In the 1988-89 season, under coach Gary
Wilson, Eastern Regional won its first (and still only) state
basketball championship. The Vikings competed in Group 3 and won seven playoffs -- four in the
South Jersey sectionals, two in states and one in what was the first year for the Tournament of
Wilson was named the South Jersey Coach of the Year by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Senior guard Michael Edwards was named the Player of the Year by the Inquirer and Courier-Post..
Below are game-by-game results, individual scoring over the 34 games (28-6 record) and a story about
the win that yielded the South Jersey championship.
|*Gloucester Township Tech||W||104||73|
|T-Wyncote Bishop McDevitt (Pa.)||W||76||57|
|*Gloucester Township Tech||W||101||77|
|Cherry Hill East||W||85||61|
|SJ Group 3 Playoffs|
|Willingboro John F. Kennedy||W||93||84|
|State Group 3 Playoffs|
|NJ Tournament of Champions|
NLP -- Non-League Points
ONP -- Olympic National Points
OTP -- Overall Total Points
|Olym. Nat. Points||17-1||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||W||L||W||W||W||W|
MICHAEL EDWARDS KEEPS 'EM FLYING
By Sam Carchidi
HACKENSACK -- When the NJSIAA boys' basketball tournament started a few weeks ago, Eastern High was seeded seventh in the
12-team South Jersey Group 3 field.
Why, then, wasn't anybody overly surprised yesterday when the Vikings defeated Sparta, 73-63, at Fairleigh Dickinson University
and emerged with the state Group 3 championship?
The answer: Michael Edwards.
Edwards, of course, is on a certified roll. The kind of roll that enabled him to score 33 points yesterday despite an "off" shooting
performance. The kind of roll that makes it oh so easy to be his teammate.
Make a mistake, Edwards' teammates realize, and their sensational point guard will bail them out.
With a creative drive and dish-off.
With a three-point jumper from near Exit 161 on the Garden State Parkway.
With the way he forces opponents to play Eastern's uptempo style with his now-you-see-him, now-you-don't speed.
Maybe it is a coincidence that Eastern's four other starters played key roles in yesterday's victory. Or maybe playing alongside the
6-foot Syracuse- bound guard has a way of taking the pressure off a guy, of making him feel - well, unbeatable.
"He has the ability to take a team from one level and raise it two or three levels higher," said Sparta coach Dennis Tobin, who
coached Edwards at a camp in Pennsylvania last summer.
Two or three levels higher. That's about where Eastern has played in its last six games. All tournament games, by the way.
It started with easy victories over Point Pleasant Borough and Central Regional. Those wins weren't surprising.
The margin of Eastern's 79-58 victory over Willingboro in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals, however, was downright shocking.
In the Vikings' first three tournament games, Edwards scored 39, 38 and 35 points. He then scored 39 in the team's 93-84
sectional-final victory over Kennedy and 28 in Wednesday's epic 65-60 comeback victory over favored Red Bank, a team that had
a 60-51 lead with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left.
Now, with yesterday's pedestrian (for him) 33-point performance, Edwards has averaged 35.3 points in Eastern's six tournament
"There's not a quicker, faster, better penetrator around," Haddonfield coach Dave Wiedeman said the other day.
Edwards is not without his faults. He sometimes gets too fancy with a behind-the-back pass, picking up a turnover for his efforts.
He sometimes fires up ill-advised 25-foot jumpers.
But no one in South Jersey is more exciting. Not this year. Not in the last decade. Maybe longer.
And not many players have been more productive.
Edwards has scored 1,033 points this season - the second-highest total accumulated by an NJSIAA South Jersey player, a total
topped only by Camden's Kevin Walls, who scored 1,388 points in the 1983-84 season.
In his three-year South Jersey career, Edwards has scored 2,302 points - the fourth-highest total in area history, a figure bettered
only by Walls (2,775), Pleasantville's Reggie Miller (2,505) and Glassboro's Larry Bland (2,339).
Edwards' South Jersey career almost never existed. As a freshman, Edwards lived in Voorhees - an Eastern sending district - but
paid tuition to attend Philadelphia's Ben Franklin High, the school that produced guard Jerome ''Pooh" Richardson.
Richardson graduated in June of 1985 and headed to UCLA. Edwards, then a freshman, enrolled at Franklin in September of 1985.
"My dad wanted me to go to school in the city and play against the tough competition," Edwards said after yesterday's game.
"They were calling me 'the next Pooh Richardson' over there, and my dad didn't like it. He wanted me to be myself, not someone
Edwards transferred to Eastern as a sophomore.
"I had problems in the classroom at Franklin," said Edwards, who was the Franklin team's sixth man. "It's hard to study there.
The kids in the class give the teachers a hard time. It's a different atmosphere. "
The classroom atmosphere, the fact that Eastern had a handful of up-and- coming sophomores, and the personality of Eastern
coach Gary Wilson played roles in Edwards' decision to transfer.
"Gary's a father-type coach; he's not a 'coach' coach, if you know what I mean," said Edwards, who carries a 2.5 grade-point
average. "He looks after you. He makes you go to class. If you have a problem, he gets you a tutor. "
Transferring from Franklin, Edwards said, was "the best thing that could have happened to me. The best. "
And the best that could have happened to Eastern.