By Phil Anastasia
John Valore can't be there in person for Dave Allen on Tuesday afternoon.
Allen can't be there for Valore on Tuesday night.
But the two coaches and close friends still will be supporting each other in what might be the signature moments in both of their coaching careers.
Allen is trying to lead Cherry Hill East to the first South Jersey title in the history of the program. His top-seeded Cougars host sixth-seeded Cherokee in the S.J. 4 title game at 4 p.m.
Allen is a CH East graduate who knows how much a sectional title would mean to the school, the basketball program and the town (well, the East side, anyway).
He knows because he played CH East, class of 1989, and he also served as an assistant coach there --developing a special relationship with his mentor, Valore.
Valore spent 35 years as CH East's head coach. He also was there for several seasons before that as an assistant. He knows better than anybody what a South Jersey title would mean to the Cougars as many of his better teams over the years fell short in ultra-competitive Group 4 action.
But the twist today is that Valore now is the coach at Camden -- which used to be one of CH East's fiercest rivals -- and he's leading the Panthers in search of the South Jersey Group 2 title at Pemberton at 5:30 p.m.
This is Valore's first time in a SJ title game in 37 years of coaching (35 at CHE, one at Cumberland, this one at Camden).
For him to finally win a South Jersey title at the age of 69, this far into his career, would be a remarkable achievement -- and few people know that and appeciate that more than Allen.
When Valore was hired by Camden in May, Allen had this to say about him, "I couldn't be happier for one of the finest men I know as well as one of the best teachers and coaches I've ever seen.
"John Valore and Cherry Hill East have been synonymous. Now, one of South Jersey's best programs just got our best. He will give 'The High' what he gave us for 43 years -- the very best that he's got."
It's more than a little ironic that both coaches are going to stand on the sideline in such special games in their careers on the same day.
Camden will be Valore's favorite team today. But CH East will a close second.
CH East will be Allen's favorite team. But Camden won't be far behind in his heart.
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