South Jersey Sports Zone Top 30
High school basketball in New Jersey concluded on March 6. South Jersey Sports Zone was there every step of the way throughout the 2021 season providing the best coverage in the traditional seven-county South Jersey region. With that being said, SJ Sports Zone has decided to wrap things up the right way with bonus coverage! Each week, South Jersey Sports Zone releases the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 boys basketball rankings. This week, our very own Kevin Emmons closes out the season with his inaugural South Jersey Sports Zone Top 30. This finalized list ranks the top 30 high school basketball teams in South Jersey in 2021.
This list factors in many variables -- record, results of head-to-head matchups, strength of schedule, quality wins, bad losses, deficit of losses, etc. Please be advised that some teams were able to play all 15 of their scheduled games and other teams were only able to play five to seven games. See where your favorite team finished on the list!
1. Camden (13-0 record): The Panthers finished the season as the unanimous top-ranked team in South Jersey. Camden extended its current winning streak to 38 games with a 82-70 win over Life Center on March 4. During that 38-game stretch, the Panthers have won only three games by a single-digit scoring deficit. In 2021, Camden earned quality wins over Rutgers Prep (W 83-66), Eastern (W 83-58), Cherokee (82-55), Cherry Hill East (W 85-53) and Lenape (W 78-56). The Panthers also defeated three top-five teams in convincing fashion -- Camden Catholic (W 84-59), Paul VI (W 66-50) and St. Augustine (W 68-54). The Panthers’ talent was on full-display and illustrated why they were the top-ranked public school in the nation.
2. St. Augustine (13-2): The Hermits' only two losses came at the hands of top-ranked Camden and St. Joseph-Hammonton. Camden defeated each of its opponents this season by double digits. St. Augustine lost by the narrowest deficit in a 68-54 setback on March 1. The Hermits only other loss was a 57-51 decision to then-No. 5 St. Joe’s-Hammonton on February 3. However, St. Augustine avenged that loss with a 67-56 victory against the Wildcats on February 19. The Hermits swept Holy Spirit -- won 60-53 in overtime on January 30 and won 81-61 on March 3 -- and handled business against Cape-Atlantic League foes Bridgeton, Buena, Hammonton, Millville and Vineland in dominating fashion. The second spot in the final South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15 final rankings could have belonged to the Hermits, Camden Catholic or Paul VI. However, St. Augustine lost to Camden by the narrowest deficit. Hypothetically, if the Hermits were to play Camden Catholic or Paul VI, St. Augustine would have a matchup advantage because of their size on the interior and the wing. Camden Catholic and PVI were more experienced in the backcourt, however the Hermits’ emerging guards showed rapid development in 2021 and were capable of matching up South Jersey’s best backcourt players. It’s a shame the South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs couldn’t take place this year to settle all of this uncertainty.
3. Camden Catholic (9-3): Camden Catholic’s lone setback to South Jersey competition was a 84-59 loss to top-ranked Camden on February 16. The Irish lost to perennial power Roselle Catholic (80-55) on February 13 and Trenton Catholic (64-55) on March 3. The Irish began to surge with a 50-46 come-from-behind win against then-No. 4 Lenape on February 24. Three days later, Camden Catholic solidified itself as a top-three team in South Jersey with a 75-58 thumping of then-No. 3 Paul VI. The Irish’ resume is boosted with wins over Cherry Hill East (W 47-42), Moorestown (W 76-53), Shawnee (W 63-45) and Cherokee (W 51-33).
4. Paul VI (12-3): The Eagles put together an impressive 2021 campaign that was filled with a plethora of signature wins. PVI did its best to exhibit South Jersey's superiority with a pair of wins against Trenton Catholic and a 81-69 victory against Don Bosco Prep. The Eagles boosted their lengthy resume with a 72-65 victory over Life Center on February 22. However, the Eagles suffered a shocking 40-33 loss to Cherokee on February 4. Paul VI’s only other two losses came at the hands of two top-three teams in South Jersey -- Camden and Camden Catholic. The Eagles showed fourth was a fair spot in the final rankings after a 67-45 rout of then-No. 5 Lenape in their season finale on March 4.
