Basketball: New Top 10

Willingboro moves into the top spot in the rankings, based on an eight-game winning streak, a 17-1 record in 2012 and the fact that former No. 1 Paul VI lost to Paulsboro by 10 on Saturday.

BE moved up to No. 2, Paulsboro jumped from No. 6 to No. 3 and PVI dropped to No. 4.

Eastern stayed at No. 5 but St. Augustine dropped to No. 7 from No. 4 after the Hermits were stunned by Gloucester Catholic in the finale of the CHE East Invitational. Pretty nice weekend for the Rams -- they beat Haddon Heights by 9 on Saturday and St. Augustine by 11 on Sunday, and this after losing games by around 25 points in the previous week to Delsea and Oakcrest.

It's typical of the way things have gone in SJ this year. Also typical was the fact that GC got a big lift from a halfcourt shot by freshman Fran Kinsey at the end of the second quarter.

What's with all the halfcourt shots this year? Sterling's Jerry Crismond beat Delsea with a shot from beyond halfcourt on Friday night. Willingboro's Tyrell Maloney made one at the end of the first quarter Saturday. Clearview's McCabe Reim made one to force overtime against Delsea a few weeks ago (Man, the Crusaders have to work on their half-court shot defense).

Anyway, here's the new Top 10, with just one week to go before the start of the state tournaments. Previous ranking in parentheses

1. Willingboro (2) 20-2
The Chimeras are 17-1 in 2012 with the only loss to state power Trenton Catholic by 73-66. These guys looked great Saturday against Kingsway. I know Kingsway isn't a powerhouse but the Dragons had won five of six. But Willingboro has been overpowering everybody. Everybody know about the 1-2 backcourt punch of Maloney and Ronny Paden. But this team has depth and balance, with tough inside guys in Mike Owens and Joe Ricks. Hard to imagine this team not winning SJ 2; but that's what we said last year about Lakewood and they lost to No. 16 seed Bridgeton in the first round. 

2. Bishop Eustace (3) 20-4
The Crusaders have allowed 52 or fewer points in seven of their last eight games. Impressive loss to St. Anthony was followed by an impressive win over a depleted Eastern team on Saturday. Tough week ahead includes improved Camden on Tuesday and a showdown with what should be an angry and desperate PVI team on Thursday night. There's going to be a charge in the air in the Crusaders' fieldhouse that night.

3. Paulsboro (6) 23-0
In their signature victory over Paul VI on Saturday, the Red Raiders' first five baskets were scored by five different players. There's no denying this team belongs in the Top 3 the rankings. You even could make a valid argument for them at No. 1. Xavier Lundy is literally the X factor for this team but there are lots of elements: size, depth, fearless freshmen, seasoned senior guards. I was really impressed with freshman Theo Holloway on Saturday against PVI. Either he doesn't realize freshman aren't supposed to play with that much confidence against the No. 1 team in SJ, or he's really that good. Maybe a little of both.

4. Paul VI  (1) 20-3
The Eagles have a chance to regain their mojo at archrival Bishop Eustace in an Olympic National showdown on Thursday night. The Eagles had to know Paulsboro was going to be gunning for them on Saturday. But they didn't match the Red Raiders' intensity until the fourth quarter, and by then it was too late. One good thing about the big game at BE is that it gives PVI a chance to bury the Paulsboro loss, and build some momentum heading into the South A tournament. Great work in the fourth quarter Saturday by senior guard Ron Curry, who nearly willed his team back into the game. He made three steals in a row in one sequence, puncutating two with breakaway slams.

5. Eastern (5) 19-3
A tough final week of the regular season for the Vikings includes games at Cherry Hill East Monday and at Shawnee Thursday. Three of the team's top eight players never left the bench in Saturday's loss to BE. Hopefully, it was a minor incident that the Vikings can put behind them. They've had a great season and sure don't want to see it slip away the last couple of weeks.

