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Basketball: Closer look at today's sectional finals

By Phil Anastasia

Inquirer Staff Writer

Here's a closer look at Monday's sectional finals in boys' basketball:

South Jersey Group 4

Cherokee (19-9) at Cherry Hill East (24-5), 4.

Cherokee is the No. 4 seed. CHE is the No. 3 seed. The winner advances to the state semifinals Wednesday at 5:30 at Egg Harbor Twp.

These teams know each other well: This will be the sixth game between the rivals in the last two seasons, including the second straight clash for the sectional title.

The teams split in Olympic American play in the regular season. CHE won at home 43-41 and Cherokee won at home 46-43.

Cherry Hill East won the SJ 4 crown last season with a big game from then-junior guard Jake Silpe, who scored 23 and was 14-for-14 from the foul line. As always, he is the key for CHE.

But the Cougars are playing at a high level as a team. Junior Tim Perry has begun taking strong strides into becoming a dominant force. Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said he never saw Perry "so decisive" as the big man was in CHE's 66-56 win over AC on Saturday.

And players such as Josh Brown, Olin McClendon and Pierce Elliott have embraced their roles and made major contributions to the team's run to its third appearance in the SJ 4 final in the last four seasons.

That 60-22 loss to Haddonfield on Feb. 24 might have crippled another team but Cherokee somehow shook it off. The Chiefs have won four in a row since then and shocked some people -- cough, cough -- with an impressive victory over Rancocas Valley by a 55-46 score in the sectional semifinals.

Senior guard Paul Bellamy leads the way but the Chiefs have been getting good work from a number of players, including Kevin Brown, Grant Gibson and Tyler Tobin, among others.

It's hard to bet against Silpe at home with that huge student section behind him but the recent history of this rivalry suggests this will be a close game in the fourth quarter.

South Jersey Group 2

Camden (23-6) at Haddonfield (23-6) at 6.

Camden is the No. 3 seed and Haddonfield is the No. 1 seed. The winner advances to the state semifinals Wednesday at Perth Amboy at 7.

There's some history here -- Camden beat a 28-0 Haddonfield team in the SJ 2 semifinals last season. There are several players back from that game on both squads.

And both teams have football players who were on the field when Haddonfield stunned Camden in the SJ 2 semifinals in November, 2013.

Camden has won 7 of 8. Junior forward Jamal Holloway has been strong all season and junior guard Brad Hawkins has picked up his scoring average in recent weeks. The key for the Panthers often is the play of their complementary athletes such as seniors Rasool Hinson and Will McCants and freshman Myles Thompson.

Hawkins was terrific in the win at Haddonfield last season but Hinson and McCants made some big shots in the second half as well.

Haddonfield has won five in a row and seven of eight. The Bulldogs' 60-22 win at Cherokee on Feb. 24 looks better and better every day -- especially with Cherokee in today's SJ 4 title game.

Haddonfield is led by senior twin guards Nick and Rob DePersia. They are constants but the key for the Bulldogs could be getting strong contributions from another source or two.

Last year against Camden, it was then-junior Jake Robinson. Two games ago, it was senior Luke Leverick with 20 against Cedar Creek. In the semifinals against Bridgeton, it was junior Tommy Kadar with 17.

Central Jersey Group 2

Bordentown (24-5) at Manasquan (21-6) at 6.

Bordentown is the No. 8 seed. Manasquan is the No. 2 seed. The winner plays the Camden-Haddonfield winner Wednesday at 7 at Perth Amboy.

Bordentown is on one of those remarkable runs that makes this tournament so great. The Scotties have beaten rival Pemberton in the first round (Pemberton had won by 15 in the regular season), stunned top-seeded Lakewood in the second round and beat Rumson Fair-Haven (which had taken CBA apart in the Shore Conference title game) in the sectional semifinals.

Junior Myron Gordon (23.1 per game) has led the way along with Dante Gipson (9.3) and Darnill Brown (62 three pointers).

Manasquan is led by Ryan Jenson, who averages 12.1 points and 13.3 rebounds while Jack Sheehan and Aiden McMenamin have combined for 65 three-pointers.

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