By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
It's only technically true that Camden won the South Jersey Group 2 title game on Monday night by scoring 48 points.
The Panthers really won another sectional crown by holding Haddonfield to 40.
"Defense, defense, defense," Camden junior Brad Hawkins said of the key to the team's 48-40 victory before a capacity-plus crowd in Haddonfield's gymnasium.
Hawkins scored 14 and junior forward Jamal Holloway collected 10 points and 18 rebounds for third-seeded Camden (24-6), which won its fourth straight South Jersey title and its 45th in the illustrious history of the program.
The victory also was the 599th of Camden coach John Valore's career.
"Our defense is our offense," Valore said.
Camden advanced to face Central Jersey champion Manasquan in the Group 2 state semifinals Wednesday at Perth Amboy High School at 7.
The winner of that game will play for the state championship Sunday at Rutgers.
The South Jersey title game was a must-see event that was sold out in advance; a line of people snaked down Sylvan Lake Avenue outside the entrance to Haddonfield's gym at 4:30 for a 6 o'clock start.
The celebrity-studded crowd included Camden legend DaJuan Wagner, who sat at the end of the Panthers' bench as well as former Haddonfield standout Doug Stewart and former Pitman stars Joe and Jon Crispin.
Football stars Adonis Jennings (Timber Creek graduate who on Monday announced he was transferring Pitt to Temple) and Marques Little (Williamstown graduate who plays for Old Dominion) also were in the gym.
Camden's defense and rebounding were the difference in the game, according to Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman.
"They are so tough," Wiedeman said of Camden. "They go right through you."
Senior Nick DePersia scored 20 and his twin brother, senior Rob DePersia, added 10 points in their final games for top-seeded Haddonfield (23-7).
Nick and Rob DePersia each hit three-pointers in the final one minute, 12 seconds in a deperate attempt to rally Haddonfield.
"Our culture has changed in the last four years," Wiedeman said of the impact of his seniors. "We became a relentless team with a warrior mentality."
Camden brought the same mindset to the second consecutive playoff clash between these relatively new but increasingly fierce rivals.
The Panthers' football stars, Hawkins and Holloway, played their typically physical games with a big assist from burly freshman Myles Thompson, who scored six points with six rebounds.
Camden also got strong work from senior guard Rasool Hinson, who generated 10 points, three assists and two steals.
"It was all about our defense," Hinson said. "That's all we talk about -- defense and rebounding."
Camden struggled to score against Haddonfield's 1-3-1 halfcourt trap, which generated several turnovers.
But the Panthers never buckled at the defensive end, using a tight man-to-man to limit Haddonfield's open looks.
Camden led the whole way after senior guard Will McCants hit a three-pointer on the Panthers' first possession.
Haddonfield cut the margin to 44-40 on Nick DePersia's three-pointer at the 0:37 mark but Hawkins and Hinson were 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final 0:33 to seal the deal.
"We played defense, we had five guys go to the glass and we made our foul shots," Valore said.
Camden 11 12 11 14 -- 48
Haddonfield 8 7 13 12 -- 40
C: Brad Hawkins 14, Jamal Holloway 10, Rasool Hinson 10, Will McCants 5, Myles Thompson 6, Cory Whiting 3.
H: Rob DePersia 10, Nick DePersia 20, Tom Kadar 5, Luke Leverick 2, Jake Robinson 3.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com