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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    Everything to know and look out for in the boys basketball state tournament.


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    All lanes are closed in Berlin Borough

    UPDATE: 2 killed in rear-end crash on Route 30 in South Jersey


    A serious crash in Camden County has closed a section of the White Horse Pike on Tuesday morning, according to an alert from the state Department of Transportation.

    Route 30 (the White Horse Pike) is closed and detoured between Egg Harbor Road and Clementon Road in Berlin Borough according to 511nj.com.

    Emergency responders are on the scene.

    Police didn't immediately respond to a message from NJ Advance Media seeking additional information. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    Check out our breakdowns of all 14 weight classes.


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    The crash in Berlin Borough took place at the intersection of Clementon Road and the White Horse Pike

    Two people were killed when one vehicle rear-ended another stopped at a red light in Camden County on Tuesday morning, authorities said. 

    The drivers of both cars died in the crash, while the passenger in one vehicle was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries, according to Berlin Borough police. 

    The car struck by the second vehicle was stopped at a traffic signal behind a tractor-trailer in the eastbound lanes of Route 30 (White Horse Pike) around 11 a.m. when another car plowed into it from behind, police said.

    The crash sent the first vehicle into the tractor-trailer and onto Clementon Road while the car that failed to stop went into oncoming traffic, police said.

    87-year-old man killed in 2-vehicle crash on Route 70

    The tractor-trailer driver was not injured. 

    The identities of the two people killed have not been released, pending notification of their families. 

    State Police and the Camden County Prosecutor's Office are assisting in the investigation. 

    The crash forced the closure of White Horse Pike for several hours. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    S.J. Top 20 undergoes a host of changes just a week before start of state tournament.


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    Check out previews of all 14 weights from Toms River North


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    For the first time, New Jersey rated each public high school on a scale of 0-100. See which schools cracked the top 50.


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    Steven Stadler is suing police, saying he was beaten unconscious and bitten by a K9. Watch video

    Atlantic City Police Detective Glenn Anthony Abrams testified in federal court Tuesday that the man suing him, alleging excessive force was used during a burglary arrest, was the one who threw the first punch.

    He also testified that his nose "hurt like hell" after the blow and he asked his supervisor to document his injury with photographs, but the images the jury saw Tuesday showed no cuts, discoloration or swelling on his face. He also admitted that he wrote in his use of force report that he was not injured.

    Steven Stadler, 49, of Glen Gardner, is suing Atlantic City police officers Abrams and William Moore, and former K-9 officer John Devlin, alleging they used excessive force after he was caught breaking into a lockbox at a carwash on March 13, 2013. The suit also claims that the Atlantic City Police Department allows and even promotes excessive force by training officers poorly and either ignoring or exonerating problem officers.

    Stadler testified last week that Abrams, who was off-duty and in gym clothes, pulled up and later gave chase, but he didn't realize Abrams was a cop. Stadler alleges that he complied with commands as soon as he saw Moore pull up in a cruiser, but that Abrams ran up and punched him.

    He said Abrams and Moore punched and kicked him until he lost consciousness. He claims he regained consciousness when then-K9 officer John Devlin set his dog, Clancy, on Stadler's thigh. He now has permanent nerve damage and walks with a slight limp, he testified last week.

    Untitled design (23).jpgSteven Stadler (Provided photos) 

    But in his testimony Tuesday, Abrams claimed that after he called 911 and located Stadler in an alley, Stadler swore at him, held a two-foot crowbar and resisted when Abrams grabbed his arm. He said Stadler dropped the crowbar and punched him, at which point Abrams swung at him and Stadler was able to get away.

    Abrams was unarmed at the time.

    Stadler denied hitting Abrams and said he never had a crowbar, and investigating officers never found the tool at the scene, according to testimony. Stadler said he used a screwdriver and monkey wrench on the lockbox but left the tools in the alley.

    Stadler said that when Moore arrived and jumped out of the cruiser, he complied with his orders and had one handcuff on when Abrams punched him. Abrams claims that when he came upon the scene, he saw Moore and Stadler struggling and so he tackled Stadler.

    "It seemed like he was pulling Officer Moore," Abrams said.

    Moore's testimony last week fell somewhere in between Abrams' and Stadler's versions, as he said Stadler was initially compliant and put his hands behind his back, but then started to pull away.