5. Lenape (10-4): Despite having four losses, the Indians are ranked fifth after proving they would have been a legitimate Group 4 state title contender in a normal season. Lenape knocked off North 2, Group 4 power Elizabeth 64-52 to conclude its season on March 6. Elizabeth was the 7th-ranked team in New Jersey at the time via NJ.com. Three of the Indians’ four losses were to three of the top-four teams in South Jersey -- Camden, Camden Catholic and Paul VI. Lenape controlled the game against the Irish for the first three quarters before faltering in the fourth quarter and losing by only four points. The Indians only other loss was a 60-50 setback to Trenton Catholic. Lenape’s resume includes quality wins over Cherokee (W 50-25), Eastern (W 58-54) and Shawnee (W 64-39). It may seem unfair to have the Indians, a four-loss team, ahead of Egg Harbor Township, a one-loss team. However, Lenape’s strength of schedule boosts the significance of its 10 wins and the Indians have the better signature win (12-point win over Elizabeth). In a traditional season, Egg Harbor Township versus Lenape in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs could have been an instant classic.
6. Egg Harbor Township (14-1): The Eagles made a statement with a 66-60 win over then-No. 6 St. Joseph-Hammonton on March 6. Egg Harbor Township’s only loss in 2021 was a 55-51 setback to Holy Spirit. However, the Eagles won the first contest between the two teams, 64-61 on January 26. EHT swept Cedar Creek and earned a quality win over Hammonton (W 59-40). The Eagles handled business against Cape-Atlantic League opponents Absegami, Atlantic Tech, Oakcrest and Pleasantville. Egg Harbor Township also squeezed out a 77-71 win over Lacey on March 5. A win is a win, right? Yes, it is. However, it's difficult to rank EHT ahead of Lenape after they struggled to get past a 5-6 Shore Conference team at full strength. Nonetheless, the Eagles celebrated their best season in school history and deserve to be recognized as one of South Jersey's best teams. In a traditional season, EHT would have been a legitimate contender to win a South Jersey Group 4 title.
7. St. Joseph-Hammonton (12-2): The Wildcats stormed out to eight straight victories to start the season. During that stretch, St. Joe’s knocked off then-No. 3 St. Augustine 57-51 on February 3. 11 of the Wildcats’ 12 wins were by a double-digit margin. St. Joseph-Hammonton dominated neighboring Cape-Atlantic League opponents Bridgeton, Buena, Hammonton, Millville and Vineland. The Wildcats held off Holy Spirit 64-54 on March 1 to earn another quality win. St. Joe’s only two losses were to No. 2 St. Augustine and No. 6 Egg Harbor Township.
8. Cherokee (12-3): The Chiefs celebrated a successful season with a handful of quality wins headlined by a 40-33 upset of No. 4 Paul VI. Cherokee jumped out to a 7-0 start with convincing victories over then-No. 7 Eastern (W 55-38), then-No. 11 Overbrook (W 49-35), then-No. 12 Sterling (W 58-23) and Haddon Township (W 46-28). All three of the Chiefs’ losses were to top-five teams in South Jersey -- Camden, Camden Catholic and Lenape. Cherokee boosted its already impressive resume with a 30-21 win over then-No. 14 Cherry Hill East. Defense was the Chiefs’ signature, holding Bishop Eustace to 16 points in a win on January 26. In a normal year, Cherokee would have been one of the top teams in the South Jersey Group 4 bracket and would have benefited from home-court advantage.
9. Wildwood (14-1): The Warriors dropped their season opener 55-53 to Penns Grove and responded with 14 straight wins. Wildwood makes its debut in the South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15 after capturing the Tri-County Conference Tournament title. The Warriors dominated Highland 87-66 to advance to the tournament’s semifinals. Wildwood proceeded to knock off then-No. 10 Timber Creek 60-56 before rallying to defeat then-No. 11 Overbrook 67-58 in the TCC Tournament final. Two wins over two South Jersey Group 3 schools and the top-ranked South Jersey Group 1 school (at the time) in the TCC Tournament boosted the Warriors resume tremendously. Wildwood also added a pair of quality wins against Gloucester Catholic in the regular season. In a normal season, the Warriors would have entered the sectional playoffs as the favorite in South Jersey Group 1.
