Here is the Inquirer’s All-South Jersey boys’ basketball package:
Dean Noll, senior, Shawnee
Noll was a practitioner of a lost art.
Modern basketball is a sport of extremes at the offensive end. It’s all about layups or three-pointers.
The 6-foot-1 Noll was a master of the old-school, mid-range game. He specialized in breaking down defenders off the dribble and pulling up for 15-foot jump shots that splashed the bottom of the net.
Noll is South Jersey’s Player of the Year because his unique skills meshed perfectly into Shawnee’s style and ultimately powered the Renegades to the Group 4 state title as well as the No. 1 spot in the Inquirer’s final Top 25.
“What makes things tough for other teams is that Dean gets into the lane whenever he wants,” Shawnee coach Joe Kessler said, standing at midcourt after the team’s victory over Atlantic City in the South Jersey Group 4 title. “He scores or he kicks it out. He opens things up for our three-point shooters.”
Few teams in the state were as adept at three-point shooting as the Renegades, who made 234 from beyond the arc on their way to a 29-5 record. Senior forward Dylan Deveney made 81, his junior brother Connor Deveney made 46 and senior swingman Daevon Robinson, the team’s top rebounder and defender, made 32.
Noll made 21. He was fourth on the team in that category. He averaged 21.7 points, and set a school record for points in a season with 737 — shattering the mark set in 1992 by the legendary Dan Earl — without relying on a deep-range game.
“I try to do whatever I can to help my team win,” Noll said. “Maybe get past my defender and get to the rim, or maybe pass it to an open teammate. Whatever it takes.”
Noll was a good player as a junior, helping Shawnee to the South Jersey Group 4 title and a berth in the state finals. But he moved to another level as a senior, thanks to an off-season regimen that left his teammates shaking their heads in admiration.
“Every day,” Robinson said of Noll’s commitment in the spring, summer and fall. “He went to the gym every day. Nobody worked harder.”
Noll, who committed to Cornell, was at his best in big moments. He scored 31 in an early statement win over Eastern. He went for a career-high 41 in a double-overtime win over eventual South Jersey Group 3 champion Delsea. He scored 32 in a pay-back win over Timber Creek.
Noll scored seven in the fourth quarter of a taut, tense, 56-53 victory over Newark East Side in the state finals. He went for 25 points with seven assists in a Tournament of Champions victory over Woodbury.
He finished his career with a flourish, scoring 24 with three steals in a T of C loss to a Don Bosco Prep team with three NCAA Division I recruits.
“Dean was on fire,” Robinson said after the game. “When he’s playing like that, there’s nobody that can guard him.”
Ray Bethea Jr. Senior Atlantic City
A 6-foot-5 swingman, Bethea averaged 25 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.1 steals for the Vikings, who went 25-5 and reached the South Jersey Group 4 title game.
Bethea was a versatile player who could handle the basketball, shoot from distance, get to the rim, rebound and defend. He scored a South Jersey-best 51 points vs. Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
Bethea played his best in big games. He scored 24 in a regular-season win over Wildwood Catholic and went for 20 with 15 rebounds in a rematch with the Crusaders in the Cape-Atlantic League title game. He averaged 24.5 points in four state tournament games.
Bethea finished his career with 1,651 points, second on Atlantic City’s all-time list behind Lou Roe. Bethea is a Howard University recruit.
Mike DePersia, junior, Haddonfield
A clever left-hander, DePersia led Haddonfield to a 29-4 record and the Group 2 state title.
The 6-foot athlete was a master at controlling the tempo of games and making big plays at big times. The best example was his put-back at 0:03 in overtime that provided the winning points in Haddonfield’s 54-53 victory over four-time defending South Jersey champion Camden in the sectional semifinals.
DePersia averaged 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals. But statistics only hint at the true strengths of his game, which are decision-making, ball-handling, versatility and poise under pressure.
DePersia led all scorers with 20 in that landmark victory over Camden March 3 at Cherry Hill West. He also scored 22 in Haddonfield’s imposing 62-45 win over Newark Central in the state finals March 11 at Rutgers.
