CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — There aren’t too many basketball scenarios that can rattle LaMarr Greer.
The 1994 Middle Township High School graduate was a McDonald’s All-American. He played in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Florida State and professionally all over Europe for years.
Yet, just before he made his debut as the Middle boys basketball coach Friday night, he looked around a packed Cape May Tech gym and felt a bit different.
“It was surreal,” Greer said. “This is my school. This is about pride. I looked in the crowd, and we had more people than they did. This is my community. This is real.”
Greer’s debut was a successful one. Anthony Trombetta came off the bench to score 22 points, as the Panthers beat Cape May Tech 63-39 in the season-opener for both Cape-Atlantic League American Division teams.
Middle forced 20 Cape May Tech turnovers — 13 in the first half — and turned many of them into easy baskets. Trombetta and the Panthers used their quickness to penetrate the Cape May Tech defense and create shots for themselves and their teammates. Cape May Tech senior standout Dylan Delvecchio finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Our first nine games are on the road,” Greer said. “Our saying is that defense travels. We have to play defense and not rely on our shooting and scoring. We have to turn people over and get easy baskets.”
While Greer’s first game was the night’s theme, just as meaningful a story — maybe more so — were the young players who excelled for Middle.
Sophomore guard Bubba McNeil and his freshman brother, Jahmir McNeil, each scored 10. Sophomore guard Mike Zarfati contributed six. Junior forward Devon Bock grabbed 10 rebounds.
“The thing with them is having them do it every day,” Greer said. “I’m challenging them every day. They think I’m crazy. You have to live through their mistakes, but they’ll get it.”
The youngsters certainly looked like they got it Friday.
The 5-foot-11 Trombetta scored 10 of his points in the second quarter, as the Panthers took control. His driving layup and foul shot put the Panthers up 20-8 with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half. His 3-pointer from the right wing made it 28-12 Panthers with a little more than a minute left in the second quarter. Trombetta also finished the game with four steals.
“I just tried to relax and run the plays,” Trombetta said. “I think our defense is our offense.”
Greer, who was an assistant at Middle the past few seasons, replaced long-time coach Tom Feraco, who led the Panthers to three state titles, including two with Greer at point guard.
Greer displayed a calm demeanor before, during and after Friday’s game.
“I’m a product of Feraco,” Greer said with a laugh. “I’m just thinking about the stuff we did wrong.”
There has been much of talk in the Cape May basketball community about the potential of the McNeil brothers, Trombetta and Zarfati.
The three sophomores didn’t get to make much of an impact last season because of COVID-19.
Although it was just one game, Friday showed the Panthers have a promising future.
“We’ve been playing together since middle school, elementary school,” Trombetta said. “We have really good chemistry. We’re having fun out there. We’re trying to bring the culture back. The whole Middle Township thing, athleticism, good attitude, get it done.”