Boys Basketball – NJSIAA Tournament Preview: Public North and South
The NJSIAA Tournament begins on Monday with Groups III and I throughout the state and the Shore Conference will be represented in 10 of the 20 sectional brackets. Here is a preview of the public sectional brackets in North Jersey and South Jersey involving teams from the Shore.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 10 Middletown North
Top Seed: Rahway
Defending Champion: No. 9 Barringer
The Favorite: Rahway. The Indians stormed out to a 16-0 start to the season and are still a respectable 6-3 since, which includes a loss to St. Mary’s of Elizabeth. They get the nod over No. 2 Chatham, which lost a heartbreaker in the sectional final last year and has put together an impressive resume that includes a win over Pope John. Both teams could have a very tough quarterfinal game, with Rahway potentially playing a Barringer team that beat Rahway in last year’s sectional semifinals en route to a sectional title. As for Chatham…
The Dark Horse: Middletown North. The Lions have a winnable opening-round game at Governor Livingston and would likely travel to Chatham for the quarterfinal round. That game would represent a tough draw for both teams, but with Rob Higgins its side and shooters galore, Middletown North has a chance to win that game, as well as any other in this bracket.
(1) Rahway over (16) Somerville
(9) Barringer over (8) Colonia
(5) Irvington over (12) Nutley
(13) Parsippany Hills over (4) Voorhees
(3) Summit over (14) Warren Hills
(6) Snyder over (11) Mendham
(10) Middletown North over (7) Governor Livingston
(2) Chatham over (15) Orange
(1) Rahway over (9) Barringer
(5) Irvington over (13) Parsippany Hills
(6) Snyder over (3) Summit
(10) Middletown North over (2) Chatham
(1) Rahway over (5) Irvington
(10) Middletown North over (6) Snyder
(10) Middletown North over (1) Rahway
It’s been an up-and-down year for Middletown North, but the Lions appear to be peaking at the right time. Since entering the last week of the regular-season 8-10, the Lions are 4-2 with wins over Manasquan, Wall, Howell and Marlboro with losses against Rumson and Neptune. The quality of competition has been good and Middletown North has been pretty reliable when it comes to showing up and playing well against quality opponents, so its chances to win this bracket have to be pretty significant considering its seeding.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 2 Toms River North, No. 10 Howell, No. 12 Brick Memorial, No. 16 Southern
Top Seed: Shawnee
Defending Champion: Shawnee
The Favorite: Shawnee. The defending sectional champs and the runner up to the Group IV championship return nearly its entire team from last year. The Renegades have not been invincible and there are plenty of teams capable of winning this bracket, but the champs get the benefit of the doubt when they are the No. 1 seed with a slew of championship experience.
The Dark Horse: No. 11 Lenape. In a section this deep, there are plenty of teams that can jump up and make a run. At the same time, the top seven seeds are all strong and will be hard to beat so it would take a unique set of circumstances for a double-digit seed to reach even the semifinals. Enter Lenape, a 16-8 team with wins over Cherokee, Eastern, Winslow and Seneca, as well as losses to teams like Wildwood Catholic, Camden, Timber Creek and aforementioned Shawnee. A first-round win over Millville is somewhere between plausible and likely, but a quarterfinal game at Atlantic City will be considerably harder.
(1) Shawnee over (16) Southern
(9) Kingsway over (8) Williamstown
(5) Rancocas Valley over (12) Brick Memorial
(4) Eastern over (13) Cherry Hill East
(3) Atlantic City over (14) Clearview
(11) Lenape over (6) Millville
(7) Cherokee over (10) Howell
(2) Toms River North over (15) Vineland
(1) Shawnee over (9) Kingsway
(4) Eastern over (5) Rancocas Valley
(3) Atlantic City over (11) Lenape
(7) Cherokee over (2) Toms River North
(1) Shawnee over (4) Eastern
(3) Atlantic City over (7) Cherokee
(3) Atlantic City over (1) Shawnee
Atlantic City is coming off a tough overtime loss to Wildwood Catholic in the Cape-Atlantic League final and has some roadblocks between it and the final. Lenape or Millville would be a worthy opponent in the quarterfinals and Toms River North or Cherokee are both capable of knocking off the Vikings, especially with Toms River North getting a home game. Shawnee might have a slightly more forgiving path, but if Eastern pays the Renegades a visit, an upset could be in order. The Vikings have the edge with Howard-pound guard Ray Bethea Jr. leading the way.
Howell is another potential under-the-radar team in the bracket who has shown a ceiling that suggests the Rebels could win a game or two, although Cherokee and Toms River North represent very tough road games. Brick Memorial and Southern have steep hills to climb, with the No. 12 Mustangs travelling to Rancocas Valley and the No. 16 Rams heading to top-seeded Shawnee.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 5 Pinelands, No. 8 Toms River East, No. 16 Lacey
Top Seed: Timber Creek
Defending Champion: No. 11 Winslow
The Favorite: Timber Creek. The Chargers enter the tournament a talented, battle-tested No. 1 seed in their section, but not without some inconsistencies that could lead to their downfall. They are entering the tournament off a double-digit loss to Camden Catholic and just barely got by No. 2 Seneca the last time the two teams met. Despite that, Timber Creek is very clearly the team to beat in this section and perhaps even all of Group III.
