PERTH AMBOY – Matawan seniors Chris Tawiah and Austen Planes both went out on personal high notes in their team’s final game of the season Thursday night, but neither believes their role as senior leaders is quite finished.

South Jersey Group II champion Camden overwhelmed Matawan, 82-60, in the NJSIAA Group II semifinal at Perth Amboy High School to end Matawan’s renaissance of a season despite the best efforts of Tawiah (team-high 17 points) and Planes (11 points and nine rebounds). Now Tawiah, Planes and the rest of the departing seniors want to make sure this season was just another step for the program.

Matawan seniors Nick Tomkins (32) and Austen Planes (20), as well as head coach Tom Stead (right) watch the final minutes of their championship season tick away.

“This was a special year at Matawan, but we don’t want it to stop here,” Tawiah said. “We had a lot of guys back with experience this year and next year, there are going to have to be guys who step up. I know I’m going to be on these guys to get in the weight room and get their running in like all of us did this offseason because I want them to get back here next year.”

Juniors Jason Dunne (13 points) and Joe Piscopo (nine) combined for 22 points in the loss and will anchor the returning core next year. Matawan went from a .500 team in each of the past two seasons to a 24-win team that won its division and reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1964 and then won its first NJSIAA sectional championship since 1957.

“Jason and Joe are special players, but they can’t do it alone,” Planes said. “That’s what was special about this team is we had guys around our best players who knew their roles and did anything it took to help the team win. Next year, some guys are going to have to step up, and I think they will.”

“I told the young guys in the locker room to look at the work the seniors put in this year and to see how fun this run was,” Stead said. “They know what it takes now, and now it’s their turn to contribute and to start along with our two returning guys.”

Camden scored on its opening possession of the game and led the rest of the way in an all-around dominant effort. The Panthers forced 16 turnovers with their typically swarming defense and still owned a 29-28 edge on the glass. In addition to its edge in size and athleticism, Camden also shot 11-for-23 from behind the three-point arc.

Matawan coach Tom Stead meets senior Chris Tawiah (11) after Tawiah fouled out of Thursday's loss to Camden.

“When a team is that quick, that athletic, that is that good has four or five guys knocking down threes, there’s just not much you can do,” Stead said. “They are a really good team that shot the ball well tonight and that was just too much for us to handle.”

Sophomore Brad Hawkins led Camden with 26 points, nine rebounds and three steals while senior Tavaris Headen had 21 points, four assists and three steals. Both Hawkins and Headen buried four three-pointers.

Camden hit Matawan with an early 8-0 run to go up 12-4 in the first quarter and led 23-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers led by as many as 18 in the first half, but Matawan pulled to within 13 by halftime, 35-22.

The Huskies pushed to make it a game with an 18-9 run that cut Camden’s lead to 47-40 with a little more than three minutes left in the third, but then Headen and Hawkins hit threes on consecutive possessions to put Camden back up by 13. Tawiah knocked down a three with 4:24 left to cut the deficit to 59-50, but that was as close as Matawan would come the rest of the way.

“We haven’t seen a team that plays with that kind of athleticism all year,” Stead said. “Our guys fought their tails off, and even though it was an uphill battle, they never gave in. I couldn’t be more proud. They had a special year, and they fought until the very end.”


Box Score

Camden 82, Matawan 60






Camden (22-9)






Matawan (24-5)







Camden (82): Tavaris Headen 6 5-6 21, Rasool Hinson 5 1-6 13, Jamal Holloway 3 1-2 7, Brad Hawkins 10 3-7 26, Jamil Maddred 1 5-6 7, William McCants 1 0-0 3, Nasir Muncy 0 0-2 0, Dustin Singleton 2 0-0 4. Totals: 28 15-29 82

Three-pointers: Headen 4, Hinson 2, Hawkins 4, McCants

Matawan (60): Joe Piscopo 3 1-4 9, Jason Dunne 6 1-3 13, Nick Tomkins 1 0-0 2, Austin Planes 5 1-2 11, Chris Tawiah 6 1-2 17, Mike Vella 2 1-2 5, Dritan Gjyriqi 0 0-0 0, Nick Smith 0 0-0 0, Matt Esposito 1 0-0 3, Merg Gjyriqi 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 5-13 60

Three-pointers: Piscopo 2, Tawiah 4, Esposito

Fouled Out: Tomkins, Planes, Tawiah