By Phil Anastasia
Big news is Middle Township dropping out and Rancocas Valley moving in. MT's last three games: Struggled to beat OC and Hammonton, and lost to Camden Catholic by seven.
Tough call but RV has won 15 in a row and deserves a spot in the Top 10 this week.
Other big move is Shawnee jumping up as previous Nos. 3-4-5 -- St. Augustine, Lenape and Middle -- all lost.
Here's the new Top 10, as of Sunday Feb. 10, with previous ranking in parentheses:
1. Atlantic City (1) 18-1
The Vikings are 40-3 since a loss to St. Augustine Prep on Jan. 13, 2012. Their only loss this season was to St. Anthony of Jersey City on Jan. 19. Balanced scoring and 94-feet of sustained defense continues to be this team's calling card. AC visits rival Holy Spirit in what could be a tough battle Tuesday night in Absecon. Great matchup on tap Sunday at Cherry Hill East at 2: AC vs. Paulsboro in a 1 vs. 2 clash. These programs have been eyeing each other for the last 13 months. Nice to see it happen. It's a game that should benefit both teams heading into the tournament.
2. Paulsboro (2) 20-0
The Red Raiders are 50-0 against South Jersey opponents over the last two seasons. That's a pretty amazing run. Paulsboro lost its first game of the season by 77-47 Sunday against Hudson Catholic, the No. 2 team in the Star Ledger state rankings, at the Prime Time Shootout at Roselle Catholic. No excuses, but Paulsboro played a 6:30 p.m. game Saturday night at Bishop Eustace -- expending a lot of energy as BE made a strong second-half comeback in a game that didn't end until after 8 p.m. -- and had to be at Roselle Catholic well in advance of a 4:30 p.m. game Sunday. That's a tough weekend. Paulsboro looked great in first half against BE on Saturday, building 44-26 lead. BE made gallant comerback got no closer than seven. Paulsboro's Cassius Carter drained five three-pointers and the team made 12. When they shoot from distance like that, they are tough to beat. Actually, they are tough to beat, period.
3. Shawnee (6) 17-2
The Renegades have won 10 in a row. It's been a pretty steady climb to this high of a ranking for Shawnee. Too bad they were forced to miss the showcase at BE on Saturday. Pitman would have challenged this team. Senior Josh Borrelli continues to serve as Shawnee's go-to guy. Pitman coach Kevin Crawford, after his team played Haddonfield in a shuffled schedule at BE Saturday because weather concerns took Lenape schools out of the mix: "We were prepared to chase Josh Borrelli all over the court. But he wasn't out there." Borrelli has scored in double figures in every game but one. In that one, he had eight.
4. St. Augustine (3) 17-3
Veteran coach Paul Rodio likely will become South Jersey's all-time leader with his 776th victory Monday against Lower Cape May. Rodio said his team was "flat" in a 65-55 loss to Camden Saturday night. Hey, give the Panthers credit for denying Rodio the chance to break former Camden coach's record for career victories. SAP will host Pitman at 6 on Wednesday in an interesting game, and play red-hot Rancocas Valley on Sunday at Cherry Hill East.
5. Lenape (4) 18-2
The Indians have scored more than 51 points just once in the last nine games. Their tight defense and deliberate offensive style creates a lot of low-scoring tight games, and that's not a criticism. Lenape flourishes in that atmosphere. And that's the way most Group 4 tournament games are played.
6. Camden Catholic (7) 15-5
The Irish are 13-0 in the Olympic-Cape Challenge after Saturday's 41-34 win over then-No. 5 Middle Township. No Cape team has been able to beat the Irish since that showcase started in 2001. CC scored impressive win over Middle Township, controlling pace and finishing with great execution at both ends. Irish are 10-1 in last 11 with wins over Lenape, Camden, Penns Grove, Cherokee, PVI and Middle.
7. Eastern (8) 16-4
The Vikings got a boost in Saturday's 69-39 win over Malvern Prep from the return of senior forward Avery Walker, who missed three games with concussion symptoms. They came back a little more than 24 hours later and beat a Holy Spirit team that had won eight in a row by 50-43 Sunday at the Olympic Cape Challenge. Junior center Matt Klinewski seems to get better every week. He was averaging 21.8 points in his last five after the victory over Malvern Prep on Saturday. Another good sign for the Vikings: Senior guard Devon Bell had scored 20 or more in three of the last five games after Saturday's win.
