By BRIAN CUNNIFF
There’s a rare dynamic surrounding this year’s version of the Lower Cape May Regional High School boys basketball team.
The Caper Tigers are both young and experienced.
Although the program features no seniors, Lower is blessed to have a group of juniors and sophomores that has already experienced the rigors of varsity basketball.
Juniors Archie Lawler (6-2 F) and Jacob Bey (6-4 F) have each been starters since their freshman seasons. Sophomore Mackey Bonner (5-10 G) started at point guard as a freshman.
Other key rotation players such as junior Mike Cronin (6-2 G), sophomores Oguer Nunez (5-9 G) and Kamauri Wright (5-7 G) also saw varsity time as freshmen.
“We’ve been so far ahead in terms of preparation,” said Lower coach Scott Holden (12th season, 124-156 career). “We have six guys back who got major minutes on last year’s team. That’s a big plus.”
Other varsity players include junior Markelle Dominguez (6-2 F), sophomore Brandon Loper (5-11 G) and talented freshman Braswell Thomas (5-11 G).
Lower won five of its final six games and finished 8-5 in the pandemic-shortened season last winter. But, even with many of its key players back, there are some major challenges this winter.
Lower has been placed in what is widely thought to be the Cape-Atlantic League’s most competitive conference. The Tigers will play CAL United games against such top teams as Egg Harbor Township, Holy Spirit and St. Joseph, with other highly competitive teams such as Mainland, Cedar Creek and Hammonton also in the conference. Lower is also challenging itself out of the conference, picking up games against St. Augustine Prep, Wildwood Catholic and Southern Regional, among others.
“I’m not completely convinced we’re going to do what a lot of people are telling us we’re going to do this year,” Holden said. “Until we start gelling and really getting after it, it’s going to be tough for us. We have a really tough schedule.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. We haven’t seen some of the teams in our conference in a few years because we haven’t played them. But I think we can compete.”
Lawler is one of the CAL’s top players. He averaged 17 points and five rebounds and led the team in assists last season. Bonner (10 ppg) and Bey (10 ppg, 5.5 rpg) are also proven scorers.
“We had a nice year last year with a pretty young team and we surprised a lot of people,” Holden said. “But at the same time, we’re still very young with no seniors. We need some people to step up.”
Lower opens the season this weekend with back-to-back difficult games. The Tigers will host Egg Harbor Township Friday before playing St. Augustine in the Prime Events Tip-Off Weekend showcase event in Ocean City on Saturday.
Holden is assisted by Rocco Sansone and John “Champ” McGaffney.