By Mike Ready

TINTON FALLS – Over the past four seasons, local, as well as national high school basketball aficionados, have been treated to watching the emergence of Ranney’s Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, as they steadily scaled new heights – literally – in their careers as the top duo to ever play together at the same school in the history of Shore Conference basketball.


Antoine and Lewis were already on everyone’s radar when they entered their freshman year at Ranney, which at the time was an obscure private school nestled in the woods of Tinton Falls and was best known as the school where Bruce Springsteen’s three kids went.


Word had spread of these two middle school phenoms who were wooing spectators with spectacular 360-dunks and effortless three-pointers as eighth graders at St. Mary School in Middletown and Ranney Middle School. And it didn’t take long for them to put Ranney on the map, not just on the local level but eventually on a national scale.


Lewis was raised in the Bronx until his family moved to New Jersey and started middle school in Hazlet before eventually landing at Ranney Middle School as an eighth grader.


Antoine was born in Florida and moved to New Jersey at an early age, attending St. Mary School where his path to stardom all began. Ironically, his first love was baseball as a lanky first baseman, but ultimately it was his unprecedented skills on the hardwood that won out.


The Antoine-Lewis tag team became a reality when in eighth grade the two became teammates on the nationally-recognized and Under Armour-backed AAU squad, Team Rio, where they quickly developed a bond between them that is impenetrable.


Antoine and Lewis’s Team Rio squad, which was coached by former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice, usually played up in the 17-under division. As sophomores, they made it to the championship game against Sports U, which featured elite New Jersey talent, including Asbury Park native Naz Ried (LSU), Jahvon Quinerly (Villanova), and Louis King (Oregon) – all three became McDonald’s All-Americans.


Team Rio was run by Brian Klatsky, whose son Alex played with Lewis at Ranney Middle School and will be attending the University of Florida as a preferred walk-on. He’s been a four-year starter at Ranney together with Lewis, Antoine and 6-foot-7 big-man Chris Autino, who recently committed to play tight end at Georgetown University.


Point guard Ahmadu Sarnor, who scored his 1000th career point a couple of weeks ago, transferred to Ranney as a sophomore from Collegian Prep in Pennsylvania and has been a starter ever since, giving the Panthers the same starting five for the past three years.


Ranney’s version of the “Fab Five” hopes to complete their journey sometime later this month with a Tournament of Champions title and No. 1 ranking in the state. They had their hearts broken in a two-point loss in last year’s Non-Public B final to eventual T.O.C. champion Roselle Catholic, which finished ranked No. 1 in New Jersey and No. 25 nationally.


Bringing home a T.O.C. championship would put the finishing touches on this storybooklike, if not magical, ride to the top of the heap for these two once-in-a-generation phenoms as they prepare to part ways following the season.


Ranney (25-3) is currently ranked No. 1 in the state and 16th nationally in the Max Preps Excellent 25 national poll while playing one of the most competitive out-of-conference schedules in the country.


Earlier this season, Antoine and Lewis became the second- and third-ever Shore Conference boys to be named McDonald’s All-Americans. They join CBA’s John Crotty, who starred at the University of Virginia before playing 11 seasons in the NBA.


It was only the second time in the 42-year history of the McDonald’s game that two players from the same New Jersey school were selected.


Both Antoine and Lewis are considered five-star blue chippers and were two of the most sought-after recruits in the country – ranked among the top 15 recruits in ESPN’s Class of 2019 – before they took themselves off the market committing to schools before the current season got underway.


With dozens of offers on the table from every top program in the country, including the likes of Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Kansas, Antoine committed to Villanova, which has won two of the last three national championships and he’ll be coached by Jay Wright – two strong selling points.  


Lewis also had offers from most the top programs in the country, including Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas, before choosing the University of Florida, which had been courting him since his freshman year and as a result, developed a close relationship with coach Mike White and his staff ever since.


Earlier this season, Antoine became just the seventh player in Shore Conference history to reach the 2000-point milestone and second since 1990 when he scored 24 points in the Panthers’ 63-58 win versus South Central in Winterville, North Carolina to capture the John Wall Invitational’s T.J. Warren Bracket.


A little over a month later, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard became the Shore Conference’s all-time scoring leader, eclipsing Croydon Hall Prep’s Norman Caldwell’s 46-year-old record of 2,302 points, when he dropped 30 in a win against rival Mater Dei giving him 2,313 career points. 


Antoine’s scoring average has increased from  year-to-year: 20.7 points as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and 21.4 as a junior and is currently averaging just under 24 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals per game this season despite never attempting more than 20 shots in any game this season.


Presently, he’s New Jersey’s 25th all-time scorer with a shot at moving up a few spots depending how far the Panthers advance in the state tournament.


Prior to Ranney’s first-round win in last Wednesday’s Non-Public Group B tournament, Antoine was presented the 2019 Kerwin Award trophy symbolizing the top boys’ basketball player in the Shore Conference.


In early January of last year, Lewis picked up his 1000th point in a 23-point effort and finished the season averaging 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and one blocked shot.


Lewis will come up just short of the magical 2000-point mark after missing five games with an ankle injury last season which didn’t help his chances. He’s averaging 17 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game so far this season.


Both Antoine and Lewis are two-time first-team All-Shore selections with Lewis securing a spot on NJ.com’s All-State first team last season, while Antoine was a second-team All-State pick. It’s a sure bet each will be selected first-team All-State this season.


Last Wednesday, Ranney’s road to the T.O.C. took another step when they beat Wildwood Catholic, 54-50, in overtime in the Non-Public South B final, setting up a rematch with defending champion Roselle Catholic, which rallied to beat the Panthers in last season’s Non-Public B final.


Antoine dropped 15 in Wednesday’s win, pushing his career point total to 2,443, while Lewis scored 17 giving him 1,834 points and counting for his career.