Middle stunned in sectional semifinal

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CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township High School boys basketball team took the floor Friday night with the chance to fulfill its dream of hosting a South Jersey championship game.

But that dream turned into a nightmare.

The Panthers were stunned on their home floor by upstart Medford Tech, 53-44, in a South Jersey Group II semifinal. So instead of planning another practice in preparation for what could have been one last home game, Middle’s players found themselves in the unenviable position of turning in their uniforms.

“It wasn’t supposed to end this way,” Middle coach Tom Feraco said. “It was supposed to end a better way. We really wanted that chance to play here” for a South Jersey title.

The second-seeded Panthers (21-7) led 7-2 to start the game but then played from behind for nearly all of the game after Medford Tech closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run. The third-seeded Jaguars (18-10) led by as many as eight points in the early stages of the fourth quarter before Middle staged a comeback. A basket by Tom Catanoso followed by a steal by Jacob Cowan that led to a three-pointer by Darrell Shelton that tied the game at 44-44 with a 1:40 to play. But Medford Tech, which got 26 points from St. Joseph commit Eli Cane, closed the game by scoring the last nine points, seven of which came from the foul line.

Medford Tech shot 10 for 12 from the foul line for the game, while Middle, usually a very good shooting team from the line, was only 5 for 16.

“I’m so proud of our kids but none of them had their best game,” Feraco said. “We could never get over the hump. Big give Medford Tech credit. There’s obviously a reason Cane’s already verballed to St. Joe’s. He made big plays. When the spotlight was the biggest, he made tremendous plays.”

Shelton led Middle with 14 points.

Medford Tech is scheduled to host fourth-seeded Sterling in the sectional title game Monday. Sterling upset top-seeded Haddonfield Friday.

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