By TOM WILLIAMS
The Cape-Atlantic League basketball community should be preparing for the 19th annual All Star Saturday in three days in the Dixie Howell Memorial Gym at OCHS.
The CAL established its first all star games in 1989 as a tribute to Howell, the longtime coach and athletics director in Ocean City who had died the previous year. The first two all star doubleheaders were held in Vineland, the games moved to Holy Spirit in 1991 for one year, then back to Vineland for two years. Ocean City took over and hosted the games in its Intermediate School from 1994-98.
Then they disappeared.
From 1999-2001 there were no games. But, in 2002, the CAL agreed to let Prime Events conduct the all star games. The event was expanded to five games, including two middle school all star games and a Legends Game between alumni of Wildwood and Wildwood Catholic against the rest of the CAL.
The National Conference boys won that 2002 game in Wildwood, 82-80, with Holy Spirit’s Henry White scoring 24 points and The Prep’s Scott Greenman 22. The American girls won, 59-57, but that game was highlighted by an incredible three-point shootout between Wildwood’s Monica Johnson and Holy Spirit’s Kim Ordille at halftime. Kim won, making 28 of 45 shots with Monica making 27.
The Wildwood Legends, coached by the late Tom Jorgenson, won, 72-69, with Pat McCabe pacing four in double figures with 15 points. Marty Small, now the mayor of Atlantic City, led the CAL team, coached by Ken Leary, with 23 points. Scott Bittner, the mens coach at Stockton University, added 16.
Among other highlights, Lance Williams of Oakcrest won the boys three-point shootout, 29-23, over Jordan Thomas of Mainland. And, in the Coaches Three-Point Shootout, Pat Holden of Lower Cape May made 22 shots to edge two other finalists – Ocean City’s John Bruno (20) and Oakcrest’s Dave Lewis (17).
By the way, the very first three-point champions, back in 1991, were Frank Vogel (now the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers) and Sue Devlin (former Mainland coach, now Sue Repetti and rooting for Ocean City in the football, basketball and baseball seasons).
Through the years there were many, many great performances – 1994, when EHT’s Ivary Israel scored 34 and Atlantic City’s Jomo Lyles-Belton added 32 to lead the American Conference to a 120-108 win; 2004, when Oakcrest’s Erica Bell had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists; 2011, when Jade Howard of St. Joseph had 14 points and 15 rebounds; 2012, when Pleasantville’s Michael Black made nine three-pointers in a 94-91 win by Team Allen; and 2018, when Wildwood Catholic’s Mat Capozzoli scored 32 points in 20 minutes, including 13-for-13 from the foul line and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The middle school games, coordinated by Yogi Hiltner for 17 years and by Keith Palek the last two years, are always great fun, too. You see these young players who hold the future of the CAL in their hands.
Highlights of previous All Star Saturdays, include box scores and photos, are available here.
Preliminary plans for this year’s games were already underway when the ongoing health concerns caused All Star Saturday, like almost all other events, to be cancelled. Boys rosters had not been finalized but here were the initial invitees.
And the girls rosters also promised an exciting game.
These are the players who would have initially been invited. Some may have been unavailable, like Mainland’s Jake Cook, who is injured. Mainland’s Kylee Watson was not included because she was scheduled to play in Nike’s Jordan Brand Classic in Chicago on Saturday.
Hopefully, All Star Saturday will be back in 2021. Who knows, maybe a new Legends Game will be added to the day.
But it is fun to imagine what this Saturday’s games would have been like. And to congratulate these 40 CAL seniors and the eight coaches for their contributions to the great history of Cape-Atlantic League basketball.
And now – here are the identities of the three players shown on Facebook & Twitter from 2016.