Basketball: Breaking down the tourneys


By Phil Anastasia

Here's a closer look at this week's four South Jersey finals and two Non-Public sectional semifinals in boys' basketball:

South Jersey Group 4

No. 6 seed Cherokee (18-8) at No. 1 Cherry Hill East (22-7), Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Coaches: Matt Shultz, Cherokee; Dave Allen, Cherry Hill East

Road to the final: Cherokee defeated Egg Harbor 63-39; Lenape, 55-45 and Southern, 63- 39. Cherry Hill East defeated Absegami, 63-27; Cherry Hill West, 51-39, and Eastern, 44-37.

Cherokee player to watch: Junior swingman Paul Bellamy is the Chiefs' most explosive offensive player.

Cherry Hill East player to watch: Junior guard Jake Silpe is a top playmaker who averages 14.9 points.

Fast fact: The teams split two meetings in Olympic American play with Cherry Hill East scoring as total of 111 points and Cherokee a total of 106.

The breakdown: This should be a low-scoring, defensive battle between two teams that are familiar with each other from Olympic American competition. CHE rates the edge thanks to one of South Jersey's best homecourt advantages -- both because of the huge student section and the way the Cougars tend to shoot from distance in their own gym.

The pick: Cherry Hill East, 54-50.

South Jersey Group 3

No. 2 Delsea (20-9) at No. 1 Mainland (18-10), Monday at 6 p.m.

Coaches: Tom Freeman, Delsea; Dan Williams, Mainland

Road to the final: Delsea defeated Seneca 78-54; Lacey Twp. 84-55 and Ocean City, 90-73; Mainland defeated Woodrow Wilson, 64-49; Highland, 74-62 and Central, 51-35.

Delsea player to watch: Junior swingman Keith Braxton is averaging 26 points in three tournament games.

Mainland player to watch: Senior swingman Darius Jerkins has scored 23, 22, 27, 30, 22 and 23 points in the Mustangs' last six games.

Fast fact: Delsea is averaging 84 points in three tournament games.

The breakdown: This is a clash of styles as Delsea wants to push the basketball while Mainland favors a more deliberate style. The Mustangs want to control tempo and pound the basketball inside to Jerkins and burly senior forward Kenny Randall. Homecourt should help Mainland, too.

The pick: Mainland 62, Delsea 59.

South Jersey Group 2

No. 4 Camden (20-9) at No. 2 Pemberton (24-3), Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Coaches: John Valore, Camden; Roy Heck, Pemberton.

Road to the final: Camden defeated Sterling, 105-63; West Deptford, 83-61 and Haddonfield, 66-57. Pemberton defeated Lower Cape May, 71-21; Collingswood, 38-34 and Medford Tech, 60-57.

Camden player to watch: Sophomore guard Brad Hawkins is averaging 16.4 points and coming off a 25-point performance in a stunning win over top-seeded Haddonfield.

Pemberton player to watch: Senior forward Shaun Brooks averages 19.8 points.

Fast fact: Camden has won 43 sectional titles, the most by any South Jersey program.

The breakdown: Camden is riding high after shocking previously undefeated Haddonfield in the semifinals. One 'X' factor to watch is Pemberton sophomore Jean LeBrun, a 6-foot-7 athlete who scored 17 in the semifinals against Medford Tech. He's a raw talent who can impact the game at the defensive end and on the boards. Camden lead guard Tavaris Headen could make hay against the Hornets' relatively inexperienced backcourt.

The pick: Camden, 68, Pemberton 62.

South Jersey Group 1

No. 3 Pitman (22-7) at No. 1 Schalick (26-3), Monday at 7 p.m.

Coaches: Kevin Crawford, Pitman; Eric Cassidy, Schalick.

Road to the final: Pitman defeated Gateway, 78-42; Burlington City, 66-49 and Penns Grove, 55-44; Schalick defeated Riverside, 77-53; Audubon, 76-38; Paulsboro, 79-55.

Pitman player to watch: Junior forward Tim Delaney, a Villanova recruit, is coming off a 16-point, 13-rebound game in the victory over Penns Grove.

Schalick player to watch: Senior center Rashaan Holloway, a Massachusetts recruit, has led the Cougars on an 11-game winning streak since returning from an elbow injury.

Fast fact: Schalick's lowest margin of victory in its 11-game winning streak was 16 points in a 67-51 triumph over Lenape.

The breakdown: Schalick is 16-0 with Rashaan Holloway on the floor since a loss to Wildwood Catholic at Paulsboro on Jan. 20. Included in that stretch was a 49-44 win over Pitman Jan. 28 in which the Cougars held the Panthers scoreless in the final four minutes. Pitman is a different team with senior guard Eric Stafford on the floor and operating near peak efficiency. He missed two chunks of the regular season with injuries and sat out the loss to Schalick. His return could make a difference. But Schalick rates a slight edge for two reasons -- homecourt advantage, and the Cougars are riding a long wave of momentum and confidence while the Panthers' second half of the season has been pretty choppy, with a 7-5 record since Feb. 8.

The pick: Schalick 51, Pitman 50.

Non-Public South A semifinals

No. 3 Paul VI (23-4) at No. 2 St. Augustine (23-4), Monday at 6 p.m.

Coaches: Tony Devlin, Paul VI; Paul Rodio, St. Augustine.

Road to the semifinals: Paul VI defeated Immaculata, 91-33 and Christian Brothers, 44-1; St. Augustine defeated Camden Catholic, 48-43.

Paul VI player to watch: Senior swingman Jay Howard has battled through a nagging ankle injury all season and has regained some of his explosiveness in the last couple of weeks.

St. Augustine player to watch: Sophomore point guard Sa'eed Nelson is the Hermits' top playermaker.

Fast fact: Paul VI is 75-12 in the last three seasons.

The breakdown: These teams have been steaming toward a collision since the middle of January, when it was apparent that St. Joseph would get the No. 1 seed and these squads were jostling for the No. 2 slot. The Hermits' home-court edge should be a factor, as they will need to hit some three-pointers to extend Paul VI's defense. PVI has battled through a lot of adversity this season, with Howard hobbled by his ankle, Ivan Robinson missing time with a concussion and now wearing a mask to protect an injured nose, and Matt Risse dealing with a back issue. But the Eagles are a veteran squad, with all seniors in their top seven, and their experience could be the difference.

The pick: Paul VI 57, St. Augustine 55.

No. 5 Bishop Eustace (20-8) at No. 1 St. Joseph Metuchen (25-2), Monday at 7 p.m.

Coaches: Bob Falconiero, Bishop Eustace; Dave Turco, St. Joseph.

Road to the semifinals: Bishop Eustace defeated Holy Cross, 45-36 and Red Bank Catholic, 67-63 in double overtime. St. Joseph defeated Notre Dame, 101-75.

Bishop Eustace player to watch: Senior guard Flo DaSilva generated 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the victory over RBC. He's been at his best in big games.

St. Joseph player to watch: Senior Karl Towns, a Kentucky recruit, is a 7-foot-1 athlete who shoots three-pointers and runs the floor like he's 6-foot-1.

Fast fact: St. Joseph is the two-time defending state champion and has eliminated Bishop Eustace (and Paul VI) in each of the last two seasons.

The breakdown: Bishop Eustace has some great victories this season, beating Paul VI twice, Eastern and Red Bank Catholic on the road. The Crusaders have a fearless lead guard in DaSilva. But St. Joe is No. 3 in the state for a reason, and Towns and Vanderbilt recruit Wade Baldwin are veterans of two state-title teams.

The pick: St. Joseph 70, Bishop Eustace 60.
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