By Phil Anastasia
This is the last ranking of the regular season.
It's pretty interesting that AC and Paulsboro were No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason rankings and stayed there for more than two months.
There was a lot of movement below them, but the Vikings and the Red Raiders stayed solid all season, going a combined 47-3 with just one loss to a SJ team (and that was AC over Paulsboro at CHE last weekend).
Here's the new Top 10, with previous ranking in parentheses:
1. Atlantic City (1) 23-1
The Vikings are 11-1 in elimination games in the Cape-Atlantic League and Group 4 state tournaments in the last two seasons. Senior guard Dayshawn Reynolds, who went for 23 in a 57-51 win over No. 8 Middle in the CAL title game Sunday, said it was a result of his team's "mental toughness." Here's a quirk that means nothing but I still find interesting: Three of this team's starters -- Reynolds, junior guard Isiah Graves and junior forward Dennis White -- are left-handed.
2. Paulsboro (2) 24-2
Reserves Kane Segar and Derrick Burgess gave the Red Raiders a big lift in a 61-55 victory over No. 9 Haddonfield on Thursday night. Senior forward Xavier Lundy is on a mission to lead Paulsboro to the program's second state title and first since 1996. Paulsboro will miss sophomore forward Saleem Little (stress fracture on his right foot) but this team has depth. There's no Asbury Park-caliber team waiting outside SJ in Group 1 this season. But the Red Raiders likely will face some challenges in the sectional, with rival Woodbury riding high after a win over Camden Catholic on Saturday and No. 2 seed Pitman a serious threat in a potential SJ 1 final.
3. Paul VI (6) 23-3
The Eagles have won nine in a row and beat No. 8 Middle Township, Camden, No. 5 Lenape and Trenton Catholic in the last four. This team has turned it up since that Feb. 2 loss to Camden Catholic. Junior guard Ivan Robinson has found his stride and junior forward Jay Howard is playing as well as anybody in SJ. Huge matchup likely looms Thursday as No. 5 seed Camden Catholic would visit No. 4 seed PVI if both win their openers. The rivals split in the regular season and the winner would have a legit shot at knocking off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the semifinals (unless inconsistent but dangerous No. 8 seed Holy Spirit pulls the upset in the quarterfinals).
4. Lenape (3) 22-3
The Indians held five of their final seven opponents under 40 points. That lopsided loss at PVI wasn't a great sign but might not mean much. The Indians have been pretty consistent all season. One bad game doesn't portend doom. They play tough D and patient O, which usually computes to success in the state tournament. As No. 2 seed in SJ 4, Lenape is looking at a semifinals clash with No. 3 Shawnee on Friday night, if form holds in the first two rounds. That could be a great one.
5. Shawnee (4) 22-3
The Renegades are 15-1 since a Jan. 10 loss to No. 7 Eastern. The one loss was 40-38 to Lenape on Feb. 12, when the Indians' Sawyer Hand hit a three-pointer in the final seconds. That's how close this team was to finishing on a 16-game winning streak. Shawnee is a team built to win in the tourney -- senior-heavy, guard-oriented, good outside shooters and the ability to spread the floor and control tempo. I picked the Renegades to win SJ 4 in the preseason and I'm sticking with it. So now they probably are officially jinxed.
6. Rancocas Valley (7) 24-2
The Red Devils have won 19 in a row behind guards Kymere Chapman, Vince Anfield and Ned Ogoemesim. What a run for his team in 2013. They haven't lost in this calendar year. And all along coach Jay Flanagan thought 2014 was going to be his team's year. As No. 3 seed in CJ 4, RV has pretty clear road to semifinal clash at No. 2 Hillsborough, if form holds. No. 1 seed East Brunswick looms in the finals. But don't count out a team playing with the confidence that a 19-game winning streak can create.
