Ranney School boys’ basketball history now has a clear line of demarcation.
There is the era before Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine and Ahmadu Sarnor arrived, and the era after the senior trio committed to the Tinton Falls school.
Before Lewis and Antoine enrolled at Ranney in 2015, and before Sarnor followed in 2016, the private school had never won a Shore Conference Tournament championship. Now, near the end of their senior season, the Panthers have won two conference tournament titles.
Top-seeded Ranney beat second-seeded Manasquan High School, 70-60, on Feb. 23 at Monmouth University in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game.
Lewis, who connected on 27 points, Sarnor, who scored 18, and Antoine, who recorded 17, combined for 62 of Ranney’s 70 points.
Ranney topped Mater Dei Prep, 52-28, in the 2018 conference tournament championship game.
But the boys’ championship was only the first game of a doubleheader at OceanFirst Bank Center on Monmouth University’s campus in West Long Branch on Feb. 23.
About a half hour after it ended, the Shore Conference Tournament girls’ basketball championship game began.
But the top seed in the girls’ event, Saint John Vianney High School, was upset by third-seeded Manchester Township High School, 58-42.
The Lancers dropped the Shore Conference title game for the third straight year.
They lost to Manasquan High School, 70-52, last winter and St. Rose High School, 56-31, two seasons ago. After their loss to Manchester Township, some Lancers expressed their disappointments and sorrows as they walked out of the locker room.
But the Holmdel school’s team was also staying positive.
Saint John Vianney is the No. 2 seed in the NJSIAA Non-Public A South Tournament. After a bye in the first round, the Lancers will open the state tournament at home on Feb. 28, against the survivor of the first-round game between seventh-seeded Red Bank Catholic High School or 10th-seeded Camden Catholic High School.
Saint John Vianney is hoping to win the Non-Public A South championship and the Tournament of Champions state title.
“They have a chance to pull through in the state tournament,” said Lancers’ coach Dawn Karpell.
After the buzzer sounded on the boys’ Shore Conference title game, the Panthers also started looking forward. They celebrated their victory by calmly high fiving and hugging.
“We’ll take today and tomorrow, but then on Monday, it’s right back at it,” said the Shore Conference’s all-time leading scorer, Antoine, on Saturday evening after the title game. “It’s on to states.”
Ranney has not yet won a state title. Last year, it lost to Roselle Catholic High School, 63-61, in the NJSIAA Non-Public B Tournament championship game.
This winter, Ranney will play in the NJSIAA Non-Public B South Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Panthers will open the tournament at home with a first-round game on Feb. 27 against the 15th-seeded Timothy Christian School. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. in Tinton Falls.
The Panthers are aiming to add two more trophies and banners to their boys’ basketball legacy. They especially want the biggest trophy and the most striking banner, for the Tournament of Champions state title.
Ranney has been the story of the season in New Jersey high school basketball. It wants to end the campaign as the state’s best team, too.
Lewis gathers the Panthers in a huddle before every game. At this point in the season, he offers a similar message each time.
“I remind them of everything we did to get here, and to be proud of it,” he said. “Cherish this and have fun with the people in this circle.”