Cape Atlantic

VIDEO: Elston’s OT three-pointer helps send Middle into massive title matchup with powerful Camden

Posted: February 29th 2024

Amir Elston sank a critical three-point shot in overtime to help Middle Township beat Haddonfield in a South Jersey Group II semifinal game.


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Amir Elston made the biggest shot of his life Wednesday, a field goal that went a long way toward setting up one of the most anticipated matchups of the season.

The junior guard from Middle Township High School’s boys basketball team sank a three-point shot from the left baseline with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining in overtime that helped send the Panthers to a 46-38 victory over Haddonfield in a South Jersey Group II semifinal game.

The victory sets up a sectional championship game between the two teams widely regarded as the best in the region. The top-seeded Panthers will host No. 2 Camden Friday in a contest that will have statewide appeal, with both teams ranked among the top 10 teams in New Jersey.

Middle (28-2) is the defending South Jersey Group II champion. Camden did not get a chance to compete in the state playoffs last season after withdrawing from tournament consideration after a handful of its players were ejected from a game against Camden Eastside late in the regular season following an altercation on the court.

Camden (27-2), which posted a 67-31 win over Cinnaminson in the other semifinal, is one of the most talented teams in the state. They haven’t lost a game to in-state competition this season and will take a 16-game winning streak into Friday’s game.

“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve been looking forward to it for two years,” Middle coach LaMarr Greer said. “We want to play the best. We want to see how good we are. We’re home. We get to defend our crown. They’re good. We’re good. Let’s get it on and see how it goes.”

Middle reached the sectional title game for the second straight season after surviving a strong challenge from fourth-seeded Haddonfield (27-3). The Bulldogs forced a slow-paced game through an active zone defense and used their outside shooting (seven three-pointers) to frustrate Middle throughout.

With his team trailing by a point late in the fourth quarter, Middle’s Jamir McNeil converted a traditional three-point play to give the Panthers a two-point lead at 36-34. Haddonfield’s Sam Narducci tied the game with a pair of foul shots with 1:37 to go. Middle then held for a final shot but had two contested attempts in the final five seconds blocked, setting up overtime.

Middle never trailed in the extra session. McNeil made a free throw with 2:56 to go to put the Panthers in front before he later converted a layup on one of Middle’s rare fast-break chances in the game. Nate Rohfling made two foul shots to bring Haddonfield within a point with 1:44 to go, setting the stage for Elston’s massive three-pointer for Middle 30 seconds later.

Elston is one of the most efficient three-point shooters in South Jersey. He’s made 49 percent of his three-point tries on the season, sinking 50 of his 103 attempts.

“We weren’t shocked to see him make it, because we see how he works in practice,” Greer said. “It all starts there. He gets his shots up. When he shot it, we didn’t even second-guess it. We have confidence in him that he’ll make it.”

Haddonfield missed three-point attempts on its next three possessions. McNeil and Trombetta combined to make four foul shots over the final 50 seconds to seal Middle’s victory.

Trombetta led Middle with 21 points. He accounted for 15 of Middle’s 22 points in the first half. McNeil added 15 points.

Sam Narducci paced Haddonfield with 17 points.

Middle was perceived by many as a comfortable favorite entering the contest but Greer said he wasn’t surprised his team was pushed to the limit by Haddonfield, which is coached by Paul Weideman.

“We have so much respect for their program and they have one of the best coaches in the state of New Jersey,” Greer said. “We expected them to come at us for 32 minutes. They have seven seniors who’ve won a lot and we knew they weren’t going to give up. They came in with a game plan and they really made it hard on us. Shoot, this was championship basketball.”

Friday will be as well. It’ll be Camden vs. Middle at 7 p.m. for the South Jersey Group II title – the matchup nearly everyone who follows South Jersey high school basketball had anticipated since before the start of the season.

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