By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Winslow Township basketball coach Norm Ingram said it began with one word.
"Believe," Ingram said of his message to his team.
By 9 o'clock on Tuesday night, Ingram didn't have to ask his players to make a leap of faith. They had the hardware to prove they were champions.
"Group 3, baby," senior guard Juan Hemingway said, lifting the championship trophy after leading visiting Winslow Township to a 76-65 victory over Delsea in the South Jersey Group 3 title game.
Hemingway scored 24 and junior guard Mike Cubbage added 15 points and played a strong floor game for second-seeded Winslow Township (16-10), which advanced to the Group 3 state semifinals Thursday at Brick Memorial.
Senior Keith Braxton scored 31 in his final game for top-seeded Delsea (24-6).
"Our core group put us on the map," Delsea coach Tom Freeman said after an emotional final post-game meeting with his players. "I can't say enough about our seniors. They've done so much for this program."
It was a devastating loss for Delsea, which won the sectional title last season. Nearly every player that walked out of the classroom after the post-game meeting was in tears.
Freeman fought back tears in discussing his team.
"These kids are just unbelievable," Freeman said.
Delsea was hampered by foul trouble. Senior standout Kwame Morton fouled out on a double-foul call with seven minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the game.
Winslow also dealt with foul trouble but the Eagles' depth, especially in the front court, was a huge factor in an intense, physical and fast-paced game that was played before a capacity-plus crowd in Delsea's gymnasium.
The humidity in the building created some traction problems on the floor as several players lost their footing and slipped to the floor in the second half.
"We grind," Ingram said. "These kids, they just play hard. They go hard in practice, they go hard in the games."
Winslow broke the game open with 26-12 surge in the third quarter as Hemingway scored nine and Cubbage scored six.
"We knew we could pressure them," Cubbage said. "They're a good team but they didn't really get pressured much. They didn't play our schedule."
Said Ingram: "The key was the pressure we put on their guards. We wanted to put on 32 minutes of pressure. We knew they were good but we felt like after 32 minutes of pressure they wouldn't be the same."
Winslow got strong work in the paint from burly center Devon Robinson (15 points) as well as forwards Nasir Fields (nine points) and Dennis Clark (eight points).
Robinson's three-point play made it 46-36 midway in the third quarter and his hoop off a feed from Hemingway made it 51-38 moments later.
Winslow also got a huge lift when Tyrae Taylor hit a circus shot at the buzzer of the third quarter for a 61-45 lead.
"They killed us on the glass," Freeman said. "It's hard to win a game when you get beat that bad on the glass."
With Kwame Morton on the bench, Braxton tried to lead Delsea back in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his points.
But Cubbage made a three-point play off a strong drive to the basket at the 1:42 mark, and Hemingway sealed the victory by making five of six free throws in the final 87 seconds.
"This means a lot," Cubbage said. "People said we weren't a good team, that we couldn't win this game.
"We're made for this. We made a statement."
Winslow Twp. 15 21 26 15 -- 76
Delsea 15 18 12 20 -- 65
W: Mike Cubbage 15, Juan Hemingway 24, Dennis Clark 8, Elijah Campbell 2, Devon Robinson 15, Nasir Fields 9, Manny Lowe 1, Tyrae Taylor 2.
D: Kwame Morton 8, Kaleb Morton 12, Keith Braxton 31, Danny McDuffie 4, Greg Avis 4, Will Conrey 4, Paul Milburn 2.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org