For Darnell Foreman and the rest of the Pitman boys' basketball team, the pressure is off.
But the game is still on.
"We're going to play, we're going to try to win," Foreman said of Pitman's approach to the Tournament of Champions, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. as the Panthers meet North Jersey power Linden in a quarterfinal round game at Toms River North.
Pitman (25-7) won the Group 1 state title with a 59-48 victory over Bloomfield Tech on Sunday night at Rutgers.
Linden (26-4) won the Group 4 state title earlier Sunday with a 66-53 victory over Trenton.
The Pitman-Linden winner will advance to meet top-seeded St. Joseph of Metuchen, the Non-Public A champion, in the semifinals Thursday at Monmouth.
"We feel like we can beat anybody," said Foreman, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half of the state championship game. "We're not afraid. The pressure's off, so we'll just go out and play."
Foreman said Monday that Penn coach Jerome Allen called Foreman's father after the game on Sunday night and expressed strong interest in recruiting the Pitman senior.
Foreman, who lives in Pennsauken, is a tuition student at Pitman. He spent his first two years at St. Anthony in Jersey City.
Foreman is a top student who has a 3.8 grade point average and scored 1,510 on the SAT, according to his father, also named Darnell.
Foreman is Pitman's leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points a game. He has picked up his game in the postseason, scoring 28 in a victory over Burlington City and 26 in the South Jersey Group 1 final against Schalick, and controlling play in the second half of the state final against Bloomfield Tech.
"The first half I kind of struggled a little bit with the pace," Foreman said. "I couldn't control the pace. It was a little too fast.
"The second half I was able to get in the lane, make some things happen. I stayed focused, stayed assertive."
Foreman and senior Eric Stafford, a Lafayette recruit, will be challenged by a deep Linden backcourt that includes junior Otis Livingston, who scored 20 in the Group 4 title game and 28 in a victory over Paterson Eastside in the state semifinals.
Another key matchup will pit Linden senior Quadri Moore against Pitman junior Tim Delaney on a battle of Division I-bound big men.
The 6-foot-8 Moore is a Cincinnati recruit. He went for 22 points with 21 rebounds and five blocks in the state title game.
The 6-foot-7 Delaney is a Villanova recruit. Like Foreman, he has raised his game in the tournament, scoring 20 in the state championship.
Pitman coach Kevin Crawford said the Panthers will take the floor Tuesday with the intention of winning the game and advancing to the semifinals.
But Crawford indicated his team is playing with house money.
"The goal of a Group 1 team is to win a state championship, not the T of C," Crawford said. "We'll get back to work [Monday], but we've accomplished our goal."