MIDDLETOWN - Mater Dei's starting lineup did not want for much before 6-foot-6 sophomore Jamir Watkins became eligible to play for the Seraphs on Jan. 16, which is precisely why Watkins was the perfect fit for the Seraphs. Whatever the team needs, Watkins can do it.

The versatile sophomore and transfer from Trenton Catholic put up a game-high 18 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks off the bench Sunday to help Mater Dei - the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - top Lincoln of Jersey City in the second game in two days for the Seraphs as the host team of the third annual Valerie Fund Classic.

Since Watkins joined the uniformed roster on Jan. 16, Mater Dei coach Ben Gamble has stuck with his usual four-guard starting lineup around 6-9 senior center Adam Afifi, while Watkins provides an explosiveness off the bench that the team did not have for the first month of the season.

Mater Dei sophomore Jamir Watkins. (Photo by Matt Manley)

During its two Shore Conference Tournament championship seasons under Gamble, Mater Dei has boasted a deep, capable bench and the Seraphs now have the makings of one with the emergence of Watkins, who scored 14 of his points in the first half.

In addition to putting up the numbers, Watkins showed off his complete array of skills - he hit a three-pointer, drove from the three-point line to the paint, ran the fast break, finished one off with a dunk, defended both guards and big men and blocked a pair of shots.

Senior guard Kyle Cardaci, meanwhile, took home game most valuable player honors with 16 points and seven rebounds, including 11 points in the second half.

Mater also defeated Carteret, 68-50, on Saturday in their first game of the weekend showcase. The festivities on Saturday and Sunday benefited the Valerie Fund, which supports children and the families of children battling cancer. The RWJ Barnabas Helth Center in Toms River played host to the event each of the past two years before it shifted to Mater Dei this year and welcomed in some more of the top teams from around the state.


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