It was an evening that could serve the Ranney School well in early March. Because while the Panthers didn’t win a championship in front of an overflow crowd at Brookdale’s Collins Arena, the Panthers made a statement with a resounding 61-49 victory over Roselle Catholic, the No. 1 team in the state.
By winning the battle between a pair of top 16 teams in the national USA TODAY Super 25, Ranney vanquished the demons from last year’s last-second loss to Roselle Catholic in the NJSIAA Non-Public B final, while setting the stage for what many feel will be a rematch in this year’s state final.
Ranney (17-2), which had been considered New Jersey’s No. 1 all season before Sunday’s loss to Gill St. Bernard’s, rebounded from that setback with a strong performance, as Villanova-bound guard Bryan Antoine lead the charge with 25 points.
We talked about that right after the Gill loss,” said Florida-bound guard Scottie Lewis, who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. “That feeling that we had was similar to when we lost to Roselle last year. I remember seeing a picture of Ahmadu (Sarnor) and myself on the floor crying, and we remember that, and we kind of went back to that.”
The Panthers did a solid job defensively on Roselle Catholic’s Kahlil Whitney, limiting the Kentucky recruit to 15 points.
“That was a huge impact to lose that game (last year), and we had to come out and make a statement,’’ said Sarnor, who scored 12 points in just his second game of the season. “We took that loss too hard. We had a chip on our shoulder coming out here. Everyone wanted to prove something out here, that we are the best team in the state.’’
Ranney now has three wins over teams in the USA TODAY Super 25. In addition to Roselle Catholic (15), the Panthers have beaten South Central (N.C.), ranked ninth, and Federal Way (Wash.), ranked 17th.
“After we lost to them last year we had a feeling that we can’t let that happen to us again. We used that game last year to play even harder today,” Antoine said Wednesday. He now needs just 50 points to become the all-time leading scorer at the Jersey Shore.
Ranney led 29-18 in the second quarter, but Roselle Catholic (17-2) went on a 10-3 run late to pull to within 32-28 at halftime. Antoine had 17 at the break.
But the Panthers pulled away in the second half, leading 48-39 at the end of three quarters, with that lead growing to 17 points at 61-44 in the fourth quarter.
Keying the second-half push was junior forward Phillip Wheeler, who finished with 10 points, while grabbing 12 rebounds.