From the start to the finish it was the year of the Hermits.
The St. Augustine Prep boys’ basketball team completed a wire-to-wire run at the top of the South Jersey Sports Digest Top 10 rankings to nail down the No. 1 berth for the season.
Despite losing 69-66 in the state Non-Public A state championship to Don Bosco Prep, the Hermits were the class of South Jersey throughout the season.
Of their three losses in a 26-3 record, only one came to a South Jersey team, that to No. 4 Camden. Otherwise the Hermits were dominating against virtually every other opponent.
In the South Jersey final game against No. 5 Bishop Eustace, for example, the Hermits emerged with 65-35 win. They also defeated No. 7 Atlantic City four times.
“It was a great year for us,” said St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio. “We won the (Cape-Atlantic American) League, we won South Jersey and we came a bucket away from winning a state championship.”
It was a loss that stung.
“Obviously we wanted it, we wanted it badly, but we didn’t get it,” Rodio said. “I told the guys as you get older you’ll be judged on how you handle adversity. (Against Don Bosco) you have to accept the fact that they played a little better than us.
“We have to handle the adversity and move on and become better from it.”
Overall, it was a good, but not a great year for South Jersey boys’ teams. Four squads reached the state finals in their groups, but all lost.
The No. 2 spot in the rankings went to Shawnee, a team that posted a 29-3 record, including a dominating win over No. 3 Lenape in the South Jersey Group 4 championship game.
In essence, the Renegades had one bad week with two of their losses coming in a three-game span in mid-season.
"I didn' know we would make it to the state finals," said Shawnee coach Joe Kessler. "But I knew we had a talented team and that if we followed the script we would do well."
Lenape also had a banner season in taking down the No. 3 berth. The Indians went 23-4 for the season and at one point won 13 games in a row.
Camden slipped into the No. 4 spot with a 24-7 record that included a fifth straight trip to the state Group 2 final.
As has been the case in each of the other trips, the Panthers lost a heart breaking 51-49 decision, this one for the second straight time to Newark Eastside.
Upstart Cherokee was a surprise entry at No. 5. Not much was expected of the Chiefs this season but they went 21-7 with a signature regular season win over Lenape.
Cherokee also made a statement in the tournament by knocking out No. 7 Atlantic City in Group 4 play.
Bishop Eustace comes in at No. 6 after finishing 22-7. The Crusaders faded a bit near the end of the season, but were still a formidable opponent throughout the year.
The No. 7 Vikings finished with a 21-7 record and were unbeaten against South Jersey teams other than St. Augustine until Cherokee rose to the challenge.
Camden Catholic, 20-8, secured the No. 8 spot despite an up-and-down season. The Irish defeated both Camden and Bishop Eustace twice, but were badly beaten in some other games.
At 26-6, Woodbury captured the No. 9 berth after reaching the state Group 1 championship game. The Thundering Herd was strong against smaller school competition, but did lose some games when trying to step up in class.
Having been unranked all season, Winslow came in at No. 10 with a 17-13 record. The Eagles won the Group 3 South Jersey champion as a No. 8 seed and were playing some of their best basketball late in the season.
Boys Basketball Final Top 10
1. St. Augustine, 26-3, Prv. 1
2. Shawnee, 29-3, 3
3. Lenape, 23-4, 2
4. Camden, 24-7, 6
5. Cherokee, 21-7, 7
6. Bishop Eustace, 22-7, 5
7. Atlantic City, 21-7, 4
8. Camden Catholic, 20-8, 8
9. Woodbury, 26-6, NR
10. Winslow, 17-13, NR
Tag(s): Home Bishop Eustace Camden Catholic St. Augustine Prep Schools Olympic Conference Cape-Atlantic League Colonial Conference Cherokee Lenape Shawnee Winslow Twp. Woodbury Atlantic City Camden Don Benevento Boys Basketball Cape-Atlantic League American Atlantic City Boys Basketball National St. Augustine Boys Basketball Colonial Conference Patriot Woodbury Boys Basketball Olympic Conference National Bishop Eustace Boys Basketball Camden Cath. Boys Basketball Camden Boys Basketball American Cherokee Boys Basketball Lenape Boys Basketball Patriot Winslow Twp. Boys Basketball Shawnee Boys Basketball