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Pemberton Aims to Take Next Big Step

The Hornets posted their first winning campaign since 2016 with a 12-3 record last season.

Pemberton will look to build on that outcome this upcoming winter.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic stripped the Hornets of an opportunity to compete in the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs last winter and define itself as a program moving forward. However, the Hornets will get an opportunity again to prove themselves with a beefed up schedule that includes perennial threats Haddonfield, Newark East Side and Shawnee, among others.

The Hornets return four out of five starters including senior forward Cameron Downs. Downs averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game last season and posted double figures in 13 out of 15 games. He also tallied at least 20 points in six different contests. Senior Isham McClain also returns after averaging 11.3 points per game.

Point guard Jordan Lomax (6.7 points per game) returns as Pemberton’s primary ball-handler and the heart of the defense. He will be joined by senior Morton Wilson-Sigler (4.6 points per game) in the backcourt.

Forward Brandon Palmer is the Hornets’ lone starter that is not returning. Palmer transferred back to Medford Tech.

Junior guard Keypoe Dennis, Jr. is a notable newcomer after spending his sophomore year at Trenton Catholic. Dennis, Jr. appeared in eight games for the Hornets as a freshman in 2019-20 and contributed 6.0 points per game. Junior Elijah Zapata-Smalls also returns after charting significant minutes as a freshman and a sophomore. Zapata-Smalls tallied a career-high 12 points in a 60-47 win over Moorestown Friends as a freshman in 2020. Junior guard Jalen Clarke is another returning player with varsity experience that missed a majority of last season due to an injury.

Newcomer Dakari Harrell will add depth at guard. Harrell sat out last year due to COVID-19 concerns. The Hornets also added People’s Prep transfer Kazi Fontaine. The junior played for West Side (Newark) last season and averaged 12 points per game as a freshman at People’s Prep in 2019-20. Fontaine tallied a team-high 24 points in a 61-52 loss to Lodi in early 2020.

“We are excited for the year,” coach Timothy Collura said. “(We) had our players compete in over 25 organized games as a team since last season. We hope that the hard work, experience, stability, and chemistry established throughout the off season will pay dividends during the season.”

The Hornets will also move to South Jersey Group 3 this year due to reorganized sections by the NJSIAA this fall, per Collura. Despite the altered classification, Pemberton still has the same expectations and goals.

“(Our goal is to) win our division and make a deep playoff run,” Collura said. “With a lot of experience returning and more size than we have had in recent years, we hope to use our length and athleticism to get up and down.”

South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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