A Dream Season for Camden Basketball

A Dream Season for Camden Basketball
Camden’s boys’ basketball team had one of the most impressive seasons in South Jersey history, but it is difficult to tell how history will treat the Panthers, due no fault of their own.
The coronavirus forced the NJSIAA to cancel the NJSIAA state tournament, so Camden, who last won a state title in 2000 when the Panthers were won their lone Tournament of Champions title, was unable to play in the state championship.
Actually, the season for Camden ended after a decisive performance in the South Jersey playoffs. Camden won the South Jersey Group 2 title by beating Haddonfield 70-42. 
Camden won its four South Jersey playoff games by an average of 44.5 points. The closest game among the four was the sectional final victory over Haddonfield 
After the South Jersey Group 2 final, Camden was supposed to play Central Jersey champion Manasquan in the state semifinal. Manasquan withdrew from the tournament due to the coronavirus. Shortly after the state playoffs for boys’ and girls’ basketball were cancelled.
Camden finished 29-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com.
First-year coach Rick Brunson, a former long-time NBA player who also starred at Temple, had a major impact on the team.
The Panthers also had a great mixture of youth and experience Lance Ware, a 6-foot-9 senior who is headed to Kentucky, was the leader.
Ware didn’t have off-the-wall statistics, but he was a stabilizing force for such a young team.
Guard DJ Wagner, considered among the best freshmen in the country, led Camden in scoring averaging 18.6 points.
Junior forward TaQuan Woodley would have been a high scorer on many teams, but he was able to blend his skills as a tenacious rebounder and defender while having the ability to score when needed. He is among many Division I prospects from the team.
Junior forward Jerome Brewer is another Division 1 prospect. Freshmen Cian Medley and Sebastian Robinson and junior Devin Benson gave the Panthers solid guard play.  Freshman forward Sebastian Robinson added to the frontcourt depth.
The lone loss to Camden was to Philadelphia power Roman Catholic, 70-59 on Dec. 30. Camden would not lose a game in 2021 and captured its final 25 games. Included was a 61-59 win over nationally ranked Rancho Christian California.
In addition to winning the South Jersey Group 2 title, the Panthers also were champions of the Olympic Conference National Division, considered the deepest in South Jersey with the likes of Paul VI, Camden Catholic and Bishop Eustace.
There was also an overtime win over eventually South Jersey Non-Public B champion Wildwood Catholic, the consensus No. 2 team in South Jersey.
While filling in the leadership void left by Ware will be difficult, expect Camden to me among the top teams in the state next year.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of Marc Narducci

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