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Middle will look to bounce back next season

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Jeremiah Bland enjoyed a solid senior season for MTHS For the first time in Tom Feraco’s 33 seasons as head coach, the Middle Township High School boys basketball team finished under .500.

Last week’s second-round state playoff loss to top-seeded Haddonfield was indicative of Middle’s season as whole, in that the Panthers played a good team to the wire but couldn’t finish.

Trailing 48-43 with three minutes to play against the then-unbeaten Bulldogs, Middle saw Haddonfield score the final nine points to post what looked like a comfortable 57-43 victory.

Middle finished the season at 12-14.

“I just think we came up short in so many games and that kind of sums up the year,” Feraco said. “We didn’t make plays at crunch time and that’s reflective in our record. We played in probably 12 or 15 games that came down to the last minute and it seemed we had a long stretch of the season where lost them all.

“We did beat Ocean City twice at the end, we beat EHT at the end and we beat Hammonton at the end but I’d bet we were 4-8 in games determined in the last minute.”

Disjointed may be the best term to use if describing Middle’s season in one word. The Panthers had various players out with injuries for long stretches (Tanner Kerr, Bobby DiPeso) and lost others to disciplinary and family issues. And, of course, Feraco himself missed five weeks while recovering from prostate surgery, with assistant Rewi Thompson leading the team in his absence.

“It was a season where there was a lot of shuffling with coaches, injuries and discipline problems,” Feraco said. “Just one of those freak years. We could never really get rolling.”

Feraco is confident the program has the potential to return to its usual place as one of the best in the Cape-Atlantic League. Trai Greer, DiPeso and Mike Feraco will all return. Other players who didn’t finish the season with the program for various reasons could also return. And Middle’s junior varsity and freshmen teams both had good seasons.

“I’m not sure how many big-time difference makers we’ll have but we have a chance to have more pieces going into next year than we had this year,” Feraco said. “Our JV team had a good year and we’ll get to move a few of those kids up and there are two or three kids on the freshmen team that could push for (varsity time) next year. And I like quite a few of the kids we have coming in from the eighth grade.”

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