TOMS RIVER – Once again, the Camden Catholic High School basketball team lived up to its fabled nickname.
Playing against one of the top teams in the state with three Division I commits, the Fighting Irish scrapped back from a double-digit deficit early in the fourth quarter to make it a one possession game.
“We went down swinging,” Dominic Dunn said after leading a rally that came up short in a 61-54 loss to defending champion Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public Group A state finals Saturday afternoon.
Dunn, a local product from Haddon Township who led the Irish to a 23-7 record, scored 18 points in the final game of his terrific career.
“To go from where we were to being a one-and-one away from tying one of the best teams in the state shows how far we have come,” Dunn said, reflecting back to a losing season as a sophomore.
Don Bosco Prep coach Kevin Diverio rolled out three D-I recruits – Marcellus Earlington (St. John’s), Ronald Harper (Rutgers), Matt Herasme (St. Peter’s) – against the Irish, which started four juniors along with Dunn.
Earlington finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds as the Ironmen won their 18th-straight game. Harper, who is the son of former NBA guard Ron Harper, added 14 points and Herasme netted 10 points while cloaking Dunn on defense.
“They kept me down for three quarters but I told my teammates to keep looking for me,” said Dunn, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter against the talented Ironmen (28-2).
Ironmen junior forward Owen McGlashen transferred from Cherokee this year. He has played in the AAU circuit on Team Speed coached by the ubiquitous Bob DePersia in South Jersey with Irish big men Baba Ajike and Uche Okafur, both juniors. McGlashen scored six points, including a thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter to put the Irish down 14 points. Their fighting spirit, though, couldn’t be diminished.
Instead, the Catholic fans keep cheering and the staff kept coaching.
The Irish coaching staff is as loyal as their legions of fans who span generations and made the hour ride to the Toms River High School North gym. Top assistant coach Joe Murtin is a veteran of 33 years on the bench, first with Jim Crawford, the father of Matt.
Murtin’s brother, Robert, who were teammates at Catholic in the late 1970’s, Pete Dooner, Brian O’Donnell and Kevin Owens are also on the bench, along with Big Jim. O’Donnell and Owens also starred for Irish like the Murtin Brothers.
And, junior point guard Patrick Corbett continues the legacy and family atmosphere of the Irish basketball program as his grandfather (Patrick) played basketball for Camden Catholic, graduating in 1937. Corbett’s grandfather was a Founding Father of the Varsity Club at Camden Catholic while his father, Tom, a 1979 grad and former football player for the Irish, worked as the Cherry Hill school’s Information Technology director for three decades.
And although the loss stung for Corbett, he knows he lived his dream in helping the Irish win their first sectional championship since 2010.
“This means a lot, my grandfather played for Camden Catholic in the late 1930,’s,” Corbett said. “My dad worked in IT here for 30 years and I would come to games when I was 3-years-old and wait for the gym to clear and shoot for a half hour.
“We had a great season.”
Camden Catholic, which finished 20-8 last year and advanced to the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs, competed in the unforgiving Olympic Conference National Division with South Jersey Sports Digest Top 10 quality teams Camden, Bishop Eustace and Paul VI so they were tested and ready for the defending champs.
A breakaway dunk by the talented 6-foot-6 McGlashen padded the Ironmen’s lead to 48-34 with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter.
But Dunn wasn’t done swinging.
He buried a 3-pointer on way to scoring 11 points during a 15-2 run that chopped Don Bosco’s lead to 51-49 with 2:35 left in the game.
Irish junior guard Hakim Melvin made a driving layup to keep the Ironmen in reach at 55-51 with a minute to play.
Corbett drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to keep the game at one possession with 32 seconds left at 57-54. With the Irish having to chase and foul, the Ironmen sealed the game at the foul line.
When the buzzer sounded at the spacious RWJ Barnabas Arena, the Irish fans stood in unison, erupting in a loud and lengthy applause for a team that fought to the end.
“I’m proud of my team,” Crawford said. “They represented Camden Catholic well.”
Indeed, the Fighting Irish were the Fighting Irish.
Don Bosco 12 15 15 19 – 61
Camden Catholic 8 8 14 24– 54
DB - Owen McGlashen 6, Marcellus Earlington 24, Ronald Harper 14, Matt Herasme 10, Victor Konopka 2, Michael Concannon 5.
CC – Baba Ajike 16, Dominic Dunn 18, Pat Corbett 11, Hakim Melvin 7, Uche Okafur 2.