    Moore said it wasn't until Abrams tackled Stadler that the "all out struggle" began. He claimed Stadler was trying to get up and at times was kicking at them. Abrams said he hit Stadler repeatedly in the eye -- which later swelled shut -- and Moore testified he used "knee strikes" to Stadler's body.

    Though both officers had him on the ground and one of his hands was cuffed, Abrams told the jury things might have gone differently if Devlin hadn't arrived and set the dog on Stadler.

    "K9 Officer Devlin probably saved our lives," he said, causing Stadler's attorney's mouth to fall open in astonishment.

    "Because this near-50-year-old man was going to overpower you and Officer Moore?" Jennifer Bonjean asked. "Does he have superpowers?"

    Abrams replied that Stadler was on drugs at the time. Stadler has testified that he had been drinking and consumed crack cocaine earlier that day.

    Stadler's claim that he never resisted are countered by the fact that he pleaded guilty to resisting arrest about seven months after the incident.

    He admitted that he told a judge in 2013, "I resisted. I pushed away. I tried to run," but said he only did it to get a plea deal that sent him to drug rehab. He was clean until a relapse in 2016, he testified, and has most recently been sober for 18 months.

    Questioned about how many times he struck Stadler in the face, Abrams couldn't come up with a number but said, "enough to try to get him to stop doing what he was doing, assaulting us and trying to get away from us."

    Bonjean has questioned Moore and Abrams extensively about their knowledge of the department's use of force policy and how they decide what level of force is necessary. They disagreed on a few points, and Moore testified last week that while an officer should use as little force as necessary, batons, dogs and punches are all OK if a suspect is not giving up his hands to be cuffed.

    "Are you allowed to use anything up to deadly force to deal with that resistance?" Bonjean asked.

    "Absolutely," Moore answered.

    Devlin is expected to take the stand Wednesday.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Bags entering Cinemark can be no larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches

    One of the largest movie theater chains in the country is banning large bags from its venues with new size limits that take effect Thursday and advised customers that small bags may be searched.

    Cinemark announced the ban on bags larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches in a statement on the Texas-based company's website. 

    There are some exceptions. Diaper bags and bags containing medical equipment will sill be permitted inside its 339 theaters across the country. 

    Cinemark has two New Jersey theaters in Hazlet and Somerdale. It's building new locations in Wayne and Watchung

    What is MoviePass? Breaking down the cheapest new way to go to the movies in N.J.

    The company said there will be no place for moviegoers to check bags, either. 

    Cinemark, the nation's third-largest movie theater company, also said it could inspect any bags and packages entering the theater. A spokesman didn't immediately reply to a message from NJ Advance Media seeking additional information.

    The two largest U.S. movie theater chains -- AMC and Regal -- do not have a former policy limiting the size of bags.

    Regal says backpacks, bags and packages are subject to inspection. AMC leaves it up to theater managers whether bag checks are needed, according to LATimes.com. An AMC spokesman didn't immediately respond to a message from NJ Advance Media seeking clarification on that rule.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    How accurate will our reporters prove to be?


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    Our wrestling writers preview all eight regions and make picks in every weight class

    The march to March and the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City resumes Wednesday with eight regional tournament across the state.


    MOREComplete 2018 NJSIAA region wrestling brackets (printable)


    The top four wrestlers in each weight class, in each of the eight regions advances to the state championship March 2-3-4 at Boardwalk Hall.

    NJ.com gets you ready for the regions with preview and selections in all eight tournaments. Previews will be added as they are completed to check back often to get the latest information.

    • Region 1 at West Milford
    Region 2 at Mount Olive 
    Region 3 at West Orange 
    Region 4 at Union
    Region 5 at Hunterdon Central 
    Region 6 at Brick Memorial 
    Region 7 at Toms River North
    Region 8 at Egg Harbor

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    She consulted long married couples at a senior living community for advice leading up to her big day.

    In the months leading up to Stephanie Serrano's wedding, she sought marital advice from proven experts.

    The 31-year-old health care services manager for Brookdale Evesham talked with the senior living community's long-married couples to learn the secrets to sustaining a relationship for decades. Serrano says the insights they shared have proven valuable following her September wedding.  

