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Impressive Boys’ Basketball Season for South Jersey Teams

Impressive Boys’ Basketball Season for South Jersey Teams
South Jersey had another strong basketball season in the boys’ basketball state tournament, with two teams from the seven-county area winning state titles and two more ending as runner-up.
 
Haddonfield and Moorestown won state titles in Group 2 and Group 3 respectively and were scheduled to meet in Wednesday’s opening Tournament of Champions game.
 
For Haddonfield (31-1) this was not an unexpected development. The Bulldogs were defending Group 2 state champions and defeated Newark West Side, 64-53 in this year’s state championship at Rutgers’ Louis Brown Athletic Center.
 
Haddonfield received so many clutch performances in the postseason from different players and it continued in the state final.
 
The leading scorer was reserve Drew Gavranich, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. Teammate Mike DePersia, among the top point guards in the state, added 16 points, including 10.
 
Haddonfield had such an emotional South Jersey championship win, overcoming an 11-point deficit with under two minutes left in regulation to defeat Camden, 69-67 in overtime. Then the Bulldogs scored a workmanlike 53-43 state Group 2 semifinal win over Manasquan.
 
This is a team with seven seniors, including leading scorer Dan Fleming, a 6-foot-7 forward with a great shooting touch.
 
The Bulldogs reward for winning was a Wednesday game against Moorestown in the TOC.
 
While Haddonfield’s title was no surprise, Moorestown, wasn’t picked at the beginning of the year to still be playing basketball in the second week of March.
 
The Quakers defeated Ramapo, 58-44 in the Group 3 state final.
 
It was Moorestown’s first state title since 1959.
 
Senior guard Jagger Zrada scored 20 points. Nick Cartwright-Atkins, a 6-1 senior known more as a football player, added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
 
This was a case of a team getting hot at the most opportune time. The win over Ramapo was the 14th consecutive victory for the Quakers.
 
What is interesting is how much in command the Quakers were during the state tournament. The closest of their six wins was a 52-43 South Jersey Group 3 semifinal triumph over Timber Creek.
 
South Jersey also had two other teams make state championship appearances. Camden Catholic, fell to Bergen Catholic, 78-61 in the Non-Public A final.
 
The Irish never recovered from a 23-8 first quarter deficit.
 
Still, it was the second straight year the Irish won a South Jersey Non-Public A title. This year they beat rival Paul VI, 40-34 in the final.
 
That avenged two regular season losses to the Eagles.
 
Burlington City, which competed in the Central Jersey bracket, but is from the seven-county South Jersey area, ended its season with a 66-55 loss to New Providence in the state Group 1 championship.
 
The Blue Devils, who had their ups and downs, finished 22-9, but won their first five state tournament games by double digits.
 
In guard D.J. Woodbury, who averaged 18 points per game, Burlington City has one of South Jersey’s top juniors.
 
Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils make a run next year.
 
As for the geographic breakdown, Camden County had two state finalists (Haddonfield and Camden Catholic) and Burlington County had the other two (Moorestown and Burlington City).
 
Last year South Jersey had three state champs (Shawnee, Haddonfield and Woodbury) and once again South Jersey made its mark in the state tournament.
 
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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of Haddonfield High

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