8. Paul VI (9) 17-3
The Eagles have won six of seven. Junior swingman Jay Howard is emerging as one of the best players in SJ. Maybe the best. The Eagles looked good in handling a BE team that had beaten them earlier in the season, creating a lot of problems with their length and athleticism in an active zone at the defensive end. And they must have played more good D in shutting down a talented EHT team at the Olympic Cape Challenge on Saturday. Big challenge Saturday at CHE against Middle Township team that would vault right back into middle of Top 10 with a win.
9. Haddonfield (10) 20-1
Sophomore guard Rob DePersia had 12 points and four assists in a 53-45 victory over Pitman on Saturday. The Bulldogs got a huge game from 6-5 junior Abby Bah, who generated eight points and six boards. Most impressively, Bah played tough defense on Pitman 6-8 sophomore Tim Delaney, who scored 11 -- 10 under his average. Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said it was the best game of Bah's career. Haddonfield has won 13 in a row. Give this team a consistent inside presence -- senior Chris Biddle has been terrific but he's more swing man than post player -- and they will be tough to beat because they are dynamite on the perimeter.
10. Rancocas Valley (NR) 20-2
Senior Kymere Chapman was 4-for-4 from foul line in closing out 52-46 victory over Williamstown Saturday. RV has won 15 in a row. The Red Devils have not lost in 2013. They clamped down defensively in the second half against Williamtown, which had played with more energy in the first half. It wasn't pretty -- "We never win pretty," RV coach Jay Flanagan said -- but it was impressive. With a 14-game winning streak, the Red Devils might have let that last one slip away and shrugged their shoulders. But they conrolled the second half against a Group 4 team that had won six in a row and was playing with a lot of confidence.
Under consideration (listed alphabetically):
Middle Township (16-4): Tough to drop the Panthers out of the Top 10 since they have some quality wins this season. But they had a rough week, and Camden Catholic was able to control the game against them on Saturday. Wouldn't be surprised to see this team back in the Top 10 in the final rankings.
In the mix:
Burlington City (19-1): Senior guard Josh Young, a clever lefty, has averaged 18.5 points in last seven games for the No. 2 seed in the CJ 1 tournament.
Holy Spirit (14-7): The Spartans had won eight in a row before falling to Eastern by 50-43 at the OCC on Sunday. Senior guard Paul Moore has re-found the range. A dangerous opponent in CAL tourney and in South A too. Big game Tuesday home vs. No. 1 Atlantic City.
Camden (11-7): The Panthers are 8-3 since that lopsided loss to St. Anthony of Jersey City on Dec. 30 in Wildwood. Senior forward Amir Maddred has scored in double figures in all 11 games and made several big plays in Saturday's emotional win over St. Augustine. Somewhere in Chicago, an old man was smiling.
Pitman (18-3): The Panthers played solid defense in a 53-45 loss to Haddonfield but struggled a bit to get the ball inside to sophomore center Tim Delaney. Big game Wednesday at St. Augustine Prep will help Pitman prepare for SJ 1 tournament.
Willingboro (11-10): The Chimeras are 8-2 since senior guard Shaun Russell became eligible. He went for 31 in win over Camden on Friday. Awwal Reid, a 6-6 junior transfer from Westampton Tech, becomes eligible on Tuesday.
Wildwood Catholic (17-3 entering Sunday night game vs. Cherokee): Junior forward Eddie McWade is averaging 18.3 points for the Crusaders.
Hammonton (16-5): Blue Devils are top seed in SJ 3. They have a dangerous scorer in senor Christian Mortellite, who is averaging 22.
Cherry Hill East (17-5): The Cougars have won seven in a row for the second time this season. That's not easy to do. Senior guard Hank Davis has averaged 15.2 in this run.
Sterling (15-6): The Silver Knights have won six in a row. Matt Callen has scored 46 in last two games.
Bishop Eustace (12-8): The Crusaders showed serious resilience in battling back from 20- point deficit against Paulsboro on Saturday. They cut it to eight and a floater that would have cut it to six rattled in and out. Great work by junior guards Flo DaSilva and Dvonne Trumbo.
Medford Tech (12-8): The Jaguars took their lumps against St. Anthony of Jersey City on Thursday. But coach Nick Powell thinks those kinds of games will pay off in the future for his young team.
Williamstown (14-7): The Braves have a big game Tuesday at Triton, with TriCo Royal title likely at stake. Williamstown is 8-1 in division, Triton is 8-2.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.