Camden was 10-9 at Saturday's cutoff date for tournament pairings. The Panthers have tough games ahead against Olympic National rivals Paul VI and Bishop Eustace.
But Camden is 8-2 after a 2-5 start. The Panthers got a big lift last week with the eligibility of junior forward Amir Maddred and freshman guard Rasool Hinson.
The 6-foot-8 Maddred, who transferred from Trenton Catholic, scored 31 in his debut Tuesday night against Triton. He made five three-point jumpers.
"I didn't even know he could shoot the 'three,' " Byrd said. "He would fool around in practice, but I had him inside. He made the first one and I was, 'OK, good shot.' He took the second one and I was ready to take him out and he made that one.
"He made the third one and I was, 'Well, I guess he can shoot.' "
The 6-0 Hinson, who transferred from Camden Academy Charter, is a point guard who scored five against Triton and eight in Saturday's victory over Washington Township.
The arrival of the transfers, who were able to practice with the team while sitting out 30 days, as well as the continued improvement of senior forwards Ajwan Leaming and Thomas Harper, and sophomore guard Tavaris Headen, have the Panthers looming as a team to watch in the tournament.
Unofficially, Camden is projected to be on the same side of the bracket as likely No. 2 seed Delsea and No. 3 seed Westampton Tech. Shore Conference team Lacey Township, which was 16-1 at the cutoff, is the likely No. 1 seed, although there's some question about the strength of the Lions' schedule.
"What I like is our schedule," Byrd said. "We've got Paul VI and Bishop Eustace, and we play Middle Township (in Sunday's Cape-Olympic Challenge at St. Augustine). That's going to prepare us for the state tournament."
New No. 1. The good news is that Eastern has risen again to No. 1 in the rankings. The bad news is that Eastern has risen again to No. 1 in the rankings.
The Vikings rose to No. 1 for the first time in program history on Jan. 16. They lost their next game to Cherry Hill East by 60-58 in overtime.
"Since that game, we've played great basketball," Eastern coach Joe Murphy said. "I don't know if it was because we weren't undefeated anymore or weren't No. 1 anymore, but for whatever reason, that loss seemed to help us."
Thundering Herd. Group 1 Woodbury scored one of the biggest upsets of the season on Saturday with a 47-45 overtime victory against Group 4 power Lenape.
The Thundering Herd, who have won five of seven, got a game-high 23 points from 5-9 senior guard Mike Smith.
"We're finally starting to play 32 minutes," Woodbury coach Kenny Avent said. "That's all I ask these kids - just leave it all out on the floor."
Although Woodbury is likely to be a No. 6 or No. 7 seed in South Jersey Group 1, the victory over Lenape - a legitimate threat to win South Jersey Group 4 as a projected No. 4 seed - shows that the Thundering Herd could be a serious challenger in a tournament that will feature undefeated top seed Paulsboro.
"We're just as capable as anybody," Avent said. "We're trying to get better every day and get ready for a playoff run."
Jett fueled. Rancocas Valley (10-7) has won five of six behind senior guard Tariq Jett, who scored his 1,000th point in a 72-52 win over Florence on Thursday.
Jett has averaged 23.6 points in his last five games.
"Tariq is one of the greatest competitors I've ever coached," Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan said. "His presence on the floor keeps us in every game."
Big game, big cause. Tuesday night's Colonial Conference showdown between host Haddon Heights (16-2) and Haddonfield (14-4) will be an event for a variety of reasons.
It's a rivalry game. It has major Colonial Liberty implications, since Haddon Heights can claim a share of the top spot in the division with a victory. It's a possible playoff preview, since Haddon Heights is the projected No. 1 seed in South Jersey Group 2 and Haddonfield is the projected No. 4 seed.
Best of all, the game will mark the teams' third annual Coaches vs. Cancer game. All proceeds from ticket sales, donations, a 50/50 raffle, and concessions will go to the American Cancer Society.
In addition, Haddon Heights eighth grader Cameron Robertson, a cancer survivor, will speak before the game, and his mother will set up an Alex's Lemonade Stand outside the gymnasium.
This and that. South Jersey sports historian Chuck Langerman notes that Paulsboro (17-0) is the last unbeaten team in South Jersey and one of just four remaining in the state. The others are Group 3 Teaneck, Non-Public B St. Anthony, and Non-Public B Morristown-Beard. . . .
Watch out for Penns Grove (12-5). The Red Devils, the likely No. 4 seed in South Jersey Group 1, have won eight in a row behind senior DaQuan Chase, who averaged 21.6 in those games. . . . Cherry Hill West (8-10) has won four of six, with victories over Camden and Camden Catholic behind senior guard Marquis Goodman, who averaged 17.5 in those games. . . . Pitman (13-5) has won six of seven behind freshman center Tim Delaney, who scored in double figures in every game except one (when he had nine) this season. . . .
Haddon Heights (16-2) won its first eight, lost two, and has won eight in a row again. Junior guard Brandon Joyner has averaged 21.8 in the last six games. . . . Through Saturday, Atlantic City (12-4) had won eight in a row. The Vikings were 7-0 since Atlantic Christian transfer Gabriel Chandler, a 6-4 junior, became eligible. . . . Since making a half-court shot to force overtime in a Jan. 24 loss to Delsea, junior guard McCabe Reim has averaged 18.3 points and led Clearview (12-4) to three consecutive wins.
Looking ahead. Two big tournaments mark the weekend schedule.
The Cape-Olympic Challenge will feature 13 games on Saturday and Sunday at St. Augustine. Among the best matchups are Eastern vs. St. Augustine on Saturday at 6 p.m., Camden vs. Middle Township on Sunday at 2:45 p.m., and Paul VI vs. Atlantic City on Sunday at 6 p.m.
There will be nine games in the first Bishop Eustace Invitational on Saturday at the Crusaders' field house. The schedule includes Paulsboro vs. Lenape at 6:45 p.m., and Bishop Eustace vs. East Brunswick at 8 p.m.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports