By Phil Anastasia
Darnell Foreman was diplomatic.
'We had our ups and downs," Foreman said of the Pitman basketball team this season.
Eric Stafford was blunt.
"There were times when we weren't playing our best basketball," Stafford said.
But the senior guards were in agreement about one thing: Monday night's South Jersey Group 1 championship game was high time for Pitman to flash its true colors.
With Foreman and Stafford leading the way, Pitman stunned top-seeded Schalick 58-51 before a capacity-plus crowd in the Cougars' gymnasium.
"We wanted to prove what kind of team we really are," Foreman said. "That's what this game was all about for us."
Foreman led all scorers with 26 and Stafford scored 12 of his 13 in the second half for third-seeded Pitman (23-7), which advanced to face Central Jersey champion Point Pleasant Beach, the defending state champion, in the state semfinals Wednesday night at Toms River North.
Junior forward Tim Delaney added 10 points with 17 rebounds and senior forward Tyler Wisniewski chipped in with nine points for Pitman.
"Our kids found a way to get it done," Pitman coach Kevin Crawford said after the Panthers won the South Jersey title for the second time in the last four years.
Senior guard Melvin Allen scored 15 and senior center Rashaan Holloway added 14 points with 10 rebounds for Schalick (26-4).
"These seniors put us back on the map," Schalick coach Eric Cassidy said. "We had a great season. Nobody would have thought three years that we would be in this position."
With the 6-foot-8 Delaney and the 6-foot-10 Holloway largely neutralizing each other in the paint, the play of Foreman and Stafford was the difference.
The left-handed Foreman kept slashing to the basket, beating defenders off the dribble and finishing in traffic. Stafford was a stabilizing presence on the perimeter with his ball-handling and decision-making, and also contributed several key buckets.
"We didn't have an answer for Foreman," Cassidy said.
Pitman was No. 3 in the preseason rankings but the Panthers were inconsistent at times this season, largely because Stafford missed two chunks of the season with injuries. He badly sprained his right ankle the night before Pitman dropped a 49-44 decision to Schalick on Jan. 28.
But Pitman looked like a top team on Monday night, especially after Schalick broke to a 27-15 lead. The Panthers outscored the Cougars by 19 after the middle of the second quarter, with Foreman and Stafford making big play after big play.
"We feel like we're the best backcourt in South Jersey," Foreman said of himself and Stafford. "That's what we wanted to prove tonight."
Pitman 13 14 11 20 -- 58
Schalick 17 14 7 13 -- 51
P: Eric Stafford 13, Darnell Foreman 26, Tim Delaney 10, Tyer Wisniewski 9, Matt Spicer 0.
S: Melvin Allen 15, Deandre Solomon 5, Mike Holloway 10, Tyler Lunsford 5, Rashaan Holloway 14, Will Murphy 2.
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