Boys Basketball – NJSIAA Tournament Preview: South Jersey
South Jersey has not been so kind to the Shore Conference and a lot of it has to do with how dominant the top programs have have been - particularly in Groups II and IV. While Group II remains top-heavy, Group IV is wide-open this season and Toms River North will try to take advantage by making a run at its first ever sectional championship. Read on for a look at the three public sections with Shore Conference teams
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Toms River North, No. 14 Central, No. 16 Southern
Defending Champion: Shawnee
Top Seed: Eastern
The Favorite: Eastern. On top of earning home-court advantage, the Vikings got a better draw than rival Cherokee on the other side of the bracket, which includes Shawnee and Toms River North. Eastern’s road, however, won’t be easy either: the Vikings could be looking at matchups against No. 8 Atlantic City and either No. 5 Lenape or No. 4 Millville, should Eastern make it that far. With Atlantic City and Shawnee going through some growing pains, this bracket has really opened up and Eastern is really one of a whole bunch of teams with a shot to win it.
The Darkhorse: No. 15 Shawnee. The defending champions got off to a slow start while trying to replace most of the 2017-18 squad that captured a second straight South Jersey Group IV title. Lately, however, Shawnee is looking like Shawnee again, winning six straight and 10 out of 11 heading into the tournament – including a win over Camden. The first round will be very difficult but if any team is capable of a 15-over-2 upset, it is a team with Shawnee’s pedigree. A Shore darkhorse to watch is Central, which gave Toms River North a game in Toms River the first time the A South rivals met. The Golden Eagles have gotten better over the course of the season and have some young pieces that make them dangerous if they can pull off that first upset.
Prediction: (2) Cherokee over (4) Millville. Although Cherokee has struggled somewhat since being ranked in the state top 20 in January, the Chiefs are talented, experienced, battle-tested team that will have a chip on its shoulder heading into the tournament with Shawnee entering as a hot team and Toms River North having edged Cherokee during the regular season. Speaking of Toms River North, the Mariners are staring at a great opportunity in this year’s field and have already proven they can play with and beat the best South Jersey IV has to offer. Going on the road to play Cherokee would be tough but the Mariners have to be considered a serious threat to make it out of this bracket.
(1) Eastern over (16) Southern
(9) Atlantic City over (8) Egg Harbor
(5) Lenape over (12) Washington Twp.
(4) Millville over (13) Clearview
(3) Toms River North over (14) Central
(6) Kingsway over (11) Rancocas Valley
(7) Cherry Hill East over (10) Vineland
(2) Cherokee over (15) Shawnee
(1) Eastern over (9) Atlantic City
(4) Millville over (5) Lenape
(3) Toms River North over (6) Kingsway
(2) Cherokee over (7) Cherry Hill East
(4) Millville over (1) Eastern
(2) Cherokee over (3) Toms River North
(2) Cherokee over (4) Millville
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 4 Pinelands, No. 8 Lacey, No. 11 Toms River East
Defending Champion: Delsea
Top Seed: Moorestown
The Favorite: Moorestown. Last year, the Quakers bowed out in the Central Jersey Group III final at the hands of a senior-loaded Nottingham team and will now try their hand in South Jersey. While the Central part of Group III appears to be wide-open, Moorestown looks to be on a little more solid ground as the South Jersey favorite – which will probably limit how far No. 8 Lacey can advance on that side of the bracket.
The Darkhorse: No. 13 Woodrow Wilson. The Lions are 4-19 thanks to a very rough schedule and if that schedule hasn’t broken their confidence, they will be dangerous against the middle of the bracket, starting with a Pinelands team that doesn’t play nearly as tough a schedule. At No. 11, Toms River East has its hands full at Westampton Tech, but if Mike and Ryan Goodall are both on, the Raiders are tough to put away.
Prediction: Moorestown over No. 3 Mainland. Moorestown has been the consensus favorite to reach the Group III final out of the South-Central pool since the start of the year and while the Quakers are not quite a juggernaut, they are a talented group that is playing well heading into the tournament (eight straight wins).
(1) Moorestown over (16) Deptford
(9) Delsea over (8) Lacey
(5) Timber Creek over (12) Winslow
(4) Pinelands over (13) Woodrow Wilson
(3) Mainland at (14) Camden Tech
(6) Westampton Tech over (11) Toms River East
(7) Highland over (10) Seneca
(2) Ocean City over (15) Cherry Hill West
(1) Moorestown over (9) Delsea
(5) Timber Creek over (4) Pinelands
(3) Mainland over (6) Westampton Tech
(2) Ocean City over (7) Highland
(1) Moorestown over (5) Timber Creek
(3) Mainland over (2) Ocean City
(1) Moorestown over (3) Mainland
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 14 Point Pleasant Boro, No. 15 Manchester, No. 16 Barnegat
Defending Champion: Haddonfield
Top Seed: Haddonfield
The Favorite: Haddonfield
The Darkhorse: No. 6 Cinnaminson. The top three seeds in this bracket are in a class above the rest of the field and none of the three should lose before the semifinals. If there is one team that might be able to disrupt that trio, it might be Cinnaminson. No. 2 Camden has struggled a bit of late and if the Pirates could pull off the upset in Pleasantville, they would take some much-needed confidence heading into Camden. Admittedly, it’s a longshot – the bracket is very top-heavy and the most likely scenario is Haddonfield rolling to the semifinals and either Camden or No. 3 Pleasantville joining them there. Those three teams just so happen to face the three Shore teams in the field, so Point Boro, Manchester and Barnegat are looking at brief stays with young teams.
Prediction: Haddonfield over Pleasantville. It is almost blasphemous to go against Camden in this bracket but the Panthers lost last year’s sectional final to Haddonfield and have gone 6-8 over their last 14, albeit against a competitive schedule. Pleasantville, meanwhile, has a team that has been eying this season as a big one for the program and will be geared up to make the trip to Camden in the sectional semifinals. Whoever makes it out of the semis will have a tall order on their hands as Haddonfield appears to be rounding into shape as the Group II favorite at 25-1.
(1) Haddonfield over (16) Barnegat
(9) Middle Twp. over (8) Pennsauken Tech
(5) West Deptford over (12) Delran
(4) Haddon Heights over (13) Cedar Creek
(3) Pleasantville over (14) Point Boro
(6) Cinnaminson over (11) Sterling
(10) Audubon over (7) Lower Cape May
(2) Camden over (15) Manchester
(1) Haddonfield over (9) Middle Twp.
(5) West Deptford over (4) Haddon Heights
(3) Pleasantville over (6) Cinnaminson
(2) Camden over (10) Audubon
(1) Haddonfield over (5) West Deptford
(3) Pleasantville over (2) Camden
(1) Haddonfield over (3) Pleasantville