TINTON FALLS – It will go down as one of the most memorable moments in an historic season for Shore Conference basketball. Make that one of the most enduring days ever for Jersey Shore hoops.
As the capacity crowd that poured tinto the tiny gym at the Ranney School was settling, a Senior Night eremony honored a class that had already won 90 games since it stepped onto the court as freshmen, including last year’s Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA South Non-Public B titles, while a victory against Mater Dei Prep on Wednesday gave them a third straight division crown.
And then, with 3:20 left in the third quarter, senior guard Bryan Antoine rewrote the local record book.
The Villanova-bound Antoine added the latest chapter to his burgeoning legacy in fitting fashion, on a dunk in transition, to break the 46-year-old Shore area mark of 2,302 career points set by Croydon Hall’s Norm Caldwell in 1973.
As the overflow crowd rose as one to acknowledge Antoine’s achievement, the cheers served as a salute to the 6-5 guard, as well as the generations of great players who came before him, all of whom Antoine passed at some point on his way to the top.
There to embrace Antoine were classmates Scottie Lewis, headed to play at Florida, Alex Klatsky, who will join Lewis at Florida as a preferred walk-on, and Chris Autino, who will play football at Georgetown, all of whom have been part of this since showing up as freshmen, along with head coach Tahj Holden.
Antoine finished with 30 points, giving him 2,313 for his career, as Ranney defeated Mater Dei Prep, 103-43.
“It’s just been special to see him grow over the past four years,” said Holden. “He’s worked so hard to make this possible.”
By the time Antoine walks off the court for the final time, which the Panthers hope involves a joyous celebration after the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final, he will have set a standard that could stand for decades.
“Bryan was quiet before the game,” said Lewis, who finished with 12 points. “He knew he had something to prove, breaking the record and we tried to make sure we made plays for him to break that record. We’re all just speechless. We’re all so excited for him.
“It doesn’t come around very often, a guy like that, a player like that, a genuine person like he is.. He works his butt off every day and he gives credit to everyone else. And guys like that deserve big things like this.”