Mainland, Lenape Enjoyed Great Team Success in Girls’ Basketball

by Marc Narducci | Mar 12, 2019
Mainland, Lenape Enjoyed Great Team Success in Girls’ Basketball
As impressive as Mainland was in winning the South Jersey Group 3 girls’ basketball championship, the Mustangs took it up a notch after that.
Mainland ended its tournament run by winning its first ever girls’ basketball state title with a 42-35 victory over Chatham in the Group 3 state title game.
This state championship was won with a sterling defensive effort.
In the six state tournament wins, the Mustangs allowed just 30.1 points per game. That is championship caliber defense.
Mainland has one of the best players in the state in 6-3 junior Kylee Watson. In fact Watson is considered one of the top juniors in the country. She had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the state championship win. Freshman guard Camryn Dirkes also had 11 points in the state final.
Where Mainland showed its depth was in a 49-33 state semifinal win over Westampton Tech. In that game, senior Claudia Mairone scored 14 points, Dirkes added 11 and Watson had nine.
Watson faces all sort of double and triple teaming and a key during the tournament was others stepping up.
Mainland (28-3) has to face Group 2 state champion Manchester Township in Tuesday’s first-round Tournament of Champions game.
To be honest, the TOC is looked on as gravy, a reward for a state championship team to get at least one extra game. Critics say it takes away from a state champion, because only one of the six champs will end up winning their final game.
We never agreed with that logic. Nothing should detract from winning a state title and the TOC should be looked on as a bonus, for a team to extend its season and face the best possible competition.
With North and Central Jersey dominating girls’ basketball in recent years, it has shown how difficult it is for a South Jersey team to win a title.
Last year no schools from the seven-county South Jersey area even reached a state final. In 2017, Ocean City fell to Pascack Valley in the Group 3 state championship.
Before Mainland, the last team from the seven-county South Jersey area to win a state title was Lenape in 2016.
And speaking of Lenape, the Indians were the other South Jersey team to compete in a state final this year. (Non-Public A state champion St. Rose of Belmar competes in the South bracket, but isn’t from the seven-country area).
Lenape enjoyed a great season before running into powerhouse Franklin in this year’s state Group 4 championship. Final score: Franklin 73, Lenape 35.
Franklin showed why it improved to 32-0 and earned the top seed in the Tournament of Champions.
Still, Lenape (28-4) had a great season and proved to be among the most pleasant surprises in all of South Jersey.
The Indians defeated South Jersey’s No. 1 ranked team Cherokee, 41-30 to win the South Jersey Group 4 title.
While Cherokee was favored, Lenape had defeated the Chiefs in the regular season. The two Olympic Conference American Division teams split their two regular season games. Lenape and Cherokee tied for the American Division title.
So it was a great season for coach Rob Hummel’s Indians. And it was a strong year for South Jersey. This was the first time that more than one team from the seven-county South Jersey area reached a state final since 2015, when Shawnee and Haddon Township were runner-up respectively in Group 4 and Group 1.

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Author: Marc Narducci


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