10. Timber Creek (13-2): The Chargers’ season was highlighted by a 12-game win streak that extended from January 28 to March 1. Timber Creek won all 12 games by double digits and successfully swept Tri-County Conference foes Clearview, Gloucester Tech, Kingsway and Williamstown. The Chargers’ capped the 12-game win streak with a 57-40 victory over Penns Grove in the TCC Tournament quarterfinals. Timber Creek’s only losses were to Deptford (L 68-66) on opening night and Wildwood (L 60-56) in the TCC Tournament semifinals. The Chargers lost two games by a combined six points. Timber Creek avenged the loss to Deptford with a 65-59 victory over the Spartans in the TCC Tournament third-place game on March 5. Under normal circumstances, the Chargers would have had the opportunity to win back-to-back South Jersey Group 3 championships.
11. Overbrook (13-2): Overbrook jumped out to a 4-0 start in 2021. During that four-game stretch, the Rams picked up a 62-43 win over then-No. 7 Eastern on January 30. Although the Vikings were short-handed, it was still an impressive win for Group 1 Overbrook. The Rams earned a pair of wins against Penns Grove and defeated Gloucester Catholic 67-58 in the TCC Tournament quarterfinals on March 1 to boost their resume. Overbrook advanced to the TCC Tournament final with a 67-62 win over then-No. 8 Deptford before falling to No. 9 Wildwood 67-58 in the championship round. The Rams only other loss was a 49-35 setback to No. 8 Cherokee on February 6. Overbrook swept Tri-County Conference opponents Glassboro, Schalick and Woodstown. The Rams also earned a quality 73-69 win at Clearview on February 11.
12. Deptford (12-2): The Spartans picked up a 68-66 victory over No. 10 Timber Creek on opening night that ignited a 12-game win streak to start the season. Deptford earned quality wins over Clearview (W 72-54) and Delsea (W 66-48) and defeated Tri-County Conference foe Highland twice. The Spartans' only two losses came in the TCC Tournament to No. 11 Overbrook and No. 10 Timber Creek. Deptford edges Ocean City in the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15 because it’s two losses came at the hands of two ranked teams. Ocean City lost to an unranked team. Also, the Spartans proved to be a lot more balanced on offense. The Red Raiders cannot be penalized for playing less games, however it is challenging to gauge them in a shortened-season playing in a completely different conference. In a normal season, this uncertainty could have potentially been settled in the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs.
13. Ocean City (7-1): The Red Raiders only played eight games in 2021, but made the most of their limited opportunities. Ocean City made its debut in the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 after picking up signature wins over Atlantic City and Wildwood Catholic. The Red Raiders defeated Wildwood Catholic 46-44 on February 5 before knocking off then-No. 8 Atlantic City 64-58 three days later. The Red Raiders lone loss was a 62-60 setback to Lower Cape May on January 28. However, Ocean City avenged that loss with a 59-56 victory in its season finale on March 5. The loss proved to be not as devastating as Lower Cape May finished the season with a respectable 8-5 record. The Red Raiders successfully swept Cape May Tech and Mainland and defeated Middle Township 59-41. In a traditional season, Ocean City would have been a sleeper in the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament and a dark horse to win the South Jersey Group 3 title.