Maurice Murray, senior, Timber Creek
Murray’s scoring average dropped by nearly seven points from his junior to his senior season.
Normally, that’s a bad sign.
In his case, it was just the opposite.
The 6-foot-6 swingman became a more complete player in his final season for the Chargers. He still averaged 17.4 points. But he improved as a rebounder, defender and especially as a passer, serving as a facilitator for his teammates.
Murray led Timber Creek to a 20-win season and the Olympic Conference Patriot Division title, ahead of Group 4 state champion Shawnee. He averaged 22.6 points in the final three games of his career, all in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament.
Aaron Estrada, junior, Woodbury
The 6-foot-4 Estrada made history this season. He led Woodbury to the program’s first state title.
A rangy left-hander who could shoot from distance, get to the rim, pass, rebound and defend, Estrada was at his best on the big stage in the state tournament. He was a good player in the regular season. He was much better than that in elimination games.
Estrada averaged 24 points in seven post-season games. He made the winning free throw in the final five seconds of two of them, including the state finals against Cresskill at Rutgers.
He scored 24 in a road win over higher-seeded Penns Grove. He scored 20 in a road win over higher-seeded Glassboro in the South Jersey finals.
In the state semifinals against a Point Pleasant Beach team that had upset top-seeded Burlington City in the Central Jersey finals, Estrada generated 30 points with 11 rebounds.
Estrada also showcased his ability to excelled against top competition, scoring 23 and keeping the Thundering Herd in contention into the second half in the Tournament of Champions against Group 4 state champion Shawnee.
Caleb Fields, senior, Wildwood Catholic
The 6-foot-1 Fields, a dynamic athlete, was remarkably consistent. He scored in double figures in every game for the Crusaders, who went 26-3, setting a school record for victories and capturing the Cape-Atlantic League title with wins over perennial powers St. Augustine Prep and Atlantic City.
A top defender, Fields led Wildwood Catholic to one of the best seasons in program history. He averaged 21.1 points and 4.6 rebounds, and was tops on the squads in assists (83) and steals (54) and shot 81 percent from the foul line (142-for-175).
Fields, a Bowling Green recruit, set a career high with 38 points in a win over St. Joseph. He finished his career with 1,665 points.
All-South Jersey Basketball
Ray Bethea Jr. 6-5 Senior Atlantic City
Mike DePersia 6-0 Junior Haddonfield
Aaron Estrada 6-4 Junior Woodbury
Caleb Fields 6-1 Senior Wildwood Catholic
Maurice Murray 6-6 Senior Timber Creek
Dean Noll 6-1 Senior Shawnee
Baba Ajike 6-5 Junior Camden Catholic
Dylan Deveney 6-6 Senior Shawnee
Javon Gordon 5-9 Junior Delsea
Corey Greer 6-1 Senior Camden
Marlon Hargis 6-6 Senior St. Augustine Prep
Jared Latane 5-9 Senior Haddon Heights
Jalen Collins 6-6 Senior Triton
Rynell Lawrence 6-0 Junior Millville
Daevon Robinson 6-4 Senior Shawnee
Marcellus Ross 6-1 Junior St. Joseph
Andrew Sims 6-6 Senior Lenape
Myles Thompson 6-6 Senior Camden
Honorable mention: Jesse Barbera, Senior, Eastern; Tymere Bennett, Cherokee; Kolby Braxton, Senior, Delsea; Jack Brockett, Senior, Seneca; Nick Cartwright-Atkins, Junior, Moorestown; Kadian Dawkins, Senior, Rancocas Valley; Dominic Dunn, Senior, Camden Catholic; Pat Holden, Senior, Lower Cape May; Flash Morgan, Senior, Atlantic City; Isaiah Sanders, Senior, Timber Creek; D’Andre Thurmond, Senior, Burlington City; Peyton Vostenak, Senior, Bishop Eustace.
This article was corrected to reflect that Dylan Deveney plays for Shawnee, not Timber Creek.