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Camden Looking to Hit Stride as Boys'...

Camden Looking to Hit Stride as Boys'...
Camden Looking to Hit Stride as Boys' Basketball Tourney approaches

It was just one game but it has shown how far Camden's basketball team has come in the last month or so and the Panthers will be in their familiar role.

The Panther are five-time defending sectional champions and when the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 tournament begins on Feb. 27, they will be the top seed and the clear favorite.

Camden has been forced to go through a major adjustment period after junior point guard Corey Greer suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the third game, an 84-44 win over Paul VI.

Greer is among the top players in South Jersey, a consummate pass-first point guard who always got his players involved in the play.

Actually, the adjustment is still occurring. Camden has been an excellent team against quality competition, beginning the week with a 15-4 record.

Three of the losses have come in the rugged Olympic Conference National Division, twice against Camden Catholic and once by a point to Bishop Eustace.

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The Panthers have also played a challenging non-conference schedule and that is where they may have experienced a season-altering win over the weekend.

Playing the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey, Camden defeated St. Augustine, 49-46 during the Winter Classic at Paul VI.

St. Augustine entered the matchup 19-0 and had won 36 consecutive games against teams from the seven-county South Jersey area.

Camden got a big game from senior guard John Evans, who had a team-high 17 points.

Of course Evans is no stranger to coming up big. During last year's 85-83 loss to Newark West Side in a gut-punching Group 2 state championship game, Evans scored 24 points, which was at that time a career high. (He surpassed that total with 33 points in a win over Woodrow Wilson this year).

What makes Camden so difficult to defend is its balance. Five players (including Greer) have double-figure averages.

Junior forward Miles Thompson began the week averaging 16.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. Evans averages 15.6 points and 5.4 assists. Sophomore guard Ethan Tarte averages 11.8 points and 3.9 assists and senior forward Deaquan Williams averages 11.1 points and a team-high 12.5 rebounds.

So coach John Valore will have plenty of options on his team. The Panthers also have a number of games before the tournament that will get them ready including Saturday's home matchup against perennial state power St. Anthony of Jersey City.

As the top seed Camden will host West Deptford in the Feb. 27 first round Group 2 game. The Panthers will certainly look to build off that win over St. Augustine, realizing fully that they won't face a team that talented in the sectional tournament.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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