Basketball: New Top 20

By Phil Anastasia

St. Augustine Prep has been hanging around the Top 15 for most of the season, and around the lower regions of the Top 10 for the last couple of weeks.

But this week, the Hermits rocket to No. 3 from No. 8, thanks to that 60-52 win over then-No. 2 Atlantic City before a huge crowd at the Battle by the Bay on the Vikings' home court.

Schalick moves into the Top 10 courtesy of a big win over Pitman, and Camden Catholic returns to the Top 10 as the Irish have stretched their winning streak to six games.

Here's the new Top 20, with last week's ranking in parentheses:

1. Paul VI (1) 13-1

Senior guard DeVahnte Mosley is one of the most unselfish players in South Jersey. He rarely looks for his own shot, and he's talented enough to get plenty of shots off. He generated six rebounds and seven assists in a 67-64 win over Camden on Saturday. Paul VI finally has all its elements -- Ivan Robinson (concussion) is back and Jay Howard (ankle) is moving well although he's not going to be fully healthy until he takes two weeks off in the spring.

2. Haddonfield (3) 15-0

The Bulldogs lived a little dangerously this past week, falling behind at halftime to Colonial rivals Paulsboro and Sterling before rallying for victories. They've sealed up the top seed in South Jersey Group 2. Anybody that wants to win that tournament -- and Camden, Medford Tech, Pemberton and Willingboro are among the teams that are going to take a shot -- will likely have to win in that little gym with the sunken floor, tile walls and the bad lighting.

3. St. Augustine (8) 13-1

Freshman Justyn Mutts is "going to be a great high school basketball player," veteran coach Paul Rodio said. Mutts scored 13 in a 60-52 win over then-No. 2 Atlantic City on Friday at the Battle by the Bay. Rodio is South Jersey's all-time leader with 794 career victories. He's closing on joining Bob Hurley and the late Jerry Molloy as the only boys' basketball coaches in the state to win 800. With the young talent on the roster, he's looking at a lot of wins over the next couple of years.

4. Atlantic City (2) 9-3

"I knew free-throw shooting would come back to haunt us, and it did," AC coach Gene Allen said after the 60-52 loss to St. Augustine. The Vikings were 12-for-20, which isn't great but not terrible, either. But seven of the misses were in the second half. Plus, the Hermits were 23-for-25, including 10-for-10 in the fourth. So that made AC's mediocre work at the line seem even worse. What bothered Allen even more was his team's lack of consistent pressure on the ball on defense. That's been the hallmark of his championship teams.

5. Cherry Hill East (5) 15-1

The Cougars just keep rolling. They've won 11 in a row and look like the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament. Junior Jake Silpe is a consistent playmaker with a 16.2 scoring average. They have an interesting game Saturday vs. Millville at the Shoot Down Cancer Classic at St. Augustine. They could see the Thunderbolts again in the SJ 4 tounament.

6. Eastern (6) 12-3

Seniors Matt Klinewski and Alex Barr have each scored in double figures in 11 straight games. Klinewski is leading in South Jersey in scoring with a 23.9 average. He's gone for 32 twice in the last three games. The 6-7 Klinewski will square off with 6-9 Rashaan Holloway as Eastern meets Schalick at the TriState Showcase at Bishop Eustace on Saturday.

7. Rancocas Valley (9) 12-3

The Red Devils are going to be a tough out in the SJ 4 tournament. Senior center Nick Davidson probably played his best game of the season in a 59-54 victory over Sanford (Del.) Prep on Friday at the Battle by the Bay. He was active on the glass, made a couple deep jumpers and was 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch. There's an outside chance RV could get junior guard Shaun Bradley, their top defender, back for the stretch run. Bradley injured his knee playing football in October.

8. Schalick (14) 13-2

The Cougars showed some resolve in a 49-44 victory over Pitman, holding the Panthers scoreless over the final four minutes. Senior center Rashaan Holloway has been remarkably consistent. He scores in high double figures in every game, stays out of foul trouble and is a workhorse on the boards.

