By CAMERON CARMEN
Egg Harbor Township finished 2022 off in a strong way, winning five straight before beginning 2023 just as hot, capturing wins in eight of 10 to improve to 14-3.
Like most coaches, Cameron Bell set some goals for his team in the beginning of the year, and coming off a 23-4 season a year ago, those goals were lofty.
“Coming into the year one of our biggest goals was to be connected and find a connection with each other. We have two starters returning in D.J. Germann and Jay-Nelly Reyes, but we also have a lot of new guys so we wanted to get connected as quickly as possible.”
In order to get connected as a team there has to be strong leadership in the locker room to
make sure everyone is on the same page. Reyes, a senior, plays a huge role in doing just that, Bell said.
“It’s really been a group effort but if I had to pick one guy it would have to be Jay-Nelly Reyes. He’s been such a strong leader and just a positive influence.”
The Eagles host Middle Township on Wednesday night at 5:30 and they’lll bring a 14-3 overall record that includes a 6-2 mark in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference, two games behind division-leading St. Augustine Prep.
The team has some big games coming up starting with the Panthers — who are coming off a double-overtime win over St. Joseph Academy — tomorrow night, at St. Augustine Prep on Friday and then at St. Joseph Academy on Tuesday.
The Eagles lost to both of those teams earlier in the season, so they’d love to bounce back in a big way, not only to stay in contention for a conference title but also to improve their seeding in the upcoming Cape-Atlantic League Tournament. If EHT is not one of the top two teams in the CAL National the Eagles almost assuredly would be an at-large bid.
“We need to focus on our attention to detail and our energy on the defensive end,” Bell said about the upcoming rematches with Prep and St. Joe’s. “I think in that St. Joe’s game what got away from us was our defensive principles and our complete and total effort on the defensive end. For the St. Augustine game, that was our second game of the season and I thought we played decently but we left a lot of points on the board and once again on the defensive end we had some lapses down the stretch and a couple turnovers. I think when it comes to both of those games what you’ll see is a much better version of ourselves. We are a much better team now and I look forward to both of those games.”
Last year’s season was a huge success as the Eagles finished with 23 wins. It can be hard to follow that but with returning players continuing to play at that same pace it makes it easier. Germann has been outstanding, recently eclipsing the 1,000-point plateau in his career. He’s averaging better than 18 points per game and nearly four assists per game. But it hasn’t been a one-man show by any means. Germann has gotten plenty of help from the rest of his team with fellow seniors Keion Elliot leading the team in rebounds, Reyes leading in steals and Christian Rando leading in 3-pointers.
There have also been some contributions from other guys as well.
“One of the biggest surprises would be how quickly (Holy Spirit transfer) Jamil Wilkins fit in. I always knew his style of play fit in with ours but it’s been really seamless. Even Keion, he’s from here and came back but he hasn’t played with these guys since eighth grade and for him to come right in and be a starter and leader it just really has been a surprise how well things have gelled.”
There are still seven games left in the regular season including some tough matchups against the likes of Cherokee, Camden Eastside and Gloucester Catholic, so EHT has to remain focused. Last year the Eagles were bounced early from the CAL and state tournaments.
““I think for us we need to focus on three big things — energy effort and enthusiasm. You know, constantly bringing the energy every single day knowing we have a lot of games left in a short period of time. We have to find ways to remain energized, especially on the defensive end — that’s where our money is made.”
This year the CAL Tournament finals are in Egg Harbor Township, so Coach Bell is making sure that his team is playing its best basketball finishing the season so they can go on a run and play in
the finals in front of “The Flock” — EHT’s rowdy student fan base. Coach Bell knows it won’t be easy, but he has confidence in this team, and rightfully so. The Eagles haven’t lost two in a row all season, and after two of their losses they ripped off win streaks of seven and the current five-game tear they are on.
Cameron Carmen is a former Egg Harbor Township High student and ice hockey player who now attends Montclair State University.