14. Atlantic City (6-1): The reigning South Jersey Group 4 champions were shut down after only playing seven games in 2021. A few publications dropped the Vikings from their rankings once it was determined that their season was over, but SJ Sports Zone couldn't follow in those footsteps. Atlantic City showed promise in its shortened season and jumped out to a 5-0 start. The Vikings held off Wildwood Catholic 50-43 in its season opener before dominating Pleasantville 53-16. A 60-51 victory over Lower Cape May -- the only team to beat Ocean City -- was sandwiched between wins over Cape May Tech and Mainland. Atlantic City’s lone loss was a 64-58 setback on February 8 to No. 13 Ocean City. It would have been interesting to see how this year’s Vikings matched up against the likes of Cape-Atlantic League opponents such as Egg Harbor Township, Holy Spirit, St. Augustine and St. Joe’s-Hammonton. Atlantic City wasn’t given the opportunity to compete in all of its scheduled games, therefore it cannot be penalized with a removal from our rankings. In a traditional season, Atlantic City would have been a formidable opponent in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
15. Cherry Hill East (9-4): The Cougars round out the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 after earning a handful of quality wins. Cherry Hill East defeated Eastern, Moorestown, Burlington Township and Shawnee by a combined 39 points. Three of its four losses came at the hands of three top-eight teams in South Jersey -- Camden, Camden Catholic and Cherokee and the Cougars fell to No. 3 Camden Catholic by only five points on February 4. Cherry Hill East was upset by cross-town rival Cherry Hill West 43-40 on February 19. However, the loss to the Lions is outweighed by the significance of the Cougars’ quality wins. If not for the loss to West, Cherry Hill East could be a top-ten team in South Jersey.
16. Sterling (11-2): The Silver Knights dominated the Colonial Conference in 2021 en route to an 11-2 record. Sterling picked up quality wins over Haddon Township (W 58-47), Haddonfield (W 64-55) and Eastern (W 62-58) at full-strength. The Silver Knights successfully swept Colonial Conference foes Collingswood, Haddon Heights and West Deptford. The only setbacks Sterling suffered were a 58-23 loss to then-No. 5 Cherokee and a 52-49 loss at the buzzer to Haddon Township. Although there is no such thing as a moral loss, the pair of losses aren’t detrimental to the resume as Cherokee finished as the eight-ranked team in South Jersey and Haddon Township finished with an 11-4 record. The Silver Knights exerted their toughness and consistency with wins in nine out of their first 10 games.
17. Holy Spirit (10-5): The Spartans split their season series with No. 6 Egg Harbor Township. Holy Spirit dropped its opener to the Eagles 64-61, but responded with a 55-51 win on February 13. It was the Spartans’ biggest win of the season. Holy Spirit lost a 60-53 overtime thriller to No. 2 St. Augustine on January 30 and was bested by the Hermits again (L 81-61) on March 3. The Spartans also dropped a 64-54 decision to No. 7 St. Joseph-Hammonton on March 1. Four of their five losses came at the hands of teams ranked in the top-seven of the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15. Holy Spirit was upset by Cedar Creek 60-56, however, the significance of that loss was offset because the Spartans dominated Cedar Creek 66-39 on February 3. In a normal season, Holy Spirit would have been a dark horse in the annual Cape-Atlantic League Tournament.
18. Shawnee (4-3): Shawnee was limited to only seven games in 2021, but made the most of its shortened season. The Renegades bested Eastern 53-48 on February 23 and earned wins against Bishop Eustace, Washington Township and Winslow. Shawnee was narrowly defeated by No. 15 Cherry Hill East (L 38-30) and lost games to No. 3 Camden Catholic (L 63-45) and No. 5 Lenape (L 64-39). One may ask, ‘why is a 4-3 team ranked so high?’ That’s because Shawnee is a battle-tested program that would more than likely beat the remaining teams on this list. All three of its losses came at the hands of ranked opponents. In a full-length season, the up-and-coming Renegades could have emerged as a sleeper in South Jersey Group 4 and would most likely have hosted a playoff game in the opening round.
