Parkland, Camden, livens up Saturday night with an unforgettable basketball game – The Morning Call

Parking was precious. That was a good view of the court Saturday night at Cedar Beach.

That’s because at the end of the longest day of the A-Town Throwdown, national powerhouse Camden played defending Eastern Pennsylvania Conference champion Parkland, with fans surrounding the court, packing the stands and high-fiving in certain spots.

The matchup generated the kind of excitement most schools would enjoy at any winter regular season game, much less a summer game that started at 9 p.m. Although it was difficult to estimate total attendance, the atmosphere was one of the best local summer basketball has seen in years.

The Trojans led 12-5 early and were still tied at 19 at halftime before Camden eventually wore Parkland down in the second half to win 60-53.

Camden freshman Iken Alozi scored 16 points, 12 after halftime, to lead New Jersey’s surge.

Aaron Bradshaw, one of the nation’s top recruits who has offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland and many other top-tier programs, who would later put on a show by winning the Throwdown Slam Dunk Contest, scored 11 points. Dasir Haskins scored 11 points in the second half and Camden scored 41 points in the second half in an 18-minute stretch.

The Throwdown Slam Dunk Contest was supposed to take place after the game, but Camden made sure it started early with at least 10 dunks in his offensive spectacle. Even without the nation’s most coveted player, DJ Wagner Jr., present but not playing, the Jersey boys were unstoppable.

Still, Parkland coach Andy Stevens was thrilled with the atmosphere and his team’s effort.

“Even if they’re missing a couple of their guys, they’re still a national power,” Stevens said. “But I think our guys had it in their eyes before the game that they were going to play hard and not back down. I told them after the game that I was proud of the way they competed and I didn’t back down. Even towards the end, when we were down by eight or ten, they kept competing. That competitive drive will pay off in the end.”

While Parkland could have made it tougher if it hadn’t missed a few makeable shots, Stevens wasn’t about to complain.

“We missed a lot of shots, but we played the right way,” he said. “We were finding open guys and sharing the ball. We were hot early and missed some shots toward the end, but we played well.”

No one has played better for Parkland than Nick Koval, who is considered by most to be Lehigh Valley’s best returning player for the 2022-23 season. He spent much of the summer playing in high-level AAU tournaments.

Playing without Koval, the Trojans won the Lehigh Valley Summer Collegiate League title on July 21.

But Parkland is clearly much better with him, and Koval didn’t disappoint against Camden with 26 points. He made five of the Trojans’ nine 3-pointers.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Koval said. “A lot of people turned up and it was nice to see so many familiar faces. We learned a lot. We learned how to deal with these guys. Games like this will just make us better because we will learn from them. That has to be our mindset coming out of this game.”

Kowal said while he knew many on Camden’s all-star roster, he hadn’t run into them on the AAU circuit. Parkland didn’t have the size to match up against Camden and a 7-foot center like Bradshaw, but was able to push the pace and create scoring opportunities.

“We have a lot of shooters and guys who get into the paint and make plays for others,” Koval said. “I think it will help us a lot. We will be very different from last year. We will be much smaller, but much faster. It will be different, but everything will be fine.”

Parkland was hoping for a long run on Sunday. The Trojans were scheduled to begin their Round of 16 game against Phillipsburg, New Jersey at 10:30 a.m.

As much as people would love to see a rematch between Camden and Parkland in the tournament final Sunday night, it’s not going to happen. Camden was unable to commit to staying for four games on Sunday and was forced out of the tournament. He will be replaced by Muhlenberg Township, which was a finalist in last month’s Cedar Beach Showcase and in the Lehigh Valley Summer League.

Randy Attier, one of the tournament directors, agreed with Camden’s decision.

“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want to see the Camden boys play again on Sunday,” Attia said. “But I would really like to say thank you [Camden] coach Maalik Waynes when we had a great talk during the slam dunk contest and he was very honest with me after he found out they would no longer be available all Sunday. We decided that he would rather have a school that can play all day on Sunday than his team that can play one or two games and then have to give us up.”

Attier said the Camden players, including DJ Wagner, will be around Cedar Beach throughout Sunday but will not be playing.

“Waynes said he’s looking forward to letting his guys be high schoolers and letting them enjoy themselves and the park,” Attier said. “Those who don’t appreciate what Camden has done by coming to our event just don’t understand. Seeing the pure joy on all our children’s faces on Saturday night was truly amazing. I’ve never seen a park like this in my life and we all appreciate it, even if we’d like to see them play more.”

Due to the lateness of Saturday’s games and the slam dunk, the 3-point contest will be held after the championship, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Former Helena star Nate Ellis won the three-point contest three times during his career with the Canaries. The only time he didn’t win was in 2020 when there was no tournament due to COVID-19.

Boys Varsity Round of 16 (10:30 a.m.) Parkland vs. Phillipsburg; Notre Dame-GP vs. St. John Vianney, NJ; Timber Creek, NJ vs. Reading; Liberty vs. Executive Power; (11:30 a.m.) Allen vs. Bethlehem Catholic; Camden vs. CD East; Emmaus vs. Malvern Prep; Lower Merion vs. Newark Arts.

Girls’ Varsity, 12:30 p.m

Boys JV Quarterfinals (12:30 p.m.) Muhlenberg Twp vs. Team BLM; Boyertown vs. Whitehall; (1:30) Reading vs Hatbar-Horsham; Malvern Prep vs. Emmaus.

Boys quarterfinals, 1:30 p.m

Women’s varsity semifinals, 2:30 p.m

Boys JV Semis, 2:30 p.m

Boys Varsity Semifinals, 3:30 p.m

Boys’ and Girls’ JV Championship, 4:30 p.m

Girls Championship, 5:30 p.m

Boys Varsity Championship, 6:30 p.m

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