By TOM WILLIAMS
There are 11 days left in the Cape-Atlantic League basketball season. And quite a season it has been.
The NJSIAA says you have to complete all games by March 7 and, for some teams, that is unfortunate. They will not have time to make up games that were postponed by COVID-19 complications or, in a few cases, by snow. Though one CAL coach put it into context when asked if the season should be extended – “I really love basketball, but I love my family more”.
It became known today that both the Atlantic City boys and girls have ended their seasons. And the Middle Township boys will not play again this year. The CAL has six conference championships at stake – three boys and three girls – in their temporary East, North and West alignments.
You can see from those standings that most conferences have clear leaders. Atlantic City and Ocean City are tied for first place in Boys East and should logically be named co-champions since the Vikings can no longer play. Both teams played every other team in the conference once. St. Augustine and St. Joseph are in pretty much in an identical position in Boys West and the same with Egg Harbor Township and Holy Spirit in Boys North. Though, in the West and North the two teams could complete a full 12-game conference schedule and an upset could always change things.
Among the girls, Vineland and Our Lady of Mercy are tied in the West and have split their two meetings, setting up a likely co-championship. (Interestingly. both won on the other team’s court.) Holy Spirit and Absegami each has one loss in the North and they play again on March 5 in a game that will decide the championship if there are no other upsets. And Middle Township is undefeated in the East and Wildwood Catholic, with one loss, hopes to get another shot at the Panthers. But COVID limitations may make that difficult, probably leading to a title for Middle.
By the way, the latest rankings of the Top 25 girls teams in South Jersey are HERE. And the Online 25 for boys is HERE. These rankings are unique because they are the only ones that include all of the NJSIAA South teams.
These conference championships will probably not have the same meaning as the regular, non-COVID championships when everybody plays 12 games and it all leads up to a CAL Tournament and NJSIAA group tournaments. But in a season when so much has been taken away, it is still good to have some sort of championship at stake.
Congratulations are in order to Bill Shallcross, Matt Ulmer, Dennis Smith, Ari Bluestein, Hermits Broadcasting, VPS Broadcasting, Middle Township News, Mainland Productions, Gami TV and all the others who video streamed this season’s games live so that parents, students, alumni and others who could not attend because of COVID restrictions could watch the games. Most CAL schools are now allowing parents of players (generally just senior players) to attend games the rest of the season, though primarily just the home team parents.
The Brooks-Irvine Basketball Club, which manages the South Jersey All Star Games and weekly luncheons to honor high school players, has decided to salute 10 senior players a week for the last three weeks of the season – two from each conference or league. All of their all star games, luncheons and Hall of Fame induction have been cancelled this season.
Last week the club recognized Matt Delaney of St. Augustine Prep and Marcus Pierce of St. Joseph Academy – the two guys who make the two best CAL teams what they are – as its first two players from the CAL.
Others from South Jersey recognized last week were Antoine Arnett of Sterling, Jordan Dotson of Burlington Township, Cameron Downs of Pemberton, Austin Green of Timber Creek, Zach Hicks of Camden Catholic, Brendan Mulligan of Haddon Township, Jason Pino of Gloucester and Wisler Sanon of Paul VI.
Two more from the CAL will be recognized at the end of this week and a final two next week.
As athletics directors have scrambled over the last few weeks, some new games have been scheduled. On Monday, St. Augustine – the highest ranked CAL team – will host the #1 ranked team in the state when Camden comes to the Paul Rodio Gymnasium. Also on Monday, the Mainland boys will come to Ocean City to make up their postponed game. It will be Senior Night for the Raiders. Holy Spirit will be at St. Augustine next Wednesday (those two teams went into overtime the first time around) and St. Joseph will visit Egg Harbor Township a week from Saturday (March 6) on the season’s final day.
The OCHS girls will return from quarantine and host Atlantic Tech on March 5 and Egg Harbor Township on March 6, both in the Dixie Howell Gymnasium, to complete their season.
A couple final observations-
CAL games start with a coin flip instead of a jump ball to determine which team starts with possession. The flip is usually done behind the scorer’s table, almost out of sight. Why not bring it out to center court with the two captains just before the introduction of starters? Just to add a little ceremony to it.
And this idea of officials running away from the basketball like it’s toxic sometimes looks ridiculous. A few situations work out OK but it is painful to watch an official kick the ball to a player on the foul line.
There was a much better solution to safeguard the officials.
There should be two game balls and a trainer or manager who wipes down the ball not in play. Then, every time the ball goes out of play, they switch the balls. This would not only protect the officials but also provide added protection to the players. In addition, officials should be required to wear gloves, encouraged to use the electronic hand-held whistles (so they don’t have to bring their hands to their face) and should have part of their officiating fee withheld if they do not wear a mask during timeouts, pre-game, halftime and between quarters.
There is still some good basketball left in the CAL but those are some observations and updates about what we’ve seen, so far.