Wagner Powers Camden To S.j. Title With 43 Points The Super Junior Took Advantage Of A Man-to-man Defense By Lakewood. The Result Was An 89-64 Camden Romp.

Posted: March 08, 2000

VOORHEES — Camden's Dajuan Wagner has seen and accomplished many things on a basketball court, but seldom has he experienced the opportunity that he had in yesterday's South Jersey Group 3 final.

A chance to play against a man-to-man defense.

Wagner, the all-American 6-foot-3 junior guard, showed why most opponents shy away from that strategy. Playing arguably the most controlled game of his career, Wagner scored 43 points to lead seventh-seeded Camden over top seed Lakewood, 89-64, in the championship game at Eastern.

It was the 36th sectional title that this tradition-rich program has earned, and the second in three years. Camden, ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, improved to 23-5 and will play the winner of last night's Colonia-Neptune game in Thursday's state semifinals. That game will be in the afternoon, according to the NJSIAA.

"It's the first time I've seen a man-to-man in a long time," said Wagner, who shot 15 for 26 from the field, 12 for 14 from the foul line, and 1 for 3 from three-point range. "I had to take advantage of the situation."

Lakewood (21-5) played Camden to a 19-19 first quarter, but the game blew open when Wagner scored 17 second-quarter points and gave the Panthers a commanding 46-25 halftime lead.

Camden kept clearing a side and allowing Wagner to break down his defender. Many times, he pulled up for short jumpers.

"When I saw that man-to-man, my eyes got so big," said Wagner, who is averaging 31.5 points. "It was a lot of fun out there."

Joining the fun was his trusty sidekick, 6-8 senior Arthur Barclay, who scored 26 points, added 19 rebounds, and enjoyed the man-to-man as much as Wagner.

"I was shocked when they stayed in it," Barclay said. "It was good for me, and Dajuan was unstoppable."

So why use the man-to-man?

"We never play zone, and our man-to-man has zone principles anyway," said Lakewood coach John Richardson, who has 302 career wins. "I thought the first quarter was probably the greatest of my coaching career, to be able to stay with them like we did. But a team with their size and athletic ability can wear you down, and that's what happened."

When the game ended, there was no wild celebration. That's because it was more like a business trip to Wagner and his teammates. They have much grander plans: This is the year Wagner wants to match the state title that his father, Milt, won in 1979 for Camden.

"This is just one step along the way," Wagner said. "We're looking at the big picture."

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