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Camden Catholic's Pat Corbett leads Irish boys' basketball team past Eastern

In his first varsity start, the junior point guard scored 7 points in the fourth quarter and dished to teammate Uche Okafor for the game-winning basket.

Uche Okafor (right) of Camden Catholic is hugged by Baba Ajike after Okafor’s basket proved to be the difference in 50-48 victory over Eastern in their season opener in boys’ basketball.
Uche Okafor (right) of Camden Catholic is hugged by Baba Ajike after Okafor’s basket proved to be the difference in 50-48 victory over Eastern in their season opener in boys’ basketball.Read moreCharles Fox/Staff photographer

Pat Corbett used to dream about scoring the winning basket for Camden Catholic.

But then he became a point guard and learned to imagine more creative ways to spark the Irish in the final seconds of a tied game.

Corbett made the most of his first varsity start, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter and dishing to Uche Okafor for the winning bucket in Camden Catholic's 50-48 victory over Eastern in a typically taut Olympic Conference opener for both boys' basketball teams.

"This is a huge win for us," Corbett said. "They're a Top 10 team, we're a Top 10 team and we know each other so well."

Senior swingman Dominic Dunn led all scorers with 19 and Okafor, a junior center, generated 11 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks for Camden Catholic (1-0), the No. 6 team in the Inquirer preseason Top 25.

Corbett, a 5-10 junior, scored all nine of his points in the second half. In the fourth quarter, he made a three-pointer, scored on a driving layup and sank both ends of a one-and-one at the 0:35 mark.

"Unbelievable," Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford said of Corbett's play. "He was tremendous."

Senior center Onye Okoro scored 15 with 13 rebounds for No. 8 Eastern (0-1).

The Vikings perfectly executed what coach Kevin Crawford called their "Christian Laettner play," in the final 2.7 seconds, as Jesse Barbera threw a long in-bounds pass to Ryan Ems, who dished a bounce pass to a cutting Troy Edwards.

Edwards' 10-foot floater rimmed out at the buzzer.

"I thought it was in," Kevin Crawford said.

He wasn't alone.

"Looked good from my angle," said Matt Crawford, Kevin's younger brother.

Corbett was thinking the teams were headed to overtime as well.

"I thought it was going in," Corbett said. "I was crossing my fingers, crossing everything."

The game had special meaning for Corbett, whose family has been closely connected with Camden Catholic for nearly 100 years.

"My grandfather graduated in '31 and my grandmother graduated in '33," Corbett said.

Corbett, who lives in Cherry Hill, attended Christ the King grammar school in Haddonfield, where he played for Tim Beig, who teamed with Kevin Crawford in the mid-1990s to form one of the best backcourts in South Jersey history.

"I've been waiting for this since seventh grade," Corbett said,

Corbett played freshman ball as a 9th grader and was a member of the Irish junior-varsity squad last season.

"He didn't get on the [varsity] floor last year and he probably thought he should have," Matt Crawford said. "That's good. He's competitive."

Camden Catholic point guards, past and present, were all over this game. Both Crawfords played the position for the Irish, and knows full well the challenges of orchestrating one of South Jersey's most patient offenses in a seemingly endless series of two-point games against top competition.

"I always get nervous when I have to play or coach against my brother," Matt Crawford said. "I can't sleep."

Corbett's steady play helped ease the coach's mind. Corbett played a strong floor game, making smart decisions, limiting turnovers and making the most of late-game opportunities to score.

"I think of myself as a pass-first point guard," Corbett said. "I'm not going to get frustrated if I don't score. I have to let the game come to me."

The last sequence was point-guard play at its finest.

After Eastern tied the score on Barbera's clutch three-pointer, Camden Catholic called timeout with 0:16 on the clock.

"We were going to run a high screen and I was supposed to kick it back to Dom," Corbett said of Dunn, who set the screen.

But Eastern shade its defense to Dunn, so Cornett improvised. He drove the lane, drawing Okor off Okafor, and delivered a perfect bounce pass.

"All I had to do was catch it and make the layup," Okafor said. "We have a great point guard. He made a great basketball play."

Said Matt Crawford: "That had nothing to do with coaching. That was a kid making a play."

Corbett used to dream abut making plays like that and they usually ended with him sinking the basket.

But he's a Camden Catholic point guard now, the latest in a long and distinguished line.

"In the beginning, I use to think about making the basket," Corbett said. "Now I'll take the dish."

Camden Catholic 10 15 7 18 — 50

Eastern 13 11 12 10 — 48

CC: Dominic Dunn 19, Uche Okafor 11, Baba Ajike 11, Pat Corbett 9, Juan Feliciano 0.

E: Onye Okoro 15, Jesse Barbera 10, Troy Edwards 7, Ryan Ems 10, Andrew Heck 6.