19. Eastern (7-8): The Vikings are the only sub-.500 team on the list. Don’t be misled by the record. Eastern dropped its first two games to No. 8 Cherokee and No. 11 Overbrook while being short-handed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Vikings bounced back with wins over Pennsauken and Camden Academy Charter before suffering a narrow five-point defeat to No. 15 Cherry Hill East on February 6. Eastern dropped its next two games to top-ranked Camden and No. 4 Paul VI. Six out of the Vikings’ eight losses came at the hands of teams ranked in the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15. The only losses suffered to non-Top 15 teams were to Shawnee and Sterling. Eastern almost stunned No. 5 Lenape, but fell 58-54. The Vikings resume is slightly boosted with dominating wins over Cherry Hill West, Washington Township and Woodrow Wilson. Eastern featured one of the best scorers in the state and possessed enough size to outlast any of the remaining teams on this list.
20. Moorestown (10-5): The Quakers finished the season with a respectable 10-5 record. Moorestown outlasted Pemberton 48-40 to conclude the 2021 campaign. The Quakers earned a pair of quality wins over Burlington Township and held off an improved Woodrow Wilson team for a 60-57 victory on February 12. Three of the Quakers’ five losses were to teams ranked in the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15 -- Camden Catholic, Cherry Hill East and Lenape. Moorestown also dropped an 81-64 decision to Trenton Catholic. The Quakers’ resume is slightly tarnished with a 62-54 loss to Pennsauken. If not for that loss, Moorestown could potentially be ranked higher on the list. However, the Quakers exhibited enough skill on the interior and the perimeter to show they can compete with South Jersey’s best.
21. Wildwood Catholic (3-2): The Crusaders were another Cape-Atlantic League team that was limited due to COVID-19 protocols. Wildwood Catholic earned dominating wins over Cape May Tech, Lower Cape May and Middle Township. The Crusaders lost to No. 13 Ocean City and No. 14 Atlantic City by a combined nine points. Wildwood Catholic appeared to be going through a transition year after graduating its three best players from its 2020 South Jersey Non-Public B championship team. However, there was enough ability and experience to make noise in the Cape-Atlantic League in 2021.
22. Haddonfield (12-3): The Bulldogs dropped their first two games of the season before winning 12 out of their last 13. Haddonfield’s first two losses came at the hands of Sterling and Haddon Township. The Bulldogs avenged the loss to Haddon Township with a 44-38 win on February 20. Haddonfield successfully swept Collingswood, Haddon Heights and West Deptford and earned quality conference wins over Lindenwold (W 52-41) and Paulsboro (W 58-36). The Bulldogs dropped a 49-48 decision to Woodrow Wilson on February 25. Woodrow Wilson won the contest on a buzzer-beater. If not for that loss, Haddonfield would have concluded the season on a 13-game win streak. Following the setback, the Bulldogs stormed to five straight dominating victories that included wins over non-league opponents Glassboro, Rancocas Valley and Winslow.
23. Haddon Township (11-4): The Hawks put together an impressive 2021 campaign that was highlighted by wins over Colonial Conference rivals Haddonfield and Sterling. Haddon Township split the season series with both teams. The Hawks lone loss to a ranked opponent was a 46-28 setback to No. 8 Cherokee. Haddon Township earned quality wins over Audubon, Bishop Eustace, Delran and Woodbury. It also comfortably swept Collingswood and West Deptford. However, the Hawks suffered a loss to Haddon Heights that puts it behind Haddonfield and Sterling in the final SJ Sports Zone rankings. Nonetheless, an 11-win season in a shortened campaign was an impressive accomplishment for Haddon Township.
24. Gloucester Catholic (12-3): The Rams put together a 12-win campaign and lost all three of their games to ranked opponents. Gloucester Catholic dropped a pair of games to No. 9 Wildwood -- 58-56 decision on February 3 and a 71-58 setback on February 23. The Rams’ only other loss was a 67-58 decision to No. 11 Overbrook in the TCC Tournament quarterfinals. Gloucester Catholic also edged Gloucester 65-62 and dominated Penns Grove 80-46. As previously noted, a win is a win. However, the Rams struggled to get past Glassboro (5-9 record) and Salem (7-8) -- although Gloucester Catholic dominated Salem in the second meeting between the two teams. That is the difference between Gloucester Catholic and teams lingering in front of them on this list. Haddonfield handled Glassboro convincingly and Haddon Township earned more quality wins.