    Serrano met her husband Christopher, 37, seven years ago while an occupational therapy student. He was an exercise physiologist working for the same rehabilitation practice. She was hired by the rehab group a year later, and on Valentine's Day the two began their relationship. 

    "I made a point of sitting down with the residents at Brookdale to get their input on how to make my marriage successful, said Serrano. "After a few chuckles, most said to be patient and not waste time being angry because life is too short."

    Among those Serrano asked for advice were Joseph and Clara Sipia, 96 and 95 respectively.

    The couple celebrated their 71st anniversary in November. They grew up on the same street five houses away from each other. But it wasn't until she blossomed at age 13 that Joseph took notice of Clara and their courtship began.  

    "I would have gotten married sooner than age 25, but her father wouldn't let her marry a sailor," said Joseph Sipia, who served in the Philippines during WWII. "Because of the war effort they were building ships, not furniture. Once we had a refrigerator and a bedroom set, we were good to go."

    Seeing the delight the Sipias and other couples take in each other has been inspirational for Serrano.

    The Sipias still look at one another with love. 

    Joseph's advice: "Find someone you are compatible with and rely on each other. As we have gotten older we rely on each other even more. It's like we have ESP."

    Have community news you'd like to share? Send an email to sjtowns@njadvancemedia.com. Have an event happening you want to share? Go to nj.com/events to submit your information to be included in a community calendar. 


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    NJ Advance Media ranks all the counties with D1 women's basketball players.


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    Camden freeholder calls opioid makers the 'lowest form of humans.' Watch video

    A South Jersey group spearheaded by a Camden County freeholder will file a lawsuit alleging a New Jersey pharmaceutical company that manufacturers OxyContin has been operating a criminal enterprise.

    The suit will allege that members of the Sackler family, who run Purdue Pharma in Cranbury, markets OxyContin to doctors and consumers as a drug with little-to-no risk of addiction.

    "These people are no different than members of a drug cartel that distribute drugs illegally, or the drug pushers on our streets who push heroin and fentanyl on a daily basis," Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said Wednesday at the Camden County Hall of Justice.

    "Just so we are clear, the members of the Sackler family are the lowest form of humans you can possibly imagine. They have earned millions of dollars over the years at the expense of the American public," he said. 

    The suit claims the Sackler family participated in a racketeering scheme and that the individuals owned and operated a criminal enterprise that marketed and shipped millions of addictive drugs throughout the country, and in Camden.

    The group -- which is being represented by James E. Cecchi, of Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, P.C. -- is seeking an end to the distribution of the drug OxyCotin and monetary damages of an undetermined amount that would go toward treatment and education of community members and medical students.

    Patty DiRenzo, a member of the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force spoke about losing her son to heroin abuse after he became addicted to pain medication. 

    "The drug dealers who created this crisis are not the ones we picture in our minds," she said. "It's not kids selling on the street, the real drug dealer is big pharma." 

    Justin Wroblewski spoke about becoming addicted to opioids after suffering a sports injury in high school. He said as soon as his prescription ran out, he started buying pills off the street to deal with his withdrawal systems. 

    While Cappelli said research shows about 75 percent of people who use heroin start out on prescription opioids, Wroblewski believes it's much higher.

    "I don't know a single person who just started using heroin," Wroblewski said. "It always starts with prescription drugs." 

    IMG_0744.JPGCamden Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. explains the use of Narcan kits in Camden. 

    While there are combative strategies cities can use to fight the opioid epidemic like the use of Narcan -- an emergency drug that can block the effects of an opioid overdose -- Cappelli and the rest of the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force believes they also have to stop the chain of distribution.

    While the suit is targeting Purdue Pharma and the individuals who run it, it's also alleging that other manufacturers and distributers have participated in racketeering. It includes Abbott Laboratories, Cephalon, Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc., Endo International plc, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Insys Therapeutics, Inc. and Mallinckrodt plc.

    This group isn't the only one pursuing a case against pharmaceutical companies. Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other companies Friday, while New York City did the same last month.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Before convenience stores, there were neighborhood food stores.

    The time before the convenience store was the time of the neighborhood food store. And, although neighborhood food stores still exist, they're getting harder and harder to find.

