By TOM WILLIAMS
The NJSIAA basketball tournament starts tomorrow – three weeks of exciting basketball that creates many memories but goes by very quickly.
There will be 29 Cape-Atlantic League teams, plus two from Wildwood High School, in the 2019 competition.
Let’s look at the brackets.
Boys Group 4: Eastern is the No. 1 seed but No. 2 Cherokee, No. 3 Toms River North and No. 4 Millville should be obstacles. In the CAL, Millville opens at home with Clearview, Atlantic City is at Egg Harbor Township and Vineland, led by the red-hot D.J. Campbell, is at Cherry Hill East. Campbell could finish as the first CAL boy to average 30 points a game in 12 years.
Girls Group 4: Lenape is the No. 1 seed but No. 2 Cherokee might stand in the way. In the CAL, Egg Harbor Township opens at Lenape, Vineland is at Toms River North, Atlantic City hosts Jackson Memorial and Hammonton is at Atlantic Tech. Group 4 starts on Monday.
Boys Group 3: Moorestown is the top seed and is clearly the team to beat with some impressive victories in the regular season over St. Augustine, Cherokee and Trenton Catholic plus a two-point loss to Wildwood Catholic. In the CAL, Ocean City is the No. 2 seed and opens with Cherry Hill West, No. 3 Mainland hosts Camden Tech. If the Raiders and Mustangs both win their first two games they will play on Saturday in the Dixie Howell Gym in a South Jersey semifinal.
Girls Group 3: Mainland is the top seed and is the team to beat at full strength. No. 2 seed Ocean City seems to be playing its best basketball the past week after a challenging schedule. In the CAL, Mainland hosts Camden Tech, Ocean City hosts Timber Creek and Absegami visits Deptford in the first round. If the Raiders and Mustangs win all three games the first week they will meet March 4 in Linwood for the South Jersey championship OCHS has won the last three years. Group 3 starts on Tuesday.
Boys Group 2: Haddonfield is the No. 1 seed, Camden is No. 2 and Pleasantville No. 3 in a competitive group. In the CAL, Pleasantville hosts Point Pleasant Boro, Lower Cape May hosts Audubon, Cedar Creek visits Haddon Heights and Middle Township goes to West Deptford.
Girls Group 2: Sterling is the No. 1 seed but Manchester Township is clearly the team to beat. The Hawks are a legitimate candidate to win the Tournament of Champions. In the CAL, Middle Township hosts Point Pleasant Boro, Lower Cape May goes to Cinnaminson, Cedar Creek is at Haddonfield and Oakcrest hosts Audubon. Group 2 starts on Monday.
Boys Group 1: Penns Grove and Glassboro are the top two seeds and have battled all season. In the CAL, Cape May Tech opens at Clayton and the Clippers are not known for their defense. Tech senior Josh Wright is within 50 points of Reggie Miller’s all-time CAL record for career points so this game becomes more interesting. Wildwood Watch: The Warriors travel to Salem in the first round.
Girls Group 1: Wildwood has earned the top seed and senior Maddie McCracken is within a hundred points of 2,000 for her career. In the CAL, Buena starts out at Wildwood in the first round. Group 1 starts on Tuesday.
Boys Non-Public A: St. Augustine is the No. 1 seed but Camden Catholic, Christian Brothers and Paul VI will provide serious competition. In the CAL, the Hermits get a bye in the first round and will play the winner between St. Joseph-Metuchen and St. John Vianney on Thursday in the Paul Rodio Gymnasium.
Girls Non-Public A: St. John Vianney is the No. 1 seed and clearly the team to beat but St. Rose and Bishop Ahr could challenge the Lancers. Non-Public A starts on Tuesday.
Boys Non-Public B: Wildwood Catholic is the No. 1 seed and Ranney is No. 2. Basketball fans will be greatly disappointed if these two don’t meet for the South Jersey title. Ranney is ranked No. 13 in the nation by USA Today. In the CAL, the Crusaders get a bye in the first round and don’t play until Friday against the Holy Spirit-Gloucester Catholic winner. St. Joseph also hosts St. Rose in the first round.
Girls Non-Public B: Trenton Catholic is the No. 1 seed but Rutgers Prep and Gloucester Catholic could make it interesting. In the CAL, Wildwood Catholic hosts Our Lady of Mercy in the first round. Non-Public B starts on Wednesday.
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The Non-Public South Jersey finals will be played at Jackson Liberty High School – Non-Public A on March 5 and Non-Public B on March 6.
The public school South Jersey finals will be on the court of the highest seeded participant. For the boys, Groups 2 and 4 on March 4 and Groups 1 and 3 on March 5. The girls are reversed, Groups 2 and 4 on March 5 and Groups 1 and 3 on March 4.
Public school boys state semi-finals (South champs vs. Central) will be at four locations – Group 4 at Egg Harbor Township on March 6, Group 3 at Brick Memorial on March 7, Group 2 at Perth Amboy on March 6 and Group 1 at Toms River North on March 7.
The public school girls semi-finals (South vs. Central) will be played in two doubleheaders – Group 1 and 3 at Deptford on March 6 and Groups 2 and 4 at Central Regional on March 7.
The Non-Public state finals will be at the RWJ Barnabas Arena on the campus of Toms River North on March 9 and public school state girls finals will be there the next day. The public school state boys finals will be at Rutgers’ Louis Brown Athletic Center on March 10.
The Tournaments of Champions will be at the Barnabas Arena March 12-15 and the TOC championship doubleheader will be at Rutgers on March 17.
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You’ll find the complete NJSIAA brackets here – http://www.primeevents.net/Brackets2019.html. All four sections (North I, North II, Central and South) are on one page for each group. And there is even another option that includes all four South Jersey public groups on one page. Bracketmaster Joe Fussner will update these brackets every single night with that day’s results.
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The current girls South Jersey rankings are here – http://www.primeevents.net/2019GirlsBB25.html. And the boys are here – http://www.primeevents.net/2019BoysBB25.html/. These rankings give you a clearer picture of the tournaments because they are the only rankings that include all teams that play for South Jersey championships.
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There you have it, pretty much all you need to follow the action. And there will be lots of radio broadcasts from Coastal Broadcasting and 97.3-ESPN, along with live video streaming, including by the NFHS Network.
Lots of teams are included here and there are lots of dates. But don’t waste any time. The state basketball tournament is the highlight of the season and it goes by very fast.