6. Shawnee (7) 20-4
Junior Josh Borrelli clinched Sunday's 43-39 victory over Holy Spirit with two free throws with 3.6 seconds on the clock. These guys have won nine in a row and are looking like a tough, tough out in the SJ 4 tournament. They're playing 7-8 guys and could add another if junior Ryan Bodnar returns this week from a foot injury. I thought this team was going to be a year away, with so many juniors in the rotation. But with the addition of senior guard Dan Mumford, their most dynamic offenive player, Shawnee is thinking of another sectional title in 2012. These guys could meet CHE in a sectional semifinal.

7. St. Augustine (4) 20-3
The Hermits face rival Middle Township in the semifinals of the Cape-Atlantic League tournament on Tuesday at Hammonton. The Hermits had won nine in a row before they got caught looking past Gloucester Catholic on Sunday. Maybe they saw the GC-Oakcrest score. But give GC credit. Tournament director John Valore was saying Saturday that he thought it could be a good game if GC got out in front and was able to control the tempo. That's just what happened. Could be the wake-up coach veteran coach Paul Rodio and his assistants need to refocus the team before the start of the South A tournament. The Hermits are looking at a second-round game at home against BE.

8. Atlantic City (8) 17-5
The Vikings have won 12 of 13 and have allowed fewer than 60 points in 18 straight games. Ground out a tough win against a red-hot Rancocas Valley team by 58-54 on Sunday. This is a different type of AC team, playing with surprising patience on offense and a lot of focus at the defensive end. These guys are dangerous No. 5 seeds but probably must win at No. 4 Lenape and No. 1 Eastern. That's a tough road.

9. Cherry Hill East (NR) 18-6
The Cougars rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to beat Haddonfield in overtime on Saturday. Marc Schlessel's three-pointer at the buzzer forced overtime and the Cougars pulled away with Jake Gurkin (fouled out) on the bench. Nice win at a nice time. I was ready to move Haddonfield into the Top 10 if the Bulldogs won the game. CHE needed a shot in the arm and they got it. These guys are dangerous if they are playing with confidence because when they shoot well, they can beat anybody.

10. Delsea (10) 20-4
The Crusaders won 11 in a row before Sterling's Jerry Crismond made a halfcourt-plus shot at the buzzer to beat them 64-62 on Friday night. I kept Delsea at No. 10 by this reasoning: If Crismond's shot hits the backboard and falls away, would I have dropped Delsea for beating Sterling by only one point? No. So if I dropped them for losing on a 50-foot shot off the backboard, I'm dropping them for not defending that shot. And that's crazy. Besides, they also beat Gloucester Catholic by 25 last week. Ask SAP if that's impressive.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Haddonfield (19-5): Bulldogs looked really good for long stretches Saturday against CHE. Just couldn't close the deal. Big game Tuesday at unbeaten Paulsboro.

Medford Tech (19-6): Couldn't keep up with Willingboro, but who can? Still not a "bad loss" all season.


Lenape (16-8): Indians looked like their old selves Sunday in a victory over Middle Township. But they still have lost  four of six. Can't get a read on this team. Capable of winning SJ title, and also of losing in first round. Guess we could say that about a few teams.

Camden (14-10): Panthers have won six of seven. Get their shot Tuesday night at home against Bishop Eustace.

Rancocas Valley (13-9): Red Devils have won seven of nine and the losses were to No. 3 Paulsboro in OT and to No. 8 AC by 58-54 on Sunday. Don't count them out of CJ 4.

Williamstown (16-8): Braves have won six of seven and could be a dangerous No. 8 seed in SJ 4. They could face Eastern in the second round and they pushed the Vikings pretty hard in a 43-38 loss on Jan. 21.

Holy Spirit (17-7): Junior Paul Moore was the hero of an overtime victory over Pleasantville in the CAL tourney quarters on Friday.  He fiorced OT with a couple late FTs and opened the extra session with an NBA-range three ball. The Spartans pushed Shawnee to the brink in a 43-39 loss Sunday at CHE.

-- Phil Anastasia