Tinton Falls – The Ranney School hosted its 18th Annual Panther Classic Basketball Tournament in the Gerhard Pavilion for Athletics on January 6th and 7th, resulting in the Lady Panthers’ fourth Championship title in just four years. A spirited tradition since 1994, this year’s Panther Classic featured varsity boys’ and girls’ teams from United Christian Academy, Calvary Academy, Doane Academy and Ranney School, and saw ultimate victory from Ranney School’s girls’ team and Doane Academy’s boys’ team.
The tournament began on Friday afternoon and continued well into the evening, with a girls’ game between Ranney School and Calvary Academy. A well-played first-round match, Calvary’s Dana Kelly led the Watchmen in scoring with seven points. Meanwhile, Ranney’s Carly Ansell and Madison Pflaster led the Lady Panthers with eight points apiece.
Along with the Lady Panthers, the girls’ team from United Christian Academy also qualified for final tournament play with a 38-30 victory against Doane Academy on Friday afternoon. A Panther Classic Championship game was then held on Saturday, January 7th, resulting in a back-and-forth battle between Ranney and United Christian. Knowing that only one team could be crowned champion, Volpe managed to hit four free-throws in the game’s final minute of play, giving Ranney a 24-21 lead.
“I was nervous, but trying to stay as focused as possible,” said Volpe after the game. “I knew the team was counting on me.”
“This game showed the girls that they are capable of winning a close game,” said head coach Thomas Moriau. “It gave us the confidence needed to move forward toward yet more victories on the court this year.”
Also carrying the Lady Panthers to victory alongside Volpe was Ansell with a game-high 10 points. Ansell was named MVP of the tournament as she accumulated 18 points over a two-game span. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Pflaster was one of several athletes named to the Classic’s All-Tournament team.
Following the Lady Panthers’ 35-18 win on Friday evening, Ranney’s varsity boys’ basketball team then took to the court, where it faced United Christian Academy of Cream Ridge. Ranney’s player of the game was Joseph Esquivel-Murphy, who earned 16 points, had seven steals and totaled three assists throughout the 59-18 victory.
Aside from Ranney, the boys’ team from Doane also qualified for the tournament’s championship game following a 51-32 win over Calvary. A repeat of last year’s championship match, the Panthers were unable to overcome their opponent from Doane.
“Although they did not win, Ranney’s varsity boys’ basketball team has definitely improved since last year’s tournament,” said Head Coach Tyler Schmelz.
Down 10-2 at the start of the second quarter, Ranney came back to tie the score, but failed to secure a lead as Doane regained control at the half. While senior Neil Amin scored five three-pointers, Ranney sophomores Joseph Esquivel-Murphy, Grahame Wade, and William Rotolo contributed a combined 20 points to the 61-40 loss.