Entering Thursday, just three teams remained alive in the South Jersey sectional tournament race — Delsea, Schalick and St. Augustine.
While those three teams hope their seasons are still alive as of today, the rest of the area programs have seen its players hang up their jerseys for the winter. Though most of the gyms are quiet now, that doesn’t mean the season was without some impressive performances.
The time is now to take a look back at some of those extraordinary showings in this year’s “Hardwood Heroes” awards — some just-for-fun notoriety for teams and players leading up to the March 22 announcement of The Daily Journal Player, Team and Coach of the Year as well as All-Stars.
Most Valuable Player (to his team):
Mike Greenman, St. Augustine — As Prep coach Paul Rodio said following his team’s Non-Public A South playoff win over St. John Vianney on Tuesday, the Hermits go as Greenman does offensively. The senior is as dependable of a floor general as you’re going to find in South Jersey and leads the Prep with 14.2 points per game.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Dave Sullivan, St. Augustine — Sullivan is the player charged with handling the opposition’s biggest offensive threat. There is no real statistic to point to in validating this award, but a strong example would be Sullivan holding Middle Township guard Darrell Shelton to just 11 points in a 63-61 overtime win on Jan. 25.
Breakout Player of the Year:
Michael Holloway Jr., Sacred Heart — After seeing valuable time as a freshman, Holloway took a big step in his progression this year. He led Sacred Heart in points per game (16), rebounds (211) and blocks (29). He is a big reason the Lions should be a strong program over the next couple seasons.
Newcomer of the Year:
Paris Patterson, Millville — A jayvee call-up midway through the season, Patterson instantly gave the Bolts a big-body presence they were desperately lacking. In 16 games, Patterson managed to finish eighth in the Cape-Atlantic League in blocks and grabbed more than 100 rebounds (106).
Tyler Lunsford, Sacred Heart — Lunsford was inserted directly into the Lions’ starting lineup this season and handled himself admirably. The guard averaged 10.4 points per game and never really showed any major signs of hitting a wall at the varsity level. He should be a fixture for Sacred Heart over the next three years.
Most Versatile Player: Joe Gatto, St. Augustine — This junior is the type of player any coach would love to have. A tireless worker, Gatto brings the type of work ethic that often can go unnoticed on successful teams. His biggest value is seen on the glass and blocking shots, but of late Gatto has been contributing double-digit scoring as well — a major bonus for the Hermits.
High Flier Award:
Melvin Allen, Schalick — Anyone in attendance for Schalick’s Group I South opening-round win over Salem on Tuesday saw first-hand why this award goes to Allen. The junior threw down two sensational dunks against the Rams and has at least a half-dozen slams this season. Allen is dynamic in Schalick’s up-tempo offense.
Top Paint Presence:
Rashaan Holloway, Schalick — At 6-foot-9, this award may seem like a no-brainer. Holloway has really progressed this season in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. The junior is a double-double machine and leads the area in scoring. Holloway hit the 1,000-point mark earlier this year.
Cedric Elleby, Delsea — Despite fracturing his ankle in January, this is an award that cannot be taken away from Elleby. The reigning Daily Journal Player of the Year was averaging 12.1 rebounds per game prior to his injury, grabbing 121 boards in just 10 games. Vineland also had a pair of effective rebounders in Eddie Thomas and Charlie Ware this year.
Under the Radar:
Trayvond Barbary, Buena — This marks the second year in a row Barbary has captured this award. Unfortunately for the senior, playing on a rebuilding Buena team didn’t help him get much exposure in South Jersey outside the CAL. Barbary is third in the area in scoring and cracked the 1,000-point mark for his career this season.
Bishop Evans, Millville — Evans, a senior, finished second in the CAL behind Holy Spirit’s Paul Moore in 3-point shooting, connecting on 54 shots from behind the arc for the Bolts this year. As a comparison, Moore hit 59 treys.
Biggest surprise (team):
Bridgeton — A 9-16 record may not look that impressive, but for a team with five new starters, the Bulldogs turned some heads this season. Bridgeton, a sophomore-heavy squad, scored some big local wins over Vineland, Millville and, most notably, Sacred Heart. The team also earned praise from St. Augustine coach Rodio, whose Hermits had a couple of tough games against the Bulldogs. Bridgeton also played a heralded Camden team very hard in a loss.
Game of the Year:
Middle Township 51, St. Augustine 40 (2OT) on Feb. 19 — This CAL Tournament semifinal matchup was just about as good as they come in terms of entertainment value. It was the third meeting between the two programs this season and those in attendance could see there was clearly no love lost from either side. The Hermits held leads late in regulation and the first overtime, only to see Middle answer to tie the game both times. The second overtime went the way of the Panthers.
Area Elite Rankings*
1. St. Augustine (22-5) — The Hermits continue to be the most consistent of any area team.
2. Schalick (18-8) — The Cougars’ offense continues to be the team’s strong point.
3. Delsea (12-15) — Kudos to the Crusaders for gutting out a tough playoff win on Tuesday.
4. Sacred Heart (15-11) — Lions fell short of their expectations this season with a first-round playoff exit.
Millville (12-12) — The Bolts ended their season with a dominant win over Bridgeton, getting some revenge for an earlier loss to the Bulldogs.
*Rankings reflect records as of Wednesday.