The Dark Horse: Winslow. The defending champions enter the tournament 7-17, but it’s a strong 7-17. The Mustangs have played the toughest schedule of anyone in the section and after winning the sectional title as a No. 8 seed last year, they will be out to do it as a No. 11 this year. No. 15 Triton is also a live underdog as well and the two teams could wind up meeting in a sectional semifinal between a No. 11 seed and a No. 15.
(1) Timber Creek over (16) Lacey
(8) Toms River East over (9) Mainland
(5) Pinelands over (12) Gloucester Tech
(4) Delsea over (13) Cherry Hill West
(3) Ocean City over (14) Camden Tech
(11) Winslow over (6) Hammonton
(7) Cumberland over (10) Highland
(2) Seneca over (15) Triton
(1) Timber Creek over (8) Toms River East
(4) Delsea over (5) Pinelands
(11) Winslow over (3) Ocean City
(2) Seneca over (7) Cumberland
(1) Timber Creek over (4) Delsea
(11) Winslow over (2) Seneca
(1) Timber Creek over (11) Winslow
Timber Creek has been the favorite in this section from the beginning of the year and it would be fitting for the Chargers to have to beat the defending champions to finish the job. On its way to the final, Timber Creek could wind up playing three Shore teams. Lacey plays the Chargers in round one and Toms River East would play the top seed in the quarterfinals should the Raiders get past Mainland at home. Based on their play to close the regular season, the Raiders look primed to get a shot at Timber Creek.
The other potential Shore opponent for Timber Creek is Pinelands, which will host its first ever NJSIAA Tournament game on Monday against Gloucester Tech. The Wildcats are a perfect 10-0 at home this season and if Cherry Hill West can upset Delsea, maybe they can make it 12-0 and get their own chance to take out Timber Creek. If not, they have a great opportunity to get in the win column in round one, which would be a great accomplishment for a team that will bring back most of its core next year.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 4 Point Boro, No. 9 Barnegat
Top Seed: Cinnaminson
Defending Champion: No. 3 Camden
The Favorite: Camden. No surprise here. As has been the case several times during the Panthers’ run of six consecutive sectional championships, the Panthers have had their share of hiccups and close calls and are likely to have at least one tight game during the tournament as well. The common thread, however, is the Panthers always find a way and they are equipped to do it again this year.
The Dark Horse: Barnegat. The Bengals are going to have to beat three quality teams to get to their first ever sectional championship game, but playing on the side of the bracket opposite Camden and No. 2 Haddonfield gives Barnegat about as good a chance as it can hope for. If Barnegat can pull out a road win over Middle – and that is indeed an “if” – Cinnaminson is a No. 1 seed that recently lost to a three-win Pemberton squad. No. 13 Medford Tech is also dangerous enough to win two games and give Barnegat or Middle a semifinal home game should either beat Cinnaminson. On the other side of the bracket, No. 10 Pleasantville is better than its seeding, but the Greyhounds would have to go through both Haddonfield and Camden to get to the final.
(1) Cinnaminson over (16) Collingswood
(9) Barnegat over (8) Middle Twp.
(5) Lower Cape May over (12) Pennsauken Tech
(4) Point Boro over (13) Medford Tech
(3) Camden over (14) Overbrook
(6) Sterling over (11) Willingboro
(10) Pleasantville over (7) Haddon Heights
(2) Haddonfield over (15) Cape May Tech
(9) Barnegat over (1) Cinnaminson
(5) Lower Cape May over (4) Point Boro
(3) Camden over (6) Sterling
(2) Haddonfield over (10) Pleasantville
(9) Barnegat over (5) Lower Cape May
(3) Camden over (2) Haddonfield
(3) Camden over (9) Barnegat
The Bengals will likely have to go on the road to reach a sectional final, but they have played very well since a 1-3 start to the season, going 19-3 over their last 22 games. A trip to Camden or Haddonfield for the sectional final would be a great opportunity for this group of accomplished seniors to finish off their career in style and even a loss in the sectional final to complete a 23-7 season would mark a pretty remarkable season for Barnegat.
Point Boro bowed out in the Shore Conference Tournament opening round, but showed some fight last week by beating both Howell and Colts Neck while preparing for the NJSIAA Tournament. The Panthers have a senior-laden team and if this group has rediscovered its fire from early in the season, Point Boro could be the favorite to reach the championship game from its end of the bracket, especially considering the Panthers would either host a sectional semifinal or travel to play a vulnerable top seed.