Basketball: New Top 10

I moved Paul VI up to No. 1 in the new Top 10 as of Monday, Feb. 13.

The Eagles had a great, great week after that loss to Eastern. That showed me something. Willingboro and BE stayed solid but I wrestled with Eastern and SAP.

I ended up moving SAP ahead of Eastern, which involved dropping the Vikings all the way from 1 to 5. That's a pretty steep fall for just one loss, just nine days after they handled PVI.

But I felt like SAP has a very similar record, so head-to-head -- especially such as a recent head-to-head, and such a convincing win -- moved them ahead of Eastern. Not an easy call.

That pushed Paulsboro down from 5 to 6, which was another tough call since the Red Raiders went 3-0 and beat Lenape in OT. But SAP's win over Eastern was so impressive I felt like I need to move them into the Top 5.

Records through Sunday

1. Paul VI (3) 18-2
Five players scored in double figures as the Eagles built a 23-point lead in second quarter in a 71-58 victory over Medford Tech. They came back the next night and beat AC in OT to cap a 4-0 week that included a 16-point win over Camden and a 20-point win over Camden Catholic. That would be impressive under any circumstances. But coming off that lopsided loss to Eastern -- that really showed something about the Eagles.

2. Willingboro (2) 17-2
Senior guard Tyrell Maloney has averaged 23.4 in his last six games. This team is 14-1 in 2012, with the only loss a competitive one at Trenton Catholic. I would have liked to have seen the Chimeras at the Jeff Coney at RV, or at BE on Saturday, or playing another SJ or state power in a showcase game. But it's pretty telling that these guys seem to be winning a lot of games by 15, 20, 25 points against decent competition. (Westampton Tech, Holy Cross, Moorestown, Cinnaminson). I'm not saying theyre playing a Murderer's Row. But they are winning in impressive fashion against solid programs. 

3. Bishop Eustace (4) 18-3
The Crusaders get their shot at South Jersey lore when they host national power St. Anthony on Thursday night. They ground out a tough win against a talented team from East Brunswick on Saturday night in the first BE Invitational. Should be a great scene Thursday night in the Crusaders' fieldhouse. With a point guard like Carson Puriefoy, BE has a shot at withstanding SA's pressure defense. But they're going to have to hit shots, rebound and find a way to contain 6-8 point guard Kyle Anderson, who is headed to UCLA.

 4. St. Augustine Prep  (6) 18-2
Junior guard David Sullivan had 12 points and four steals in a 59-41 victory over then-No. 1 Eastern on Saturday night at the Olympic-Cape Challenge. That was some win for the Hermits. I wasn't sure this team belonged with the the Top 4 or 5 teams in SJ. And I still wonder about their ability to score, especially if Mike Greenman has an off-night from the perimeter. But these guys play defense, scrap for loose balls and have an edge. The biggest thing I've noticed is how much juniors such as Sullivan and forward Blake Rossell have improved during the course of the season. This team will be a tough out in South A.

5. Eastern (1) 17-2
The Vikings shot just 4-for-25 from three-point range in that loss at St. Augustine. I felt badly dropping the Vikings this far because they've had a wonderful season, and that win over PVI last Saturday was impressive. And every team is entitled to a bad game now and then. But I agree with coach Joe Murphy: That was a big mistake in forgetting about the inside game against the Prep. One of the things that was so impressive about Eastern in recent weeks was the improved play in the paint of Matt Klinewski, Avery Walker and Melvin Ford. But those guys hardly saw the ball against the Prep. One thing about the Vikings' schedule: They've got a great chance to get back in the top three in a hurry.

6. Paulsboro (5) 20-0
Big week ahead includes battle with resurgent Rancocas Valley Thursday night at Life Center and with Paul VI Saturday afternoon at Cherry Hill East. These guys might not be undefeated at the end of this week but they probably will be even better prepared to win a SJ and maybe a state title in Group 1. Then again, they might be undefeated at the end of this week. This team is deep and talented and has shown itself to be extremely resourceful in tough situations.

7. Shawnee (7) 16-4
The Renegades have won eight of nine to move into position to win the Olympic Patriot title. They've been a little under the radar but I get the sense that coach Joe Kessler doesn't mind flying low a little bit in Feburary in preparing for a big push in March. Junior Josh Borrelli is re-finding the range with 20, 17 and 22 in his last three games. They'll need all their shooters and scorers in the SJ Group 4 tournament.

8. Atlantic City (10) 15-5
Junior center Jahleem Montague is starting to shake effects of a knee injury. Watch out for these guys in SJ 4. They are playing with notably offensive patience and defensive diligence. They could have folded against PVI and they battled back to force OT. I think the expanded Cape-Atlantic League tourney also will help prepare these guys for states.

9. Medford Tech (8) 17-5
Senior center Kennedy Chukwuocha went for a career-high 39 in a victory over Delran. What I like about this team is that all five losses were to good teams -- West Tech (when they were hot), Willingboro, William Penn of Delaware, Piscataway and PVI. Every game they were "supposed" to win, they won. That says something about a team. Think about how many teams have not done that this season, or any season.

10. Delsea (NR) 19-3
The Crusaders have won 16 of 17 with the only loss to undefeated Paulsboro. That win over Haddonfield looks better and better as the Bulldogs find their stride in February. Junior forward Cedric Elleby is only about 6-3 -- not tall for a pure inside player. But he's a clever left-hander who just has a knack for rebounding and scoring inside. The key for this team is the abiility of the guards to handle defensive pressure and hit a few outside shots.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Haddonfield (17-4): Very impressive win at Haddon Heights the other night. Great defense and a big game from junior forward Chris Biddle. Dont count out this No. 4 seed in SJ 2.

Lenape (14-6): Another tough week included losses to Millville and Paulsboro (in OT). I've heard coach Chuck Guittar talk about previous teams of his hitting a "February lull" because of the game-in, game-out strength of the schedule, and his demanding coaching style. I wouldn't sleep on this team in March. 

Rancocas Valley (13-7): Another resurgence like last year. Coach Jay Flanagan knows this club isn't as talented as the 2011 team that won  CJ 4 and had an 11-point lead in the state title game. But senior guard Tariq Jett is willing these guys into the mix and senior power forward Dom Twitty seems to be rounding into BB shape.


CHE (16-6): Tough loss to OC in Olympic-Cape Challenge. If the Cougars shoot the ball the way they're capable, they can beat anybody.

Camden Catholic (11-9): The Irish have never lost a game in the Olympic-Cape Challenge. They kept the streak alive by beating a red-hot Wildwood Catholic in the kind of gritty, low-scoring game they would love to play in the South A tourney.

NBC (14-6): These guys beat reeling Westampton Tech by 76-50 the other day. They've won six of eight.

Pitman (16-5): Emerging as perhaps the biggest threat to Paulsboro in SJ 1. Although I wouldn't count out PG. And watch out for Schalick in 2013.

Haddon Heights (18-3): Bounced back from a tough loss to Haddonfield with a nice win over Cherry West, which has been playing pretty well.

Holy Spirit (16-5): Losses to Millville and RV in a tough week that included a couple injuries.

Camden (12-10): Big weekend included tough win over rival Woodrow Wilson in city series game and then a nice victory over a solid Middle Township team in the Olympic-Cape Challenge. They've won four of five with the loss to No. 1 PVI.  

-- Phil Anastasia