By Phil Anastasia
Eli Cain said he doesn't mind when people overlook the Medford tech basketball team.
"We like being the underdog," Cain said.
Those days are over for Cain and his teammates.
Cain, a 6-5 junior, certified his status as one of South Jersey's best players in leading Medford Tech to a 87-69 victory over Sterling Monday night in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game.
Cain generated 29 points, eight assists, four blocks and four steals as Medford Tech won the first sectional title in the history of the program before a capacity crowd in the Jaguars' little gymnasium.
"There probably are people out there who think this is a fluke," said Cain, a Willingboro resident. "But we know we can play."
Sophomore guard Myles Powell added 28 points with seven steals and sophomore forward Dennis Tunstall added 13 points with three steals as third-seeded Medford Tech (19-10) advanced to face Central Jersey champion Lakewood in the Group 2 state semifinals Wednesday at Perth Amboy.
"It's our time," said Medford Tech coach Nick Powell, no relation of Myles.
Senior guard Marcus Taylor scored 28 in his final game for fourth-seeded Sterling (20-8).
"It was a good ride," Sterling coach Rob Atene said of his team's surprising run to the sectional final, which included an upset at top-seeded Haddonfield. "I'm so proud of these guys. You have to give credit to Medford Tech. They were a lot more athletic than us at the beginning."
Behind Cain, Powell and Tunstall, Medford Tech broke to a 19-4 lead, forcing Sterling into eight turnovers in the first quarter.
Cain, who has received recruiting interest from St. Joseph, Villanova and Rutgers and drew La Salle coach John Giannini to the game on Monday, used his height and vision to pass over and through Sterling's defense for repeated layups for his teammates.
Cain also made a sweet turnaround fade-away jumper from the left baseline to give Medford Tech a 57-32 lead midway in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Cain collected 10 points, shot 6-for-6 from the foul line, grabbed four rebounds and dealt three assists.
"He's just scratching the surface," Nick Powell said of Cain.
Sterling 15 15 16 23 -- 69
Medford Tech 25 21 20 21 -- 87
S: Marcus Taylor 28, Jerry Crismond 6, Khalil Howard 3, Matt Callan 10, Marvin Jones 7, Mikal Waliyyuddin 10, Zach Paige 5.
MT: Eli Cain 29, Myles Powell 28, Donte Ali 6, Dennis Tunstall 13, Derrick Jones 3, Anthony Nelson 8.
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.