What timing for Valore, C.H. East

Dave Allen led Cherry Hill East to its first South Jersey basketball championship Tuesday, the same day that Valore, his former coach there, finally won a title himself.
Dave Allen led Cherry Hill East to its first South Jersey basketball championship Tuesday, the same day that Valore, his former coach there, finally won a title himself. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)
Posted: March 16, 2014

For John Valore, the best thing about Tuesday was that Camden won a South Jersey title in boys' basketball.

But the second-best thing was that Cherry Hill East won one, too.

For Dave Allen, the situation was exactly the same, only in reverse.

The best thing about the historic day for Allen was that Cherry Hill East captured the first sectional title in the 45-year history of the program.

But No. 2 on Allen's list - and not far behind, either - was Camden's triumph later that night.

"It means everything," Allen said of the storybook scenario that played out in two sectional-title games about 20 miles apart.

Call it a harmonic convergence, coincidence, or uncanny twist of fate.

But it's simply surreal that Cherry Hill East finally won a South Jersey title on the same day that Valore finally won a South Jersey title - as the coach of the team that used to be the fiercest rival of his Cherry Hill East teams during some of the best seasons of his long career.

And the signature moment of both men's professional lives was enriched because of their special relationship. In a sense, each coach won twice that day.

"I couldn't have been happier" for Allen and Cherry Hill East, Valore said.

Allen is a Cherry Hill East graduate (class of 1989) who played under Valore and also served as an assistant coach under the man he regards as a father figure. Their relationship goes way beyond basketball.

"There's no way I would be here, in this position, without him," Allen said. "He brought me here. He's the reason I'm the coach of this program.

"He's meant everything to me."

Allen was on the bench next to Valore in the coach's 35th and final season at Cherry Hill East in 2011. He was there when the Cougars - who looked bound to finally win a sectional title in the veteran coach's swan-song season - were devastated by a loss to Shawnee in the sectional semifinals.

The next year, Allen took over the program that Valore had guided since 1977.

"I wouldn't want anybody but him to take over," Valore said. "He is Cherry Hill East. He understands the history, the tradition. He understands what we did there, and he wants to keep it going."

Allen might be one of South Jersey's most underrated coaches. He has taken a Cherry Hill East program that never made the sectional final before he assumed command to the sectional final twice in three years.

"He works 365" days a year, Valore said.

Cherry Hill East's 52-41 win over Cherokee on Tuesday was a breakthrough for the program, the school, and the town (well, the east side, anyway).

"This is for all the guys who ever played here," Allen said after his players cut down the nets in celebration.

Nobody could better appreciate what Tuesday's win meant for so many people connected to the Cherry Hill East program than Valore. He was there for 43 years - eight as an assistant, 35 as head coach.

"Just a great moment for Cherry Hill East basketball and a great moment for Dave Allen," Valore said.

But here's the amazing part: After all those years of falling short of a South Jersey title, Valore finally got one, and he got it the same day, and he got it as the first-year coach at Camden.

Valore, 69, won his first sectional title less than two hours after Cherry Hill East won its first sectional title, as Camden beat Pemberton by 71-67 in the Group 2 title game.

And while nobody appreciated Cherry Hill East's win more than Valore, nobody felt better for Valore than Allen.

"He's a great man," Allen said. "I can't even begin to explain everything that he's done for me. I'm so happy for him."

When Valore was hired by Camden in May, lots of people were surprised. Some were skeptical about whether a coach who had spent his career in Cherry Hill could succeed at South Jersey's most fabled program.

Allen was convinced that Valore would win at Camden.

"I couldn't be happier for one of the finest men I know as well as one of the best teachers and coaches I've ever seen," Allen said at the time.

"John Valore and Cherry Hill East have been synonymous. Now, one of South Jersey's best programs just got our best. He will give 'The High' what he gave us for 43 years - the very best that he's got."

It was more than a little coincidental that both coaches stood on the sideline in such special games in their careers on the same day.

It was storybook stuff that they both led their teams to titles.

Camden was Valore's favorite team on Tuesday. But Cherry Hill East was a close second.

Cherry Hill East was Allen's favorite team that day. But Camden wasn't far behind in his heart.


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

inquirer.com/jerseysidesports

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