Ranney School boys’ basketball staking claim to New Jersey throne

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The Ranney School played like the best boys’ basketball team in New Jersey on Jan. 30 at Brookdale Community College.

Before a packed audience of fans, media members and even University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, the Ranney School beat Roselle Catholic High School, 61-49, in The Jersey Shore Challenge.

The Ranney School led from start to finish, stretching a single digit lead to double digits in the second half against the perennial state power from Union County.

With the victory, the Tinton Falls school avenged its 63-61 loss to Roselle Catholic last season in the NJSIAA Non-Public B tournament championship game.

Their rematch on the frigid evening of Jan. 30 in Lincroft featured two power programs with eight combined Division 1 prospects and a 33-3 combined record this winter.

But on a court full of future major college players, Bryan Antoine, a Villanova commit, stood out. The Ranney School senior dropped 25 points, including four fast break dunks that brought the fans out of their seats.

Throughout the game, Antoine glided into the lane with ease, finishing with uncontested layups.

“After we lost to them last year, we had a feeling of, ‘We can’t let this happen again,'” Antoine said. “That motivated us to play even harder today.”

“Bryan’s amazing,” said Ranney School point guard Ahmadu Sarnor. “When he’s on, we’re at our best, so we always look to get him going.”

Sarnor’s presence helped get Antoine going against Roselle Catholic. The senior floor general recently regained his eligibility after a dispute with state officials. When Sarnor handles the ball and penetrates the lane, Antoine can play off, dart around the court and catch the ball in space.

It’s an old school guard dynamic that works well for the Panthers.

“Having our senior point guard is amazing. He can run the floor, he scores well and he distributes,” said Ranney School forward Scottie Lewis. “He’s a very underrated player but he’s one of the best point guards in the state.”

Lewis, a 6-6 Florida recruit, and fellow forward Phillip Wheeler, a 6-9 college prospect, controlled the paint against Roselle Catholic. Lewis recorded 10 rebounds, eight points and five blocks. Wheeler recorded 10 points and 12 boards.

“When we lost to Roselle Catholic last year, I remember seeing a picture of Ahmadu and I on our knees crying on the court,” Lewis said. “We remembered that and went back to it before this game.”

“It was a huge impact to lose that game,” Lewis added. “So coming out here tonight, we had to make a statement.”

Wheeler was not on that Ranney team last year. He transferred from Rumson-Fair Haven High School before this school year. His impact made a huge difference on Jan. 30.

“Yesterday we had an amazing practice. Everyone was focused and locked in. It just carried over from practice,” said Wheeler. “This really boosts our confidence.”

The Panthers already believed they could beat anyone. Now they know it, too. They are 18-2 this year, with only one loss coming to a New Jersey team, the highly talented Gill Saint Bernard’s School’s squad, on Jan. 27.

That one was a heartbreaker, 62-60, that could have gone either way. And like the Roselle Catholic defeat from last year, it motivated Ranney to put together a complete performance on Jan. 30.

“To come out and win this game, it shows growth,” Lewis said. “Everyone talks about Scottie (Lewis) and Bryan (Antoine). But this is a collective group. We do everything together.”

The Ranney School earned its biggest victory of the season by playing together. Now, it will have to do the same to win the state title and the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

“No one scares us,” Wheeler said.