By Phil Anastasia
I wish Paul VI and Haddonfield played this season.
That would answer the question at the top of the rankings.
I moved Haddonfield to No. 1 and dropped Paul VI to No. 2 after this weekend's games at the Cherry Hill East Invitational.
I was that impressed with Haddonfield's play in a 51-42 victory over Holy Spirit.
And I couldn't ignore Paul VI's 54-40 loss to St. Anthony of Jersey City in the final game of the two-day, 11-game showcase.
But I wrestled with it. Haddonfield is 20-0, has wins over Rancocas Valley, Wildwood Catholic, Paulsboro, Bishop Eustace and Holy Spirit.
The Bulldogs have been great all season and are getting stronger.
PVI lost to an out-of-area power that played one of its best games of the season -- St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley was thrilled with his team's performance Sunday night at the CHE Invitational.
So it was a tough call. But I came back to this: Haddonfield might not have beaten St. Anthony on Sunday, either. In fact, I don't think the Bulldogs would have beaten the Friars.
But I don't think they would have played tenatively for the first 20 minutes and fallen behind by 19, either.
Here are the new rankings, delayed a day by a busy weekend. Last week's ranking in parentheses:
1. Haddonfield (2) 20-0
The Bulldogs aren't a very good shooting team. They can't even make their foul shots, going 4-for-14 against Holy Spirit. But they play sensational defense, scrap for loose balls and offensive rebounds and they are fully engaged for every moment of every possession -- that's the secret to their success. Those football guys have teammed up with the DePersia twins to create one terrific basketball team.
2. Paul VI (1) 16-2
The Eagles did not play well in the first 20 minutes of that 54-40 loss to St. Anthony. Some of that was just a function of playing against a very good team that was near the top of its game. You can't discount that. But some of it is on the Eagles -- they seemed tentative in front of a huge crowd at CHE. So they drop a spot. But with their schedule and their roster, they have an opportunty to rise back to the top of the rankings before this season is finished.
3. St. Augustine (4) 18-2
The Hermits caught a break when Eastern center Matt Klinewski, who already had 29, fouled out on a tough call off the ball with 2:24 left on Sunday. But this team seems to find a way to win. They are balanced, unselfish and have a knack for making basketball plays. Veteran coach Paul Rodio should get his 800th career win Tuesday vs. Lower Cape May. He downplays it but it's a remarkable accomplishment -- only Hurley and the late Jerry Molloy have reached 800 in state history.
4. Atlantic City (3) 16-4
The Vikings are the "best fourth-quarter team in South Jersey," according to Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan. AC opened the fourth quarter on a 17-2 surge to beat RV by 54-46 Sunday at CHE. This is not the same AC team that won back-to-back Group 4 state titles. But the Vikings are "starting to get it," coach Gene Allen said. Junior forward Kevin Allen scored 16 against RV. He's an 'X' factor for the Vikings. When he's playing well and scoring, this is a very tough team to beat.
5. Eastern (5) 18-4
Klinewski and senior guard Alex Barr continue to carry the Vikings. That was a tough call that sent Klinewski to the bench late in the St. Augustine game. The 6-foot-8 center and Lafayette recruit is making a strong run at Player of the Year honors, although when it comes to awards such as that, the next three weeks carry a lot of weight.
6. Rancocas Valley (6) 16-5
Flanagan was disappointed with the way his team buckled against AC in the fourth quarter, saying "They are the two-time defending state champions and we're just another high school basketball team." The Red Devils are more than that. RV has been playing good basketball for a few weeks. Seniors Nick Davidson and Vince Anfield have stepped up their game, sophomore point guard Adam Perry is showing flashes of big-time ability -- although he looks like a sophomore at times, too -- and the return of junior swingman Shaun Bradley adds toughness and athleticism. Watch these guys in SJ 4.
7. Wildwood Catholic (12) 17-4
The Crusaders don't have a bad loss and really were only significantly outplayed by Haddonfield in the Jeff Coney Classic at RV. They could be the top seed in the Cape-Atlantic League tournament. If they make it through that minefield, they'll deserve a higher ranking than this.
8. Bishop Eustace (9) 15-6
The Crusaders have won seven of eight and the only loss was in OT to Haddonfield. They've beaten Eastern, CH East, Camden and Camden Catholic in that stretch behind senior guard Flo DaSilva, juniors Brandon Cazan and Connor McLaughlin and sophomore guard Mike Cohen, their best outside shooter. They get their shot at a piece of the Olympic National title when they host Paul VI Thursday night.
9. Schalick (8) 17-3
Senior center Rashaan Holloway, a UMass recruit, returned Saturday after missing three games with an elblow injury. One of those games was a lopsided loss to Eastern at Bishop Eustace. The Cougars will get their chance to justify this ranking in the SJ 1 tournament, as they likely will have Paulsboro in the semifinals and Pitman in the title game, if forms holds.
10. Holy Spirit (8) 16-5
The Spartans couldn't keep pace with Haddonfield on Saturday at CHE. But that hardly makes them unique. It was clear during that game that senior swingman Junior Saintel and junior guard John Middleton are two of the most talented players in SJ. This will be a dangerous team in the CAL tournament and as the No. 3 seed in South B.
11. Camden Catholic (7) 14-6
The Irish were methodical in an impressive 64-45 win over Medford Tech on Sunday. This team might be the best mid-range shooting team in SJ. They were on Sunday, anyway. They must have made 10 jumpers from between 12 and 16 feet. Junior center Brendan Crawford showed great touch. He's picked up his game in the second half of the season and is going to start drawing some serious college interest.
12. Camden (14) 13-7
The Panthers seized command of the fourth quarter and rallied to beat Pitman Saturday at CHE. It was a big win for Camden, which had been scuffling a bit. Senior guard Tavaris Headen looked like the player who was first team ASJ as a junior.
13. Pitman (12) 16-4
Pitman was finally at full strength, as senior guard Eric Stafford was back after missing several games with an ankle injury. Stafford is the key to this team -- if he gets back to 100 percent (and he didn't appear quite there yet against Camden) this is a different team.
14. Paulsboro (13) 16-4
The Red Raiders overwhelmed Shawnee in an early game Saturday at CHE. The two-time SJ 1 champions will be the No. 4 seed in this year's tournament.
15. Millville (15) 14-4
Consecutive losses to Atlantic City knocked the Thunderbolts out of CAL American contention. But still a dangerous team in the CAL tourney and a darkhorse in SJ 4.
16. Medford Tech (16) 16-6
The Jaguars can win the BCL Patriot this week with wins over Willingboro and Pemberton. They also play at RV Friday. Tough week.
17. Pemberton (17) 16-2
Pemberton is still alive in the BCL Patriot but needs to beat Medford Tech Thursday. They could play Med Tech for a third time in the semifinals of the SJ 2 tournament.
18. Cherry Hill East (NR) 16-5
The Cougars needed that 50-49 win over rival CH West on Saturday in the worst way. They could see the Lions again in the second round in SJ 4.
19. Doane (19) 20-2
The No. 5 seed in South B has an interesting home game against St. Joseph of Hammonton in the first round.
20. Penns Grove (20) 14-4
The No. 2 seed in SJ 1 would get Pitman at home in a third meeting between rivals that split the first two games in the semifinals of the sectional tournament, if form held.
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Delsea (13-7), St. Joseph (13-7), West Deptford (17-4), Willingboro (12-6).
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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