One of the events of the high school sports scholastic year in this area is set for Saturday – the Cape-Atlantic League boys and girls basketball tournament championship games at Richard Stockton University.
The girls game will begin at 12 noon, with the boys starting at 2 p.m. Both games will air live on 98.7 The Coast radio, with live video streams available at CoastSportsToday.com and the Coast Sports Today and 98.7 The Coast Facebook pages.
Admission to the games is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students. No passes will be accepted.
The following is a preview of the two title games:
GIRLS: No. 4 Middle Township vs. No. 2 Ocean City, 12 noon
Live radio: 98.7
Live video stream: CLICK HERE
About Middle Township: Judging strictly by seeding, Middle Township pulled off an upset by taking down top-seeded Mainland, 34-25, in the semifinal round on Thursday. Mainland, however, was without transcendent talent Kylee Watson due to injury. Middle received 15 points from junior G/F Kira Sides in the win and held Mainland to only three field goals and nine points over the final three quarters of the game In addition to Sides, sophomore G Kate Herlihy and junior F Aubrey Hunter chip in with scoring help, while senior G Victoria London, junior G Maddie Barber and junior F Sophia Terenik are solid role players for coach John Leahy’s team. . It’s almost hard to believe the Lady Panthers (21-4) were sitting at just .500 through eight games. They’re now one of South Jersey’s hottest teams, taking a 17-game winning streak into Saturday’s contest.
About Ocean City: The Raiders, in the title game for the fifth straight year, pulled away from No. 6 Wildwood Catholic, 64-42, in the semifinal round behind their usual winning formula of balanced offense and stingy defense. Senior G Danielle Donoghue, senior G Tori Rolls and junior F Abbey Fenton each scored in double figures, while the team’s normally stout man-to-man defense was on point against the Crusaders, particularly in the second half. In addition to the three aforementioned players, Ocean City also gets excellent contributions from senior G Savannah Holt, junior F Emma Finnegan and junior F Lauren Mirsky, helping to make up for the loss of junior F Molly Hoffman (injury). Paul Baruffi’s Ocean City team (19-6) has won 10 of its last 11 games.
Miscellaneous tidbits: Middle and Ocean City are each bidding for their sixth CAL title game victory, which would be the most since the game’s inception in 1992. … The teams met one another in both the 2016 and 2017 title games with both contests going to overtime. Ocean City took the 2017 game while Middle was victorious in 2016. … As has been the case in many past recent seasons, the rosters of both Middle and Ocean City are filled with talented multi-sport athletes.
What to expect: A typical Middle-Ocean City game, which means scoring will be at a premium as each team employs a tough, defense-first mindset. As is the case most of the time when these teams have met in recent years, this will probably be a race – albeit a slow one – to see who can reach 35 points first.
Prediction: Ocean City, 39-36.
BOYS: No. 2 St. Augustine Prep vs. No. 1 Wildwood Catholic, 2 pm
Live radio: 98.7
Live video stream: CLICK HERE
About St. Augustine Prep: The Hermits (21-3) trailed for much of their semifinal contest but rallied in the final quarter for a 72-65 victory over No. 6 Ocean City. Senior F Charles Solomon, who averages 19.3 ppg, netted 19 points while senior F Andrew Delaney and sophomore F Matt Delaney combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds. The Prep backcourt is paced by senior G Cole Vanderslice, senior G Jordan Kendricks and junior G Kevin Foreman. The Prep will hope Solomon and the Delaney brothers can neutralize Wildwood Catholic star Taj Thweatt in the paint, while also getting good enough guard play on the perimeter. The Hermits have won 15 of 16 games since their 67-44 home loss to the Crusaders on Jan. 8. St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio, in his 42nd season, has well over 900 career wins.
About Wildwood Catholic: The defending champion and top-seeded Crusaders (24-1) placed four players in double figures in their 65-49 semifinal win over Pleasantville Thursday. Junior F Jahlil White and junior G Jacob Hopping each netted 18 points, junior F Taj Thweatt added 14 points and sophomore F DeSean Lopez chipped in 11. Wildwood Catholic, ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by most media polls, has been the top team in the CAL since the start of the season, going unbeaten against CAL competition. The Crusaders have also done extremely well against a difficult non-league schedule that included appearances in quite a few high-profile showcase events. If Thweatt (20.7 ppg) and White (18.5 ppg) stay out of foul trouble and the Crusader guards limit turnovers, Wildwood Catholic should be able to have success. Dave DeWeese’s Wildwood Catholic team has won 19 straight games since their lone loss to Camden on Dec. 27.
Miscellaneous tidbits: St. Augustine has won the most CAL boys title games, taking 10 in 14 appearances, including three straight from 2015 through 2017. Atlantic City, with nine, is the only other team with more than three. Wildwood Catholic is the only boys team that has played in multiple CAL title games without a loss, winning in 2014 and 2018. St. Augustine and Wildwood Catholic are the only boys teams to appear in every CAL Tournament since the event’s inception in 2012.
What to expect: Those looking at the final score (67-44) when the teams met earlier this season might think the Crusaders should breeze to victory in this rematch. But that contest was much closer than the final score indicated. In addition, it will be interesting to see how Wildwood Catholic reacts to being the favorite; the Crusaders were underdogs in the title game both last year and in 2014 when they beat Atlantic City both times. While both Wildwood Catholic and St. Augustine each get a lot of production from their frontcourt players, the guard play will certainly be just as much of a factor in this contest.
Prediction: Wildwood Catholic, 61-54.