Basketball: New Top 10


Paul VI's powerful performance against Bishop Eustace on Thursday night moved the Eagles into the No. 3 spot in the final Top 10 of the regular season.

It also cleared the way for Paulsboro to move to No. 2, right behind No. 1 Willingboro.

BE dropped to No. 4 but stayed ahead of Eastern based on a recent head-to-head victory. AC, winners of 13 of 14, moved up to No. 7 after winning the first CAL tournament.

Delsea inches up to No. 9 and Lenape make a return appearance at No. 10 after winning three in row to end the regular season.

I always say this about rankings: The state tournament will shake everything out.

I suspect that will be the case again this year. Here's a look at the last Top 10 of the regular season, with previous ranking in parentheses:

1. Willingboro (1) 22-2
The Chimeras have won 10 in a row and all 10 have been by double digits. Led by a great senior backcourt of Tyrell Maloney and St. Peter's-bound Ronny Paden, the Chimeras are heavy favorites to win SJ 2 and capture the first sectional title in the histrory of the program. Homecourt will help a lot, too, since Willingboro's gym is not an easy place for visitors to play.

2. Paulsboro (3) 26-0
The Red Raiders are the first South Jersey team to finish a perfect regular season since Lenape in 2004. I'm seeing this team as 30-0 after the SJ 1 tournament and 32-0 after winning the state Group 1 title. Just wondering what seed a 32-0 Group 1 champion would get in the TOC? Surely not a 1 or a 2 -- got to figure St. Anthony will be the 1 and the B or 4 champion will be the 2 -- but they could command a 3 seed depending on how the other tournaments play out.  Knowing the North-centric, anti-Group 1 bias that tends to come into play, they'll probably get a 5 seed. But that would only fuel this team's fire. And I've seen Group 1 teams play up a storm in the ToC, like some of those Bloomfield Tech team as well as Pitman in 1997, when Jon Crispin dropped 45 on Group 4 champion RV.

3. Paul VI (4) 23-3
The Eagles are 47-6 the last two seasons but are seeking post-season success. It's the story of these seniors in summation: Will they be remembered as a great regular-season team or as a team that made its mark in the tournament. These guys might have played their best game in two years the other night at BE. I mean, a 29-2 run? Are you serious? Their half of the South A bracket is managable, so this team can get to the final where they would meet the survivor of a free-for-all involving BE, SAP and top-seeded St. Joe Metuchen.

4. Bishop Eustace (2) 21-5
Like their archrivals from Paul VI, the Crusaders hope to define this era in program history in the state tournament. One thing about South A: There are plenty of chances fo redemption. BE should travel to SAP for a great second round game and, if victorious, visit top-seeded SJM in the sectional semifinals. That's a hard road. But of the Crusaders make it, and find rival PVI waiting in the South A final, how cool would that be?

5. Eastern (5) 22-3
After a couple sluggish Saturdays in mid-February, the Vikings have regained their stride heading into the South Jersey Group 4 tournament. I like this team's chances, based on homecourt, depth and versatility. They hit their little lull, like nearly every team does in February. Still, say this about SJ 4. You know it's a pretty deep tournament when a No. 1 seed has to open with a dangerous team such as Washington Twp. Not saying the Minutemen are a threat to win the tournament. But they are a pretty scary No. 16 seed.

6. Shawnee (6) 21-5
Nothing comes easy in South Jersey Group 4, but the third-seeded Renegades appear to be in the less-loaded half of the bracket. Shawnee can't look past anybody but the Renegades have a good shot at meeting CHE in the sectional semifinals. Shawnee has a knack for playing well in the tournament, and winning close, low-scoring games bh executing in the final four minutes. Wouldn't be surprised to see this team get on another run.

7. Atlantic City (8) 19-5
The Vikings are winning low-scoring, tight games with regularity, a good sign for the No. 5 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament. This is a different team since 6-4 junior Gabriel Chandler, a transfer from Atlantic Christian, became eligible in mid-January. The Vikings are dangerous but winning at Lenape and then at Eastern is a lot to ask. Still, I wouldn't sleep on this team.

8. St. Augustine (7) 21-4
The Hermits enter the South A tournament after a powerful second-half performance in a 61-40 victory over South Jersey Group 3 contender Camden on Saturday night. That wasn't exactly the kind of opponent that SAP will face in South A. But it had to be a confidence booster for a team that might have been wavering a bit after consecutive losses to Gloucester Catholic and Middle Twp. Still the defending champion until somebody knocks off their crown.

9. Delsea (10) 22-4
The Crusaders are a 55-foot shot away from entering the South Jersey Group 3 tournament on a 14-game winning streak. I'm coming around to liking this team's chances in SJ 3. Camden has been a little too inconsistent, and the SAP grads on the Crusaders' coaching staff probably saw some things Saturday night that will help in the second round against the Panthers. That has a chance to be a program-defining game for Delsea. If they aren't intimidated by the Camden mystique -- and the truth is, a lot of today's players really don't remember or care about Camden's glory days -- they've got a chance to control the tempo and win that game.

10. Lenape (NR) 18-8
The Indians appear to have exited the February doldrums with three consecutive victories. Watch these guys in the top half of the SJ 4 field. Senior Avery Brown and junior Tabu Gaither can hit from the arc, and the Indians will play defense.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Cherry Hill East (18-8): Tough losses this week to No. 5 Eastern and No. 3 PVI. But as a No. 2 seed, CHE can make hay in SJ4. But they have to beat CHW in a dangerous opener first.

Medford Tech (19-7): A real threat in SJ 2 with senior center Kennedy Chukwuocha creating matchup problems for everybody, including Willingboro.

-- Phil Anastasia