9. Pitman (4) 14-2

The Panthers played strong defense in shutting down fast-paced Medford Tech in a 55-46 win on Saturday at the Battle by the Bay. It was a bust-out game for senior Tyler Wisniewski, a transfer from Deptford. He went for 22 to lead all scorers. He's scored 39 in the last two games, picking up the scoring slack in the absence of injured senior Eric Stafford (ankle). Pitman remains a work in progress because the Panthers are still fitting pieces together and Stafford, the team's glue, has been out of the lineup twice with injuries (concussion symptoms, ankle).

10. Camden Catholic (12) 10-4

The Irish have won six in a row. They've been a different team since senior guard Rob Brosh has returned from injury. Junior forward Brendan Crawford is averaging 19.8 in the last five games. The Irish get their shot at the title on Tuesday, as they visit Paul VI. Last year, PVI dominated the first game and CC won the rematch. PVI dominated the first game this year. If CC pulls the upset, the Irish would take over sole possession of first place in the Olympic National, South Jersey's toughest division.

11. Paulsboro (10) 12-3

The Red Raiders have lost to three good teams. But they lack that "marquee win," notes coach Sean Collins. They were on the brink Tuesday at home against Haddonfield, building a 19-point lead and holding four with a little more than a minute to play. But they couldn't close the deal. One thing stood out: It was a fierce, physical game and the refs let them play. And that favored the visiting team in Paulsboro's gym. And how often has that been the case in recent Paulsboro history?

12. Wildwood Catholic (15) 12-4

The Crusaders got a signature win, beating then-No. 7 Holy Spirit in a wild game Saturday night at the Battle by the Bay in Atlantic City. A drive, spin and hoop by senior Jordan Robertson in the final 30 seconds was the game's key play. WC also has beaten Schalick. The Crusaders don't have a bad loss, dropping decisions to AC, La Salle (Pa.), Phelps (Pa.) and Haddonfield.

13. Holy Spirit (7) 11-4

The Spartans had control against Wildwood Catholic with a 13-point lead but the game got away in the fourth quarter. A technical foul on a player was critical. The talent is there but right now this team is struggling to find play-in and play-out consistency.

14. Camden (13) 10-5

The return of senior guard Tavaris Headen, an ASJ first-teamer as a junior, and the addition of senior forward Nasir Money makes the Panthers a much deeper, more talented team. The trick will be blending those guys with a starting five that played almost all the minutes through the first six weeks of the season.

15. Bishop Eustace (NR) 10-5

The Crusaders have a couple of terrific wins, beating Paul VI and Eastern. They also lost by 15 to Camden Catholic and by 14 to Gloucester Catholic. But they could be finding their stride at the right time. They visit Camden on Tuesday in a big Olympic National game for both clubs.

16. Medford Tech (11) 10-5

The Jaguars should be ready for the SJ 2 tournament. They've been battle-tested by a tough schedule.

17. Millville (16) 11-1

The Thunderbolts have a big week, hosting Holy Spirit Tuesday and playing CH East Saturday at St. Augustine.

18. Pemberton (18) 12-2

Senior swingman Shaun Brooks is one of South Jersey's hottest players. He's scored 137 points in his last five games (27.4 average).

19. Penns Grove (17) 11-3

The Red Devils scored 116 against Clayton on Friday night. That's the most by a SJ team since . . . who knows? I don't keep those stats. Not sure anybody does.

20. Doane Academy (20) 17-1

Junior center Marcos Baez' line in an overtime win over Burlington Township on Friday night: 21 points, 28 rebounds, 16 blocks. You read that right. The 6-7 Baez is drawing heavy recruiting interest from Delaware. Junior swingman Jeffrey Sterling went for 33 in the same game.

Under consideration: Willingboro (9-5)
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