7. Eastern (5) 19-6
Junior center Matt Klinewski has scored in double figures in 11 straight games. Not a good loss at Camden on Monday afternoon for the Vikings. But they sandwiched that with nice win over No. 9 Haddonfield and 21-point victory over CH East. This team is a bit of a mystery as the No. 5 seed in SJ 4. They could roll into top-seeded Atlantic City on Friday night with a real chance to pull the upset of the tournament. It really depends on the ability of the team's big three of Klinewski, Devon Bell and Avery Walker to all play well at the same time.
8. Middle Township (NR) 19-6
For the second year in a row, the Panthers pushed Atlantic City to the limit in the CAL tournament title game. This is a senior-heavy team that is determined to win a sectional championship. Guys such as Tom Feraco, the son of the coach, and Tom Catanoso and Darrell Shelton have been playing together for a long time. This is their last go-round. As No. 2 seed, MT has a pretty clear path to the semifinals, where they would meet No. 3 Medford Tech if form holds. A visit to No. 1 Haddonfield (assuming the Bulldogs get past No. 8 Willingboro in the quarters) would make for a memorable sectional final.
9. Haddonfield (9) 23-3
The top-seeded Bulldogs could see eighth-seeded Willingboro in the South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinals on Wednesday night. That would be an incredibly tough second-round game for a No. 1 seed. But that's how the math worked out this year. Haddonfield has the edge playing at home. The Bulldogs went eye-to-eye with Paulsboro Thursday night; Willingboro will not be any bigger or more physical. Haddonfield rates the edge playing at home as they shoot so well in their little gymnasium.
10. St. Augustine (8) 21-5
The third-seeded Hermits are on a collision course with second-seeded St. Joseph of Metuchen and Kentucky-bound Karl Towns Jr., a seven-foot sophomore, in the semifinals of the South A tournament. The Prep have a knack for playing well in the state tournament. They can get to the semifinals behind senior guards Mike Greenman and David Sullivan. But beating SJM up there would be a literally tall task.
In the mix:
Burlington City (23-2): Senior guard Josh Young and juniors Jelani Glaze and Derrick Wright have the No. 2 seeded Blue Devils in position capture the CJ 1 sectional title under veteran coach Paul Collins.
Camden Catholic (19-7): The Irish are looking at a second-round South A showdown on Thursday night at Paul VI. This team has been a little inconsistent down the stretch (4-3 in last seven) but they also are capable of going all the way to South A final behind senior swingman Kyle Green (23.2 point average in last five games).
Camden (16-10): The Panthers played a brutal stretch in the final three weeks, losing to Willingboro, Paulsboro, PVI and Shawnee and beating St. Augustine, Camden Catholic and Eastern. They should be ready for the SJ 3 tournament. Junior guard Tavaris Headen has been on fire over last eight games, averaging 22.8 points.
Pitman (20-5): The No. 2 Panthers are on course for a rubber match with No. 3 seed Penns Grove in SJ 1 semifinals. The TriCo rivals split in the regular season. No. 1 Paulsboro likely will be waiting in the finals. A tough schedule down the stretch (losses to Haddonfield, St. Augustine and Lenape) could have this team ready for a deep run in the tournament.
Bishop Eustace (17-9): The Crusaders have been battled tested by a demanding schedule and are a dangerous No. 7 seed in South A with a pair of seasoned seniors in Tom Falconiero, the son of the coach, and Ry'n Bland.
Hammonton (19-6): The No. 1 seed in SJ 3 has a pretty clear road to the semifinals. There, they likely will face a big challenge from darkhorse contender Timber Creek, the No. 4 seed.
Willingboro (15-10): The wild card of all wild cards in SJ 2. Could lose to red-hot No. 9 seed Pemberton first round. Could win it all. Most likely scenario is win over Pemberton and tough loss at No. 1 Haddonfield on Wednesday night. But it's tough to get a handle on this squad.
Wildwood Catholic (20-5): As the No. 3 seed, the Crusaders could make the semifinals in South B behind juniors Eddie McWade and Jordan Robertson. And a visit to No. 2 seed Roselle Catholic in the semifinals would be a great experience for a young team.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.