Basketball: New Top 10

Eastern seized the top spot with that commanding performance against Paul VI on Saturday.

Willingboro moves up based on a dominant game against reeling Westampton Tech, which was No. 10 but has dropped out after losing three in a row.

PVI drops to No. 3, BE stays at No. 4, Paulsboro (the last unbeaten) climbs to No. 5 and St. Augustine inches back up to No. 6.

But the bottom of the Top 10 is mess. I moved Shawnee up to No. 7 even though the Renegades have played just one game -- a skin-of-their-teeth, 68-66 win over Woodrow Wilson -- in the last 10 days. That's because everybody else around that spot is staggering in an early February funk.

Holy Spirit, Lenape and Westampton Tech all dropped out. I couldn't see keeping any of them in the Top 10, although I suspect they will be back. It's that kind of year.

Medford Tech, CH East and Atlantic City move in. All three are playing well right now.

Here's a closer look at this week's Top 10, as of Sunday, Feb. 5. Last week's ranking in parentheses (and you know it's a crazy year when you get to February and you have three teams in the Top 10 that were NR last week).

1. Eastern (2) 16-1

 The Vikings have been getting great work in the paint from senior Melvin Ford, junior Avery Walker and sophomore Matt Klinewski. Man, did this team look good against PVI. The Vikings are a physically imposing team, with size and skill off the bench. That front line is getting better and better and junior swingman Devon Bell was the best player on the court on Saturday. He just took over the third quarter. The only thing the Vikings didn't do well was close out the game, but I give PVI much of the credit for that. They battled back big time.

2. Willingboro (3) 15-2
Senior guards Ronny Paden (23) and Tyrell Maloney (21) combined for 44 as the Chimeras built a 29-point lead after three quarters on Saturday's victory over then-No. 10 Westampton Tech. I know WT has been struggling but that's impressive. W-boro has been remarkably consistent this season. Maloney and Paden are the big guys but this team often has four or five guys in double figures. The team to beat in SJ 2 despite their No. 2 seed.

3. Paul VI (1) 15-2
The Eagles showed their spirit in a ferocious fourth quarter in Saturday's 84-74 loss to Eastern. Coach Tony Devlin didn't take much solace from that since he was disappointed with his team's energy level, especially in the second and third quarters. It was one of those games that got away from the Eagles. Eastern hit some shots, the crowd got into it, and PVI missed some shots that might have made a difference. It happens. What matters is how they respond to an off day and a drop in the rankings. Last time PVI lost, they rallied the next game to beat Bishop Eustace, so this team has resiliency.

4. Bishop Eustace (4) 15-3
Senior reserve Scott Hyland sparked a 17-2 run to close out Tuesday's 54-38 victory over then-No. 5 Lenape. The Crusaders looked really good in handling Lenape at Lenape. Great defense in the game's final 10 minutes. These guys have won 5 of 6 since that loss to PVI and the loss was a toss-up with state power Trenton Catholic. Like PVI, this is a senior-heavy teams with a lot of guys sensing the clock ticking away on lot of careers. 

5. Paulsboro (8) 17-0
The Red Raiders have won 27 of their last 29. These guys keep rising up the rankings because of their remarkable consistency. And it reflects well on them (and on the whole Colonial) when a Woodbury stuns a Lenape in OT. Paulsboro gets it own shot at Lenape in a showcase tournament Saturday at Bishop Eustace.

6. St. Augustine (7) 15-2
The Hermits got 17 a career-high 17 points from junior forward Blake Rossell in a 52-42 victory over Cape-Atlantic rival Middle Township. SAP has won four in a row since that loss to Holy Spirit and 8 of 9 overall. Depth, defense and balance are the calling cards for this team. Not a powerhouse by any stretch (too limited offensively) but a tough out in CAL tourney and in South A too.

7. Shawnee (9) 13-4
The Renegades have played just one game, a 68-66 victory over Woodrow Wilson, since Jan. 26. They did the same thing last season, and coach Joe Kessler and his staff used the time to get back to basics and prepare for six-week push the culminated with another SJ title. Big Olympic Patriot game Thursday at division leader Triton.

8. Medford Tech (NR) 15-4
Senior center Kennedy Chukwuocha has averaged 22.8 points in the Jaguars' last seven games. Tough loss the other day to Central Jersey power Piscataway. But these guys keep rolling along. Not a bad loss all season. A real threat in SJ 2.

9. Cherry Hill East (NR) 15-4
In a 3-0 week, the Cougars averaged 77 points to regain their offensive mojo. These guys have yo-yoed in and out of the Top 10 in recent weeks. They've had good weeks, like last week. They've also had a couple weeks where they've lost a couple of games in a row. Nice game the other day by sophomore Hank Davis, who scored 17 in a big win over Winslow. Seniors Marc Schlessel and Jake Gurkin are givens with this team. CHE is like every other team: It always helps to have that Third Man as a scoring option, completing the triangle.

10. Atlantic City (NR) 13-4
The Vikings have won nine in a row and are 8-0 since adding 6-4 junior forward Gabriel Chandler, a transfer from Atlantic Christian. They took down rival Pleasantville by 67-51 in Sunday's Battle by the Bay. I haven't seen Chandler but shore folks tell me he adds a lot more than just scoring and passing, defense and rebounding. He's a calm presence with a high basketball IQ. Watch out for these guys in the CAL tourney and in SJ 4. Big game against PVI Sunday in the Cape-Olympic Challenge at St. Augustine.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Delsea (16-3): The Crusaders have won 13 of 14 including a sweep of Tri-County Royal rival Williamstown. Could see Camden in second round of SJ 3 tourney.

 Haddon Heights (16-2): Garnets went 8-0, lost two in a row, and have won 8 more in a row. Big test at home Tuesday vs. rival Haddonfield.

Holy Spirit (14-3): Two tough losses this week, including one to Pleasantville. Bounced back with a nice win over Piscataway Tech in Saturday's Battle by the Bay action.

Lenape (13-4): Tough week for the Indians included ragged fourth quarter vs. Bishop Eustace and OT loss to Group 1 Woodbury. I fully expect to see these guys roar back with a vengeance.


Wildwood Catholic (15-5): 12 wins in a row for the hottest team in SJ (after Paulsboro, that is).

Westampton Tech (13-4): Body of work still counts for something but the Panthers have hit a rough patch with three losses in a row.

Middle Twp. (12-5): Lost this week at SAP but still a dangerous team in the CAL tourney and in SJ 2 as well.

Camden (10-9): Amir Maddred went for 31 in his debut after sitting out 30 days as a transfer from Trenton Catholic. I'm not sure the Panthers won't be the team to beat in SJ 3.

Rancocas Valley (10-7): Red Devils have won 4 in a row and 5 of 6 and the loss was a controversial one at Westampton Tech.

Penns Grove (12-5): The other Red Devils have won 8 in a row and might just challenge Paulsboro in SJ 1.

Haddonfield (14-4): A litttle up-and-down in recent weeks but the Bulldogs still are capable of big things. Will be challenged Tuesday at rival Haddon Heights.

-- Phil Anastasia

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