If openers are any indication, the Bishop Eustace boys' basketball team may get the early nod as the most improved team in South Jersey.
Coming off an 11-14 season, the Crusaders opened Friday with a convincing 80-58 win over Camden in an Olympic Conference National Division game.
Sophomore Dexter Harris scored 21 points, including 17 in the first half, that staked the Crusaders to a 45-29 lead.
This was against a Camden team that is the defending South Jersey Group 2 champion and will still likely be contending again. It's also a Camden squad that beat Eustace twice last year by a total of 25 points.
"This is the way we have been playing, and the players are pushing each other every day," Eustace coach Bob Falconiero said.
Camden had cut Eustace's lead to 29-25 with 5 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half on two free throws by Vincent Walls when the Crusaders took off.
Eusace outscored the Panthers, 16-5, to end the half up by 16 points. Camden never seriously threatened in the second half.
Camden coach Mike Stargell said his team would improve, especially when the Panthers receive some expected reinforcements likely in the next few weeks. Stargell said three potential contributors are still not eligible to play.
"That will help, but we have no excuses," Stargell said. "Bishop Eustace played a great game."
In addition to Harris, Eustace received 17 points and a great floor game from fellow sophomore Carson Puriefoy. Senior Pat Vasturia, who averaged 18 points per game last season, scored 15 of his 17 points after intermission.
Walls led Camden with 25 points, shooting 11 for 21 from the field.
Camden 20 9 12 17 - 58
Bishop Eustace 26 19 20 15 - 80
C: Vincent Walls 25, Karon Waller 2, Michael Myers 17, Devon Devine 10, Xavier Nobles 4.
B: Carson Puriefoy 17, Will Clements 4, Pat Vasturia 17, Sho DaSilva 9, Bob Falconiero 10, Dexter Harris 21, Scott Hyland 2.