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Tough schedule, early optimism at Moorestown

At least nobody will accuse the Moorestown boys' basketball team of easing into the season.

At least nobody will accuse the Moorestown boys' basketball team of easing into the season.

The Quakers began the year by facing defending Tournament of Champions champ Trenton Catholic. Their next game was against defending South Jersey Group 1 champion Woodbury.

Then after Christmas, the Quakers will resume action against 2009 Group 4 state champion Lenape, a team that is under consideration in The Inquirer's rankings this week.

That Moorestown is 1-1 and feels it could be 2-0 speaks volumes about the strides the program has made.

Moorestown gained great confidence despite a 42-37 loss to Trenton Catholic, lamenting about many missed shots from close range. Then the confidence rose with Tuesday's 42-40 victory at Woodbury, not the easiest place to win.

Considering that the only returning starter is 6-foot-6 senior Michael Angeleri, who averaged nine points last season, this start is truly encouraging.

"A lot of people making the predictions didn't think we'd be strong this year, but we had a great end of the season and that gave us a lot of confidence for this year," Angeleri said. "I think what happened last year was that we brought basketball back to Moorestown."

That's not an exaggeration.

Moorestown was in the state tournament for the first time in seven years, according to second-year coach Shawn Anstey. The Quakers enjoyed the stay so much that they won two games, reached the semifinals, and scared the living daylights out of two-time defending South Jersey Group 3 champion Kingsway before losing, 46-40.

Kingsway needed to outscore the Quakers by 17-9 in the decisive fourth quarter.

Whether it was that semifinal or the first two games of this season, there is a clear pattern to Moorestown games. Opponents have a difficult time scoring.

Make no mistake - Trenton Catholic will be a factor in South Jersey Non-Public B, and nobody should write off two-time defending sectional champion Woodbury in Group 1. And both totaled 82 points against the Quakers.

"They are a good team, well coached and disciplined," Woodbury coach Kenny Avent said of Moorestown.

So in a Group 3 field that is seemingly wide open, who knows what damage Moorestown can do, although it's very early to ask that question.

What is known is that the Quakers will be battle-tested when the tournament begins after playing one of the more ambitious schedules in South Jersey. This treacherous schedule includes the likes of Rancocas Valley and Trenton Catholic twice, not to mention plenty of other South Jersey title contenders.

"It's a very tough schedule, but it's good for the kids," Anstey said.

Against Woodbury, Angeleri had a team-high 11 points, junior guard Wes Kerr added nine, and everybody else pitched in with a point here, another there, and plenty of in-your-face defense.

The outcome wasn't decided until junior guard Alex Martinelli stole the ball, held it, and watched the remaining seconds tick off the clock.

Martinelli is a symbol of the Moorestown team, a multisport athlete who provides unending hustle and earns his share of floor burns.

He is also a member of the football team, and despite being a junior, already has made a lacrosse commitment to the University of Delaware.

Like many of the Moorestown basketball players, he participates in more than one sport but gives his all in the one he's involved with at the moment.

"Even after that first loss, we felt good about ourselves, and then after beating a great team like Woodbury, it will really help our confidence," Martinelli said.

Anstey is looking to get the entire Moorestown community involved, and nothing captures people's attention more than accumulating wins. Especially against an unforgiving schedule.

The season is only two games old, the unending list of challenges lies ahead, but right now, the Quakers are justifiably feeling good about the program's direction.

Anstey said that he has tried to build off last season's postseason run.

"People were excited with how the season ended," he said.

And they should be excited about how this one is beginning.