The state's abbreviated high school basketball season will officially end Saturday, March 6.
Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association will not hold a boys basketball state tournament for the the first time in over 80 years. Girls basketball teams had staged a state playoff every year since 1976. In addition, officials decided against trying to fit a Cape-Atlantic League tournament within the confines of the NJSIAA-mandated 15-game season.
Some local players could be continuing their seasons for just a little while longer, however.
Former standouts Keith Palek (Cape May Tech) and T. John Casiello (Wildwood Catholic) are seeking to give them an opportunity to win championships through the creation of the South Jersey High School Madness Tournament for boy and girl players.
"We wanted to find a way to create a fitting end to the their season," Palek said. "They deserve it, especially the seniors."
The single-elimination tournaments will be held at Woodbine Elementary School in Cape May County. The boys games are scheduled to start March 13, followed by the girls March 20. All teams will play no more than one game per day.
Teams are required to pay a $100 registration fee that will include $80 for the referees for their opening games. The remaining $20 will be donated to Woodbine's recreation program. Winning teams will be charged $80 to pay the refs and officials for their next game.
Champions will not be hanging any banners in their school gymnasiums, however. The tournament is not sanctioned by either the NJSIAA or CAL. As such, teams will not be officially representing their respective schools and current head coaches will not be on the sidelines.
For example, players from St. Augustine Prep are tentatively expected to participate, but legendary Hermits coach Paul Rodio won't be there. Palek, whose son Keith Jr. is a senior at St. Augustine, will be coaching a team called the Richland Rowdies. Players are not permitted to switch teams, meaning if he or she played for Wildwood Catholic this season, for example, they would have to remain on a team from there.
He said players from 15 CAL schools have expressed interest in playing in the boys tournament. A number of schools from other parts of the state, including Trenton Catholic and even The Patrick School, have inquired about participating. If interest continues to grow by Saturday's registration deadline, there could be two brackets.
Fans will not be permitted. Every game will be livestreamed on YouTube by Vineland-based BFA Productions.
"We've encountered some hurdles along the way and there are some asterisks," Palek said. "But we're determined to give the kids the ending to the season they've earned."
Eagles feel a draft
The Philadelphia Eagles currently own the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
They could go in a number of different directions and Eagles fans would be satisfied. With wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery headed out of town, they could fill that hole with Alabama's DeVonta Smith or LSU's Ja'Marr Chase.
Personally, I'd like to see them grab Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain. The Eagles need a shutdown corner to pair with Darius Slay, and Surtain fits the mold perfectly.
The biggest mistake would be taking a quarterback.
Jalen Hurts should be given every opportunity to earn the starting job in training camp now that Carson Wentz is playing in Indianapolis. He struggled during his brief audition last season, but it's worth noting he did not have the benefit of any offseason rookie camps, training camp or preseason games to develop his talent and didn't take a single snap with the first-team offense prior to replacing Wentz at halftime against Green Bay on Dec. 6.
They surely don't need another quarterback controversy, which is exactly what would happen if they draft Ohio State's Justin Fields, BYU's Zack Wilson or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
If they want to add a quarterback, go after a veteran backup such as Ryan Fitzpatrick to help mentor Hurts. Nick Foles would be a better choice, but he's evidently staying in Chicago.
Eyeing the Olympics
Mainland Regional High School graduate Destin Lasco is continuing an outstanding freshman season at the University of California-Berkley this week by competing in the Pac-12 Championships in Houston.
Lasco opened the meet Sunday by contributing to the Golden Bears' victory in the 800 freestyle relay. He's also seeded first in the 200 and 400 backstrokes, which will be held later in the week.
Lasco will next compete in the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 24-27. Later this summer, he'll be vying for a spot on the U.S. Men's Olympic team at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June.
The Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo July 23-Aug. 8.
David Weinberg's columns can also be found on his Dave Weinberg Extra Points Facebook page and blog, as well as on 973ESPN.com. His podcast, Dave Weinberg's Tequila and Touchdowns, can be heard on Anchor, Facebook and Twitter. You can also hear him 5:10 p.m. every Tuesday at Newstalk 1400-AM WOND and WONDRadio.com on Off the Press with Scott Cronick. His Weinberg Wednesday segment airs at 6:15 p.m. weekly on 97.3-FM ESPN.