Camden, St. Anthony reviving rivalry

Posted: September 29, 2012

WILDWOOD - Bob Hurley called it "one of our worst days" in the history of St. Anthony of Jersey City basketball.

"They put a whuppin' on us," Hurley said of a 1978 game that his St. Anthony team played at Camden High School.

Hurley said St. Anthony "balanced the scales" with a win over Camden the next year, setting the tone for a "healthy rivalry" between programs that, for a time, represented the North Jersey and South Jersey capitals of high school basketball.

Camden and St. Anthony will renew a long-dormant rivalry with a Sunday night game Dec. 30 in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in the Wildwoods Convention Center.

Philadelphia's Math, Civics & Sciences charter school will face Prime Prep Academy of Dallas in the first game of a doubleheader in the new "Bob Hurley Elite Showcase" bracket of the annual holiday tournament off the boardwalk in this Cape May County resort town.

"We're excited to be playing a storied Camden High School program with a tradition in our state, especially in the southern part of our state, that is unparalleled," Hurley said at a news conference Friday at the Convention Center.

The addition of St. Anthony, which has won 65 games in a row and is regarded as one of the top basketball programs in the country, and its Hall of Fame coach in Hurley, marks a significant expansion of the 15-year-old Boardwalk Basketball Classic, which features around 80 boys' and girls' teams.

St. Anthony brings national prestige to the tournament, which raises funds for scholarships for Wildwood High School and Wildwood Catholic students.

"This brings an added dimension," said Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., president of the Classic. "We'd like to have St. Anthony here for the next 20 years."

Hurley said he prefers his team, which would be a draw anywhere in the country, to play most of its games close to home.

"It starts with my connection to New Jersey," Hurley said.

Hurley has won 1,049 games in 39 seasons, leading St. Anthony to 26 state titles and 12 Tournament of Champions titles. He said his teams have played against Camden five times.

"Me and Coach [Clarence] Turner used to butt heads," Hurley said of the legendary former Camden coach. "This [game] gives us a chance to rekindle something that once was really relevant and could be relevant again."

Camden and St. Anthony were national powers in the 1980s. The last meeting between the teams was at the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton in 2001, when Camden was ranked No. 4 in the nation behind senior guard Dajuan Wagner.

"I remember at halftime, we were up six and I was feeling pretty good," Hurley said. "All anybody wanted to talk about was Dajuan and how unbelievable he was. I went box-and-one on him in the second half, and we won the game. We 'held' him to 32."

Except for Wagner's time with the program from 1998-2001, Camden has not been at St. Anthony's level for the last 20 years. But the Panthers will return three starters from last season's South Jersey Group 3 champions.

"We appreciate the opportunity," Camden coach Cetshwayo Byrd said. "This is great exposure for our kids. They can see what high school basketball is like at the next level, the level where Camden once was and where we hope to be again."


Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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