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KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy boys’ basketball to host South Jersey Group 1 final in program’s second season

KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy's Maleake Kelly (2) dribbles as Wildwood's Ryan Troiano (2) defends in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinal boys' basketball game played at KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy in Camden, New Jersey on Thursday, February 29, 2024. Collin Conway/D2 Sports Network

CAMDEN - KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy opened at Chestnut Street and South Eighth Street in the Downtown section of Camden in 2020.

The boys' basketball program debuted in 2022.

In their first season, the Titans finished with a 9-10 record as an independent team. The Camden program reached the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs and lost to No. 1 seed Wildwood, 58-49, in the first round.

In only their second season as a varsity basketball team, the top-seeded Titans, a first-year Burlington County Scholastic League member, will host the South Jersey Group 1 final against Pitman on Saturday at 3 pm. KIPP earned redemption with a 70-48 triumph over fourth-seeded Wildwood in the sectional semifinals on Thursday night.

The Titans opened the contest on a 14-2 run. 6-foot-3 junior guard Maleake Kelly located 6-foot-3 forward Tahmir Dixon on an assist before the buzzer that extended the lead to 20-4 after one quarter. The Warriors opened the second quarter on a 7-2 spurt to cut their deficit to 11 points before KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy responded. The hosts went on a 13-3 run, capped by a basket from Dixon after an offensive rebound to put the Titans up 35-14 at halftime.

KIPP led by as much as 30 points in the second half.

"Last year, we started the game (against Wildwood) off the same way," Kelly said. "We were up a lot, but we lost that game. This year, we responded different this time. We went up, kept the lead and stay focused this time."

The 6-foot-3 guard finished with a team-high 21 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. Kelly's vision and ability to drive and absorb contact at the rim were on display. The junior was able to locate his teammates in the low post and elevate each player around him.

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