25. Burlington Township (9-5): The Falcons concluded their season on a four-game winning streak. Burlington Township swept neighboring rival Florence and picked up key wins over Kingsway and Pemberton. The Falcons suffered three of their five losses to Moorestown. Burlington Township lost all three contests by a combined 42 points. The inability to pull out at least one victory against the Quakers drops Township on this list. The Falcons also dropped a 57-40 decision to No. 15 Cherry Hill East. Burlington Township's only other loss was a 51-42 setback at Northern Burlington. The Falcons defeated Northern Burlington 62-54 on February 3. Burlington Township swept Rancocas Valley and handled business against Bordentown and Pennsauken.
26. Pemberton (12-3): The Hornets breezed through the Burlington County Scholastic League with dominating wins over Palmyra, STEM Civics, Rancocas Valley, New Egypt and Doane Academy in their first five contests. Pemberton struggled in its next two games and needed overtime to get past Pleasantville (2-10) and Bordentown (1-10) before falling to Florence 57-56 in overtime. The Hornets' only two other losses were to Burlington Township and Moorestown. The difference between Pemberton and those teams ranked ahead of them is the lack of a true signature win. The Hornets successfully swept Cinnaminson and earned wins against Delran and Maple Shade. However, the Hornets struggled to get past Delran and Haddon Township defeated the Bears convincingly on February 27. Pemberton also struggled to hold off short-handed Cinnaminson on March 1. Nonetheless, Pemberton celebrated its first winning season since 2015-16 and surpassed expectations in 2021.
27. Penns Grove (10-4): The Red Devils put together an impressive 2021 campaign that was highlighted by a 55-53 win over No. 9 Wildwood on January 26. Penns Grove opened the season on an 8-game win streak before dropping back-to-back games to No. 11 Overbrook. The Red Devils' only other losses were to No. 10 Timber Creek (L 57-40) and Gloucester Catholic (L 80-46). Penns Grove possesses a signature win, but the blowout losses to Gloucester Catholic and Timber Creek alters its resume. The Red Raiders successfully swept Glassboro, Schalick and Woodstown and earned a quality 42-30 win over Paulsboro.
28. Cedar Creek (9-5): Following a 1-2 start with losses to Holy Spirit and No. 6 Egg Harbor Township, the Pirates rallied to win eight out of their next nine games. During that stretch, Cedar Creek avenged the loss to Holy Spirit with a 60-56 victory on February 26. The only loss suffered during that stretch was a 74-44 blowout to Egg Harbor Township. The Pirates swept Cape-Atlantic League foes Absegami, Atlantic Tech, Oakcrest and Pleasantville. However, Cedar Creek suffered bad losses to Hammonton and Lower Cape May in its final two games of the season. If the Pirates had won those two games, an 11-3 record with a signature win over Holy Spirit would potentially have them higher on this list.
29. Delsea (10-5): The Crusaders rallied at the end of the season to capture the Tri-County Conference Tournament Bracket B championship. Delsea avenged a 52-44 opening night loss to Kingsway with a 67-65 victory in the Bracket B final on March 5. The Crusaders also swept Clearview and earned notable wins over Mainland and Williamstown. Delsea split the season series with Highland (10-5) and Triton (3-12) and squeezed out a 57-53 win over Glassboro in the TCC Tournament Bracket B quarterfinals.
30. Gloucester (10-5): The Lions stormed out to wins in eight of their first 10 games. Gloucester’s resume was highlighted with sweeps over Audubon and Woodbury. The Lions split the season series with Lindenwold and Paulsboro. Gloucester battled with neighborhood rival Gloucester Catholic before falling 65-62. As previously noted, there’s no such thing as a moral loss, but the defeat was a respectable one. However, the Lions suffered a bad loss to West Deptford. West Deptford finished the season 2-13. Nonetheless, Gloucester won 10 games in a shortened season and competed every time it took the floor.
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you'd like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.