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Manasquan-Camden Basketball Debacle Exposes Ongoing Racial Tensions In New Jersey


Manasquan-Camden Basketball Debacle Exposes Ongoing Racial Tensions In New JerseyThis month, a trio of referees made a bad call at a New Jersey high school basketball game and declared the wrong team the winner.

The firestorm that resulted — with national headlines and internet vitriol fanning the flames — exposed racial tensions in our state.

The spark was lit during a semifinal game between the Camden High Panthers and Manasquan Warriors. CHS — a longtime basketball powerhouse with a plethora of championships — had not been beaten by a New Jersey public high school since 2019; Manasquan was the underdog.

The Camden team was sluggish, with half its players fighting a stomach virus; Manasquan came out swinging and was ahead until the fourth quarter, when Camden erased that lead. The Panthers were ahead by a point when a Warrior made a last second putback. Manasquan was declared the winner, but moments later, officials reversed the call and gave Camden the victory.

A video that went viral showed Manasquan should have won, and the governing New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association apologized, but said its rules didn’t allow video replays to change the game’s outcome.

For three days until the scheduled final game, Manasquan officials tried to get the decision reversed.

The schools superintendent, Frank Kasyan, asked a judge to hear the case, and then appealed to the State Board of Education to declare the Warriors the winners. Even Gov. Phil Murphy announced his sympathy for the Manasquan team.

Nothing worked. It was when many Manasquan supporters called on Camden to forfeit the victory, with Kasyan drawing unflattering comparisons between the two communities, that the situation turned ugly.

“It’s all about a learning situation, a learning environment for the students,” he said. “It’s not a waste of time. That’s the difference between Camden and Manasquan.”

Mike Cherenson, media spokesman for the NJSIAA, said he couldn’t recall any situation in which a team forfeited a win over a bad call.

Neither could Camden High’s athletic director, Will Hickson.

“Nobody,” said Hickson, “ever gives the game back.”

Hickson said the hate in the messages he received “about how we lack character and integrity” was shocking. “I got more phone calls and e-mails than in 2016, when I was athletic director at Woodrow Wilson [Camden High’s crosstown rival, recently renamed Eastside] and the football team took a knee during the national anthem.”

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