New year, new No. 1.
Camden has taken over the top spot in The Inquirer’s South Jersey boys’ basketball rankings, thanks to an impressive start to a season of soaring expectations.
The Panthers have overwhelmed in-state competition and beaten Philadelphia Public League power Gratz by 20, and they held an 11-point lead in the third quarter over Philadelphia Catholic League power Roman Catholic before fading a bit in the fourth quarter of that showcase game before a packed-plus house at Cherry Hill East.
Former No. 1 Wildwood Catholic slips to No. 2 after a second straight frustrating loss to a quality opponent at this past weekend’s Seagull Classic at Holy Spirit, while Paul VI moves up to No. 3 thanks to an impressive win over arch-rival Camden Catholic.
Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s rankings in parentheses.
1. Camden (2) 4-1: D.J. Wagner isn’t the only freshman making an impact for the Panthers. Guards Cian Medley and Sebastian Robinson and forward Cornelius Robinson also are playing meaningful minutes, another sign this team might be just scratching the surface of its potential. Senior swingman Lance Ware and junior forwards TaQuan Woodley and Jerome Brewer have been solid for Camden, which has a busy week ahead with four games, capped by a Saturday showdown with Camden Catholic.
2. Wildwood Catholic (1) 4-2: Senior guard Jahlil White was stellar with 20 points, five rebounds and three blocks in a 49-45 loss to North Jersey Group 4 power Elizabeth at the Seagull Classic on Saturday. But the rest of the Crusaders struggled at the offensive end, shooting a combined 0-for-11 from three-point range. “We haven’t made a shot all year long,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese told reporters from nj.com and the Press of Atlantic City after the game.
3. Paul VI (4) 3-1: Sophomore Jaden Arline made a trio of three-pointers on his way to 13 points and junior Jalen Boyd-Savage added 11, but it was the Eagles’ smothering defense that made the difference in the 46-34 victory over Camden Catholic. A game with 80 total points is not exactly Paul VI’s preferred pace, but being able to win against its tempo-controlling arch-rival without much in the way of scoring runs was a good sign for the Eagles. Paul VI will host Lenape on Tuesday night in a key Olympic Conference cross-division clash.
4. Camden Catholic (3): The Irish bounced back from the loss to Paul VI with an impressive victory over North Jersey public-school power Linden at the Seagull Classic. Junior Zach Hicks led the way with 25 points. The Irish’s gym will be stuffed Saturday when Camden comes to Cherry Hill for the first of two meetings between the Olympic Conference National Division rivals.
5. Lenape (6) 4-1: The Indians will be coming off a 10-day break when they visit No. 3 Paul VI on Tuesday. Sophomore guard Derek Simpson leads the way for a Lenape team that has specialized in sturdy defense and unselfish offense.
6. St. Augustine (5) 4-2: Sophomore Elmarko Jackson scored 16 in a win over Egg Harbor Township and 11 in a loss to state power Patrick School at the Seagull Classic. Senior guard Kevin Foreman continued his solid play, scoring 10 against the Patrick School after generating five assists and three steals in the victory over Egg Harbor.
7. Bishop Eustace (7) 6-0: The Crusaders extended their torrid start with a big win over Woodrow Wilson as senior guard David Cross collected 21 points and eight assists and senior swingman Matt McCaffrey added 14 points. Bishop Eustace will host Timber Creek on Tuesday and visit Camden on Thursday.
8. Timber Creek (9) 6-0: Senior forward Demetrius Paynter dominated the paint with 18 rebounds, 11 points and four blocks in a win over Olympic Patriot foe Seneca. Senior guard Eric Benjamin added 16 points with five rebounds and three assists for the Chargers, who will travel to Bishop Eustace on Tuesday for an early-January showdown of unbeaten teams.
9. Holy Cross (10) 5-0: Senior forward Aidan Nesemeier scored 20 points with 11 rebounds in a victory over Pemberton. Senior center Giovanni Cessel continued his strong work in the paint with 11 rebounds.
10. Burlington City (NR) 5-0: Sophomore twins Jamaal and Jameel Morris led the way in a big victory over Cinnaminson. Jamaal Morris scored 21 and Jameel Morris added 11 as the 10th graders continued to emerge as strong complements to standout senior guard D.J. Woodbury, a Temple football recruit, for a team averaging 70.6 points.