By Phil Anastasia
Here's a closer look at this week's sectional finals in boys' basketball
S.J. Group 4
No. 2 seed Lenape (25-3) at No. 1 Atlantic City (26-1), 7 p.m.
Lenape X-ray: The Indians have allowed 90 points, total, in three tournament games. The Indians were sensational against Shawnee, winning by 51-27 and holding their archrivals to to its lowest scoring total since at least 1976 (research courtesy of the BCT's encyclopedic Tom Rimback). At the other end of the floor, junior Cameron Green displayed emerging offensive skills. He went coast-to-coast with a sick behind-the-back move in one highlight. He's a tough matchup, as is senior forward Tabu Gaither (12.6 average).
Atlantic City X-ray: The Vikings have won 48 of their last 51 games. This team just plays defense, defense and more defense. Sound familiar, Lenape fans? The difference is AC's ability to pressure man-to-man over 94 feet. That's not Lenape's style. The Vikings aren't a great outside shooting team although senior Dayshawn Reynolds, junior Isiah Graves and frosh Lamar Thomas have been known to knock down a key 'three.' Senior center Jah-leem Montague always is a key for AC. He's a 6-8 force at the defensive end and on the backboards.
Breakdown: First team to 40 wins? This should be a pitched battle between two physical, athletic teams that are committed to playing defense. Lenape guards Sawyer Hand, Paul Mostak and Kendall Green have to handle AC's full-court pressure and get the Indians into their motion offense. AC's gym is so large and generic that it really doesn't offer much in the way of a homecourt advantage.
Pick: Lenape, 40-38.
S.J. Group 2
No. 4 Sterling (20-7) at No. 3 Medford Tech (18-10), 6 p.m.
Sterling X-ray: Senior guard Jerry Crismond has averaged 21 points in last five games. The Silver Knights are on a remarkable roll. Has any team ever lost to another team by 30 in the season opener and come back to knock that team out of the playoffs? Ever? That's what Sterling did this season against Haddonfield, losing 77-47 on opening night and beating the Bulldogs by 62-53 in the semis on Friday night. A strong senior class led by Crismond and Marcus Taylor has the Silver Knights on a mission. Junior Marvin Jones played the game of his career, scoring 23 against Haddonfield.
Medford Tech X-ray: Sophomore guard Myles Powell has made 75 three-pointers. Junior point guard Eli Cain went for 26 in an upset at Middle Township on Friday night and controlled the game, according to coach Nick Powell. The silky-smooth Cain, who has drawn recruiting interest from St. Joseph, Villanova and Rutgers, is blowing up as one of SJ's best players. He's a tough matchup because of his inside-outside versatility.
Breakdown: It's Sterling's seniors vs. Medford Tech's young stars. There aren't nearly enough seats in MT's little gym for all the fans who want to see this game. That's a common theme this March.
Pick: Sterling, 62-60.
S.J. Group 3
No. 4 Timber Creek (14-13) at No. 2 Camden (19-10), 6 p.m.
Timber Creek X-ray: The Chargers have won three tourney games by 25, 16 and 25 points. The return of 6-8 center Dominique Reid from a knee injury has made a big difference for the Chargers. Senior swingman Sameen Swint, who sat out the first 30 days after transferring from PVI, has found his stride, too. Now senior point guard George Sapp doesn't have to try to do too much. This is a dangerous team.
Camden X-ray: The Panthers have won 42 sectional titles. Camden's tradition means a lot to its current players, especially junior guard Tavaris Headen (17.6 points per game). Frosh Jamal Holloway looks like an emerging star and soph Rasool Hinson is coming off one of his best games of the season in a 71-59 win over Moorestown on Saturday.
Breakdown: Key battle involves big men Amir Maddred of Camden and Reid of Timber Creek. Maddred has great hands for a center but has been a little inconsistent. Reid still isn't close to 100 percent with regard to his knee. Watch for the whistles in this matchup. This game is an interesting clash of a program with as much tradition as any program in any sport in SJ and this relatively new power. But TC is fast establishing itself in a lot of sports.
