When Camden Catholic boys' basketball coach Matt Crawford saw that his team was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer last week, he knew what would come next.
"We are going to experience everybody's best shot," he said.
Yet the Irish's shot is not too bad, either, as they proved Friday with a 55-46 win over visiting Shawnee in the opening interdivisional game for both Olympic Conference teams.
Crawford was also proven correct in earning the opposition's best shot. The final score was deceiving. Shawnee trailed, 49-46, with 22 seconds left and missed the front end of a one-and-one. After that, the Irish finally put things away.
While Camden Catholic held serve in its first game, this also amounted to the return of the Shawnee program to South Jersey's elite after an uncharacteristic 8-18 season.
Ranked No. 15 going into last season, Shawnee was hit by both inexperience and key injuries. This proud program, which has earned a Tournament of Champions title, five state championships, and 10 South Jersey crowns under coach Joe Kessler, appears to be back to its dangerous ways.
"I thought we fought tonight, and in the end we made mistakes, but I was really pleased with our effort," Kessler said.
He should be.
This is a team that can extend the court with several three-point shooters. It was also the first look at 6-foot-4 freshman Dylan Deveney, who forgot the script about being nervous in his varsity debut. Deveney had 18 points and made four of his seven three-pointers.
"He's got big-time inside moves, but he is not going to do that against a 6-10 kid," Kessler said.
The Shawnee coach was referring to Camden Catholic's 6-9 senior Demola Onifade, who came from Nigeria 20 months ago and played only two games last year because of shoulder surgery.
His defense is ahead of his offense, and it also may be ahead of any other player's in South Jersey. Onifade had six points and six rebounds and plenty of intimidating plays on 'D.'
"It's fun being back," he said. "I know I have to work on my offense."
Camden Catholic's main offense will be courtesy of 6-foot-7 senior Brendan Crawford, the cousin of the head coach. Crawford had 22 points, which included 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
"I worked on my outside shooting all summer," he said.
While the shot looks sweet, his coach had a reminder. "He can score inside, so he can't forget that," Matt Crawford said.
The other starters are Courtney Cubbage, a 6-2 senior who had 13 points; 6-3 senior Jimmy Robinson, who had six points, including four key fourth quarter foul shots; and junior Jamal Parker, who added eight points while running the point.
The starters played most of the game and showed no signs of fatigue at the end.
"We have big hopes this year," Brendan Crawford said.
Everybody insists that being ranked first before the first jump ball is both a blessing and a curse.
"It's a big responsibility," Onifade said.
Yet this team appears level-headed enough to be up for the challenge.
It's a season in which the Irish will get everybody's best shot and should be able to administer plenty of their own as well.
Shawnee 10 11 17 8 - 46
Camden Catholic 12 14 15 14 - 55
S: Alex Warren 12, Luke Cooper 4, Sam Portner 7, Dean Austin 5, Dylan Deveney 18.
C: Jamal Parker 8, Courtney Cubbage 13, Jimmy Robinson 6, Brendan Crawford 22, Demola Onifade 6.