Their average margin of victory has been 25.2 points.
They’ve won nine games by more than 30 points.
They’ve won 21 games, and just three of them have been decided by single digits.
So when Camden found itself in a tight battle with Wildwood Catholic on Sunday night before a near-capacity crowd at Neumann University, the Panthers were in an unfamiliar spot.
But that doesn’t mean they were uncomfortable.
“We were saying, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is our test right here,’” Camden senior Lance Ware said. “And we overcame it.”
Behind junior Devin Benson and freshman D.J. Wagner, Camden battled into overtime and pulled away in the extra session for a 63-54 victory before around 3,500 spectators in the Mirenda Center.
Benson came off the bench to make five three-pointers and score a game-high 19. His alley-oop pass to Ware for a dunk erased Wildwood Catholic’s last lead with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in regulation.
Wagner scored 10 of his 18 in overtime as Camden won its 17th game in a row. But this one was different from most of the Panthers’ triumphs this season, and should serve the team well in advance of high-pressure, one-possession games in the coming state tournament.
“They are a bunch of kids who will fight for one common goal, and that’s obviously to win a state championship,” Camden coach Rick Brunson said.
Here’s The Inquirer’s South Jersey Top 10, with last week’s rankings in parentheses:
1. Camden (1) 21-1: Junior forward TaQuan Woodley scored just three points in the first half against Wildwood Catholic. He still was the best player on the floor, with eight rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Camden will visit No. 4 Paul VI on Tuesday and host cross-town rival Woodrow Wilson on Thursday.
2. Moorestown (2) 21-1: The Quakers have won 18 in a row since a 45-44 loss to Westampton Tech on Jan. 2. That means they are two points away from 22-0. Moorestown’s defense shone last week in a 41-32 win over Burlington Township and a 59-38 victory over Cinnaminson. Shane Knobloch with eight points against Burlington Township and Logan Jagodzinski with 12 points against Cinnaminson. Moorestown has a challenging week ahead with games vs. Burlington City on Tuesday, Rancocas Valley on Thursday and Paul VI on Saturday.
3. Wildwood Catholic (3) 16-7: The Crusaders have too many expectations to regard pushing Camden to overtime as a moral victory. But there were positive signs Sunday night for a team that has lost four of five and five of eight. Senior guard Jacob Hopping was superb, especially in the fourth quarter. Senior Jahlil White showed range on his jumper with a trio of three-pointers, and senior Taj Thweatt threw down six dunks. Wildwood Catholic still looms as the team to beat in the coming Cape-Atlantic League tournament.
4. Paul VI (6): The Eagles jump back into the Top 5 after a strong week in which they extended their winning streak to six games. Nicolo Nobili went for 19 points in a 60-41 win over rival Bishop Eustace. Paul VI put six players in double figures led by Jaden Arline with 21 in a 97-53 victory over Winslow Township and five players in double figures led by Wisler Sanon with 16 in a 84-48 win over Washington Township. Paul VI has a big week ahead with another shot at No. 1 Camden on Tuesday followed by a game vs. Cherokee on Thursday and a matchup with No. 2 Moorestown on Saturday.
5. Timber Creek (4) 18-2: The Chargers won the Battle of Cross Keys Road, beating rival Winslow Township, 58-42. Timber Creek, which has earned the No. 2 seed in South Jersey Group 3 behind Moorestown, has Olympic Patriot foe Shawnee on Thursday in advance of a Feb. 24 matchup with No. 1 Camden.
6. Burlington City (9) 19-2: Veteran coach Paul Collins earned his 800th career victory as the Blue Devils rolled past Riverside, 70-49. Collins is second on South Jersey’s all-time list, behind St. Augustine’s Paul Rodio. His team has secured the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group 1. Burlington City will have a major test Tuesday vs. No. 2 Moorestown and then play dangerous Westampton Tech on Thursday.
7. St. Augustine (8) 18-4: Matt Delaney scored 25 as the Hermits beat rival Atlantic City for the second time this season, scoring a 54-48 victory that locked up the Cape-Atlantic American Division title and also likely secured the No. 2 seed in the CAL tournament. St. Augustine will be the No. 4 seed in the Non-Public South A tournament and will see Bishop Eustace in the first game.
8. Haddonfield (5) 19-3: Andrew Gostovich scored 25 as the Bulldogs bounced back from a loss to Haddon Heights with a victory over Audubon. In the 37-30 setback to the Garnets, Gostovich generated eight points with six rebounds. Haddonfield has two key Colonial Liberty games this week with a battle with West Deptford on Tuesday and a visit to Sterling on Thursday.
9. Camden Catholic (7) 14-7: Zach Hicks scored 27 and Andrew Prete bounced off the bench to add 13 as the Irish snapped a three-game losing streak with a 59-50 win at West Deptford on Saturday. Camden Catholic has two Olympic National games this week, with a home battle with Woodrow Wilson and a visit to rival Bishop Eustace on Thursday.
10. St. Joseph (NR) 17-3: The Wildcats scored the most significant victory in coach Paul Rodio’s tenure with 66-58 triumph over Wildwood Catholic on Tuesday. Junior Marcus Pierce led the way with 25 points and sophomore Daniel Skillings went for 20 points with 11 rebounds as the Wildcats avenged a 101-82 loss on Jan. 15. It was another major step forward for Rodio, the son of legendary St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio, and his program, and served notice that the Wildcats bear watching in the CAL tournament as well as the Non-Public South B playoffs.