Cherokee Among Many Group 4 Contenders

Cherokee Among Many Group 4 Contenders Cherokee Among Many South Jersey Group 4 Boys’ Basketball Contenders

One of the pleasant surprises of the young South Jersey boys’ basketball season has been the play of Cherokee.

The Chiefs won four of their first five games, with the one loss a 63-61 defeat to New York’s Msgr. Farrell.

The game where the Chiefs really opened up some eyes was during their second game of the season, a 51-47 victory over a Camden Catholic team that began the season as South Jersey’s No. 1 ranked team and is there again this week in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Senior Paul Bellamy, who averaged 12.7 points a year ago, has been the leader for the Chiefs. He scored 29 points in the win over Camden Catholic. Cherokee opened the season with a 62-40 win over Winslow Township in an interdivisional Olympic Conference game.

After the win over Camden Catholic, Cherokee then played two teams that are expected to be serious contenders in what is looking like a crowded South Jersey Group 1 field.

First off was a 52-39 win over Schalick, as Grant Gibson led the way with 15 points. More impressively, Cherokee held Schalick’s 6-6 senior Mike Holloway to 12 points and seven rebounds. Now that is a stat line that many athletes would take, especially against a team like Cherokee, but Holloway is an explosive player, a Division I recruit who is headed to Fairleigh Dickinson and the Chiefs did a good job in containing him.

The Chiefs then beat another serious Group 1 contender, Haddon Heights, 69-63 in overtime as Tyler Tobin had 17 points and Bellamy added 15, while hitting 7 of 8 free throws.

For the second straight game, Cherokee faced a future Division I player, Haddon Heights guard Lucian Brownlee, who will attend Coppin State. Brownlee was held to 10 points.

Facing high caliber players such as Holloway and Brownlee will help Cherokee as it enters its conference schedule.

The fact that Cherokee has emerged as one of the top teams in South Jersey, and a viable contender in a deep South Jersey Group 4 race, should be no surprise. Last year, the Chiefs advanced to the South Jersey Group 4 championship before losing to Cherry Hill East.

Cherokee ended last season 18-9, and that deep playoff run set the tone for this year.

Then again, Cherokee will be prepared for the state tournament after competing in the Olympic Conference American Division. That means playing contending teams like Cherry Hill East, Lenape and Eastern twice each.

All four of these American Division teams can make a good argument to contend in South Jersey Group 4.

Besides those four teams, others, such as Atlantic City, Rancocas Valley, Cherry Hill West and Shawnee, are among the other expected contenders in Group 4. This is one of the deepest Group 4 fields in a while.

Cherry Hill East won’t relinquish the title easily, but Cherokee is expected to be in the thick of things. Beating a team like Camden Catholic shows the talent the Chiefs have. The next step is surviving a killer schedule that also includes the likes of Shawnee, Cherry Hill West, Kingsway, Bishop Eustace and Haddonfield, just to name a few.

It is one of the toughest overall schedules in South Jersey, but this year’s Cherokee team, just like last season’s, seems well equipped to handle this difficult workload.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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