gathering storm down the shore.

4. Bishop Eustace (2) 11-2
Senior guard Carson Puriefoy is averaging 25 points in his last four games. The Crusaders have state power Trenton Catholic on Saturday at the Jeff Coney Tournament at RV, and host national power St. Anthony on Feb. 16. This team will be battled tested for the South A tournament.

5. St. Augustine (5) 11-1.
Junior Blake Rossell had 12 points and nine rebounds in a 66-44 victory over Oakcrest. The Hermits are so balanced it's tough for opponents to game plan to stop any one player. Maybe that hurts them down the line when they really need somebody to carry the load, like Isaiah Morton did last season. But this team seems to be gaining confidence and developing its own way of winning.

6. Lenape (6) 11-2
Reserve guards Arkemus Baskerville and Kendall Green are defensive dynamoes. Wins over PVI, Cherokee and Shawnee showcased Lenape's defense. The Indians held the Renegades to 31, and when's the last time Shawnee scored 31? Funny thing: These guys are No. 6 in SJ and their tied for last place in the Olympic American with a 1-2 mark.

7. Cherry Hill East (NR) 12-2
Sophomore guard Hank Davis' three-pointer at the halftime buzzer was a big boost in the Cougars' upset of then-No. 1 Eastern. New coach Dave Allen knocks off two No. 1 teams in his first 13 games at his alma mater. This is a different team than in the past, and that's no knock on former coach John Valore or former star Chris Santo. It's just a different dynamic around the squad, with more balance on offense and a slight shift in style of play that seems to be working well through the season's first five weeks.

8. Westampton Tech (7) 11-1
Junior guard Shaun Russell raised his game in scoring 25 in a 55-45 loss to Trenton Catholic. WT hung with TCA for 32 minutes. These guys have been winning impressively against BCL opponents and there are a lot of good teams in that league. Can they keep it up on their second go-through against rivals?

9. Paulsboro (9) 11-0
Good sign for the Red Raiders: Derrick Burgess (25) and Julien Davenport (20) were the leading scorers in the last two games. That eases the burden on junior forward Xavier Lundy. This team has a lot more elements than just Lundy, which is why they are No. 9 and such a heavy favorite in SJ 1. A tough schedule in February might hurt the record but will help come tournament time.

10.  Holy Spirit (8) 9-1
Junior guard Paul Moore has scored in double figures in every game. A tough loss at Middle Township, which is no disgrace. That's a big-time tough place to play. Big test Monday at St. Augustine Prep.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Medford Tech (11-3): Jaguars center Kennedy Chukwuocha might be playing as well as any big man in SJ.

Middle Township (10-3): These guys have knocked off St. Augustine and Holy Spirit in recents weeks. Lots of balance led by Tom Feraco, junior son of the coach.

Shawnee (11-4): The Renegades had one of those nights against Lenape. It happens. That's not to take anything away from the Indians. But this is a dangerous team with a very talented offensive player in senior guard Dan Mumford.

Under Consideration for Under Consideration:

Haddonfield (11-2): Senior forwards Jake Sikkema and Mike Lacatena are so steady for this squad.

Florence (10-1): Bounced back from loss at Palmyra with another strong defensive effort.

Wildwood Catholic (10-5): Seven wins in a row. Watch out for this team with 6-10 transfer James Baumgardner from St. Auggie. They're 6-0 with him in the lineup.

Camden (7-6): Panthers have won six of eight. Senior forwards Thomas Harper and Ajwan Leaming have picked up their games.

Camden Catholic (7-5): Kyle Green went for 39 as the Irish beat Woodrow Wilson for the 43rd time in a row.

Delsea (11-3): Big week in the TriCo Royal includes battles with Clearview and Kingsway.

-- Phil Anastasia

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