South Jersey public school boys’ basketball playoff preview

by Marc Narducci | Feb 20, 2023
South Jersey public school boys’ basketball playoff preview

The NJSIAA boys’ basketball state tournament begins a week earlier this season. The first games are Monday, Feb. 20. This season’s state championships will be the first weekend of March. There is no Tournament of Champions since the NJSIAA has discontinued it.

On Friday, the Camden School District announced that it was withdrawing Camden and Woodrow Wilson from the state tournament following a fight on Thursday night between the two teams in the finals of the Camden County Tournament at Cherry Hill East. Camden was leading 30-17 when the game was canceled with 4:23 left in the second quarter. Both Camden and Wilson were No. 2 seeds in South Jersey Group 2 and 3 tournaments respectively. Both first-round opponents, Lindenwold for Camden and Clearview for Woodrow Wilson, received first-round byes. 

Here is a look at the four Public School Groups in South Jersey.

South Jersey Group 1                                                                                     

Defending champion: Gloucester

This year’s expected contenders: Wildwood is the top seed, but this Group is wide open. Wildwood (20-6) has only lost to one Group 1 team, but that was to a Salem squad that the Warriors split with. The most recent game was a 70-40 loss at Salem. Second-seeded Woodbury will be a major threat. The Thundering Herd, (18-6) have not lost to a South Jersey Group 1 team all season. Senior football standout JaBron Solomon has also been a dominant player in basketball for the Thundering Herd, averaging 21.6 points. No. 3 Paulsboro, No. 4 Burlington City and certainly No. 5 Salem can’t be discounted. Last year’s sectional champ Gloucester has moved to Group 2.                                                                                                             

South Jersey Group 2

Defending champion: Camden

This year’s expected contenders: The loss of Camden in the tournament changes everything. Last year Camden wasn’t challenged in South Jersey, defeating Haddonfield 78-45 in the championship. Now with Camden out, SJ Group 2 is up for grabs. Haddonfield had earned the No. 1 seed (even when Camden was eligible) and the Bulldogs now take the favorite’s role. This season Haddonfield has only lost to one SJ Group 2 team all year, Sterling, but the Bulldogs won the second meeting between the two, 57-40. Now, No. 3 Cinnaminson and No. 4 Sterling are among the other viable contenders.

South Jersey Group 3

Defending Champion: Camden Eastside

This year’s expected contenders: Mainland (22-3) is the top seed and even had Camden Eastside stayed in the tournament, the Mustangs would have been the favorite. Mainland’s lone losses have been to defending SJ Group 4 champ Lenape, 41-29, Group 4 Egg Harbor Township, 55-41, and to this year’s top-seeded SJ Group 2 team Haddonfield, 43-42. The top challenger now could be No. 4 seeded Moorestown (18-7), which has played a tough schedule and won the Olympic Conference Patriot Division with a 10-0 mark.  

South Jersey Group 4

Defending champion: Lenape.

This year’s expected contenders: Lenape is the top seed and the Indians will be difficult to dethrone. They are among the top defensive teams in South Jersey and should be involved in several low-scoring games. No. 2 Toms River North, No. 3 Egg Harbor Township and No. 4 Eastern are all threats. Eastern is the one South Jersey Group 4 team that has defeated Lenape. The teams have split their two games. A team to watch is No. 6 seeded Cherokee, which has lost twice this year to Lenape but only by a total of three points.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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