Pick: Camden, 68-64.
S.J. Group 1
No. 2 Pitman (22-5) at No. 1 Paulsboro (26-2), 6 p.m.
Pitman X-ray: Junior Eric Stafford is averaing 16.6 points. The Panthers took care of business against Penns Grove in the sectional semis as 6-9 soph Tim Delaney went for 28 points and 20 rebounds. Stafford and junior guard Darnell Foreman played well, too. This is going to be one of SJ's Top 5 teams next season as the Panthers return all five starters.
Paulsboro X-ray: The Red Raiders are 56-2 in the last two seasons. Pitman coach Kevin Crawford, who has a great feel and appreciation for the South Jersey basketball scene, said Paulsboro "deserved" to win a state title as a "legacy" for how well the Red Raiders have played over the last two seasons. But Crawford was quick to add: "But we're not going to hand it to them." Paulsboro senior Xavier Lundy is on a mission to cement his personal legacy by leading the Red Raiders to just the program's second state title and first since 1996.
Breakdown: Paulsboro's 1-3-1 zone creates a lot of trouble, especially on the Red Raiders' home court. A key will be the ability of Paulsboro 6-8 senior Julien Davenport to at least contain Delaney. Whistles could be the key in that matchup. Paulsboro's depth could be a factor as well. This is a game that could have sold-out a big neutral site such as Clearview, Kingsway or GCC. All those fans who will be shut out make a pretty compelling argument for the NJSIAA to move sectional finals back to neutral sites. Of course,, the onus really is on the schools. The NJSIAA changed the format because it had so much trouble finding schools willing to host these games as neutral sites. I don't get that. I guess there are security concerns and administrative headaches. But it also seems like a huge money-maker for booster clubs that run snack stands.
Pick: Paulsboro, 70-65.
C.J. Group 3
No. 5 Lawrence (18-10) at No. 3 Northern Burlington (18-11), 7 p.m.
Lawrence X-ray: Four players scored in double figures in 56-53 win over No. 1 ColtsNeck.
Northern Burlington X-ray: Stephon Gadiere (14.0) and Joey Montalvo (12.9) lead the Greyhounds in scoring. NBC on Cinderella run after finishing 5-7 in Burlco Patriot Division. Yes, 5-7 and in fourth place. But it reflects well on the division that the fourth-place team now is playing in the sectional final.
Breakdown: NBC last won a sectional title in 1973. That team lost to East Orange in the Group 3 state finals. That was the season before Camden won the Group 3 title with team that featured Darryl Lee, Charles Brent, Art Still and Derrick Ramsey. That was a long time ago.
Pick: NBC, 54-50.
South Non-Public A
No. 4 Paul VI (26-3) vs. No. 2 St. Joseph of Metuchen (24-4) at Jackson Liberty, 6 p.m.
Paul VI X-ray: The Eagles have won 12 in a row. Surviving that struggle against rival CC on Thursday night set this team loose in an 88-66 victory over No. 1 seed Notre Dame on Saturday. That was a break-out game for junior Jair Green, who went for a career-high 23. Junior forwards Jay Howard and Matt Risse have been leading the way along with junior point guard Ivan Robinson. An absolutely loaded junior class means the Eagles will be open for business next season. But these guys want to seize this opportunity.
St. Joseph X-ray: The Falcons are defending Non-Public A state champions. St. Joseph 7 -0 sophomore Karl Towns, a Kentucky commit, had 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks in 80- 39 win over No. 3 St. Augustine. The Falcons also have a pair of D-1 level juniors in 6-3 guards Marques Townes and Wade Baldwin.
Breakdown: PVI lost to SJ in this game last year when Towns, then a freshman, made the play of the game with a four-point play. PVI has excellent overall size. But the Eagles don't have a single player who stands 6-5 (unless senior Matt O'Keefe gets on his tippy-toes). That makes for a difficult matchup with Towns, who likes to roam outside but likely will be ordered to stay in the paint in this game.
Pick: St. Joseph, 58-54.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @PhilAnastasia