By Phil Anastasia
The big news last week was the pre-game scene at Paul VI on Friday night, when Camden Catholic players didn't shake hands with Paul VI coach Tony Devlin during introductions.
Devlin and PVI players and fans were more than a little upset. There also are a lot of PVI folks out there who took offense CC coach Jim Crawford -- who normally shakes hands with opposing players -- sent an assistant coach out to greet PVI players when they were introduced.
"Nobody disrespects coach," PVI junior forward Matt Risse said after the Eagles' imposing 67-44 victory.
There are CC folks who believe PVI coaches encouraged junior guard Ivan Robinson to transfer to PVI last summer.
Devlin vehmently denies the recruiting charge. He said Robinson is good friends with several PVI guys, is epecially close with junior forward Jay Howard, plays AAU with a lot of the Eagles and made up his own mind to transfer.
"Kids have the right to leave schools," Devlin said. "We've lost a few kids over the years."
Later Devlin said, "We have nothing to apologize about."
Here's an unanswered question: If CC believed PVI illegally recruited Robinson, why did CC administrators sign the transfer waiver form? If they had not signed it, the NJSIAA would have held a hearing on the circumstances of the transfer and maybe gotten to the bottom of it.
CC athletic director Marlene Grimes has declined to comment on why school officials signed the transfer waiver form.
A person close to the CC program said CC preferred to go through the Diocese of Camden rather than the NJSIAA to complain about the situation. Apparently, there was reluctance to create a public scene over the transfer of a student athlete from one diocese school to another.
But that pre-game scene on Friday night was pretty public.
Anyway, here's the new Top Ten, as of Sunday, Dec. 23, with previous ranking in parenthese:
1. Atlantic City (1) 4-0
Emerging junior forward Dennis White scored 15 in a 38-37 victory over Archbishop Wood of the Philadelphia Catholic League Saturday at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in Wildwood. The Vikings are winning close games, just like they did late last year en route to CAL and state Group 4 titles. Big test Friday at Widener vs. Abington (7-0), the No. 7 team in The Inquirer Southeastern Pa. rankings.
2. Paulsboro (2) 3-0
Senior Xavier Lundy is averaging 26.3 points for the Red Raiders. This team will be tested plenty over the course of this season, and will have the opportunity to justify this high of a ranking. They just haven't been tested yet.
3. Paul VI (4) 3-0
The Eagles got a big lift from junior Jair Green in a 67-44 victory over then-No. 10 Camden Catholic on Friday night. Almost moved PVI up to No. 2. They looked that good against CC, and heard great stuff about them in preseason (they swamped Middle Twp. in a scrimmage). But it's a long year. These rankings will play out in time. What's most impressive about PVI is its overall size, length and athleticism. The Eagles go 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in their starting lineup. They don't have the 6-7 guy in the middle but they cover the court at the defensive end, crash the offensive glass and can create serious matchup problems.
4. Holy Spirit (5) 3-0
Senior guard Paul Moore (21) and junior forward Junior Saintel (19) combined for 40 points in a 59-39 victory over Millville Friday night. These guys haven't been tested yet, either, but they have a ton of big games on the schedule after the new year.
5. Shawnee (6) 4-0
Senior Tristan Polnitz was 4-for-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter of a comeback victory over Timber Creek Thursday night. Shawnee has been living dangerously, trailing in the fourth quarter of three of its four victories. This team has a good chance to be much stronger in February, as three of its projected top seven players are out with injuries.
6. Middle Township (7) 3-1
Senior guard Tom Feraco, the son of the coach with the same name, is averaging nearly seven assists for the Panthers. Coach Feraco was pleased with his team's play in a 45-32 loss to national power St. Anthony of Jersey City on Saturday. The Panthers showed well, playing tight man-to-man defense and handling the Friars' pressure. They got worn down a bit on the glass, which can happen to anybody against SA and especially to a team such as MT with its lack of height and depth. Still, a great week for MT with a big win over St. Augustine and a strong showing against USA Today's No. 11 team.
7. Lenape (NR) 3-0
Senior guard Sawyer Hand hit a pair of big three-pointers to rally Indians to a 41-38 victory over then-No. 3 Eastern on Thursday. Big week for the Indians included home wins over then-No. 10 Camden and then-No. 3 Eastern. These guys play defense and seniors Hand, Tabu Gaither and Kendall Green have been stepping up at key moments.
8. Eastern (3) 2-1
Junior center Matt Klinewski is averaging 17 points for the Vikings. Eastern wasn't able to get its offense in gear against Lenape, which is a credit to the Indians' defense. But this team will have plenty of opportunities to bounce back into the Top 5 with that schedule.
9. Haddonfield (8) 4-0
Senior guard Billy Griffin has scored in double figures in each game as the Bulldogs have averaged 76.5 points. Sophomore guards Nick and Rob DePersia have been playing at a high level for Haddonfield. This team has a lot of depth, too, with athletic sophomores bouncing off the bench.
10. Camden (10) 3-2
Freshmen Brad Hawkins and Jamal Holloway were active in a 70-36 victory over Pennsauken Saturday in the Virginia Whittaker Tournament at Cherry Hill East. The Panthers have been getting good work from senior forward Amir Maddred, who is the key to their team. Starting with the fourth quarter of a loss to Lenape, Maddred has played with an edge and led the way in wins over Bishop Eustace and Pennsauken. Big week for Camden includes two more games at Whittaker tournament in Cherry Hill, then a matchup with St. Anthony of Jersey City Sunday night in the Wildwoods Convention Center. No, Sam's Pizza is not open this time of year.
Under consideration (listed alphabetically):
St. Augustine (3-1): Hermits took one on the chin at Middle Township but bounced back the next night. A deep team with a lot of moving parts that likely will be better in February than in December.
In the mix:
Camden Catholic (1-2): Tough week for the Irish included double-digit losses to Eastern and Paul VI. Senior Kyle Green is a given. Key for Irish is continued development of those younger players.
Timber Creek (3-1): Senior guard George Sapp, who is playing at his fourth high school in four years, is making a difference of the Chargers. He's a true playmaker who can create and dish.
Penns Grove (4-0): Senior swingman Ge'shawn Davis averaging 25.2 points. Pitman coach Kevin Crawford calls him "the Charles Barkley of South Jersey basketball."
Rancocas Valley (3-1): The Red Devils have won three in a row with sturdy defense and some offensive balance.
Delsea (3-1): Crusaders rallied from 16-point halftime deficit to beat Williamstown in key Tri-County Royal game.