    As I recall, neighborhood stores were alike in many ways, but not in the indistinguishable way of today's convenience stores. The neighborhood stores had sawdust on the wood floors, meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling and unpackaged foods that created a heavenly aroma that those of us who experienced it will never forget. Perhaps what was most memorable for me was the total organized clutter.

    small-food033.JPGMary Morello displays a choice cut of meat for a customer in the G. Morello and Sons Market on Cherry Street in Vineland in this photo from the late 1960s. 

    I had the good fortune of having one of these stores in my family, G. Morello and Sons on Cherry Street in Vineland, where I could experience the sensory wonders firsthand. Every square inch of space in my Uncle Lou's store, and stores like it, was used to display products that ran the gamut from national brands to local specialty items. And the proprietors of such stores always knew where everything was.

    Before convenience stores, Morello's and its ilk were where you went to get cold cuts ("lunch meats" in my family) or a good cut of meat for dinner. And "Cheers" wasn't the only place where everybody knew your name; you were greeted as an old friend when you entered these neighborhood food stores.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    They were located throughout the state. There was the U-Buy Market in Somerset, Celentano's Market in Newark (the birthplace of what eventually became a national brand), the Somerset Fish Market in North Plainfield with the huge crustacean on the roof, Moe's Market in Hammonton, Cameron's Meat Shoppe in Kearny and so many others.

    Here's a gallery of neighborhood food stores from New Jersey, and links to other similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of small food stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of eclectic eats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. diners

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    While there are many measures of high-school excellence, the state's own ranking put just three from South Jersey into the top 50. Something is wrong with this picture.

    New Jersey high school rankings come from various sources and are based on so many different factors that it's hard to get a handle on what counts as a "top" school.

    With that in mind, the state Department of Education's latest ranking offers one  depressing fact: Of the 50 top-ranked public high schools, only three are located south of Mercer County.

    Actually, this "top 50" list was put together by NJ Advance Media, but it's based entirely on the Department of Education's new-this-year numerical rankings of 2,000 public schools, encompassing all grades. It's the first time that the department has assigned a 1-to-100 numerical grade to each school.

    Specifically, cheers are due to the Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Deptford Township, which ranked 23rd (score: 86.98), and Haddonfield High School, which ranked 21st (score: 87.51). The only other South Jersey school that could crack the top 50 was Cherry Hill East, listed at 39th (score: 80.25). Not a single school from Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland or Salem counties appears. The top-50 cutoff score was 77.52.

    This isn't a pure academic ranking, which is cause for additional concern in South Jersey. Some of the state's factors included graduation rates and test scores, but also chronic truancy rates, and how well key subgroups, such as minority and special education students do. 

    As with all rankings, some principals and superintendents claim these numerical  are misleading. But, to use a broad brush here, the distribution of the top high schools is alarming: Eleven are in Morris County, six are in Morris County and five each in Monmouth and Union counties. And the most urban counties, Essex and Hudson, each contributed four.

    You could say that money, in the form of high property taxes and household incomes, counts. North and Central Jersey certainly have more of the above. So, where are high schools like Moorestown or Eastern, which also serve affluent areas?

    One thing we noticed is how many of the top schools were "academies," magnet schools, or offered some kind of technical or vocational specialty. These dominated the top of the list.

    GCIT's high ranking suggests that it does a better job than similar South Jersey "vo-techs," but also raises the question of whether southern counties are taking full advantage of these alternative models. Some of the "best" schools concentrate on health sciences, performing arts or communications. There aren't many of those in South Jersey, just a few "school-within-a-school" concepts. Maybe the region needs to jump with both feet into single-discipline schools, even if they have to draw from two or three counties.

    The rankings could validate in part the conclusion that more "underfunded" districts in terms of state aid are in fast-growing South Jersey. Then, again, some of the better schools in other parts of the state get little state aid, and others have continuing district-wide financial challenges.

    Are our local districts failing to attract or keep top instructors or superintendents because salaries are lower here? It costs less to live in South Jersey than in Morris County, but perhaps a task force should look into whether the compensation disparity is out of whack.

    Our region has enough of the state's population to do better on these statewide comparisons. More of our kids should be able to attend schools that are more challenging, or that are a better match for their career goals.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    The lawsuit alleges the officers beat a man until he was unconscious and then set the dog on him. Watch video

    A former Atlantic City K-9 officer, one of three officers sued for allegedly using excessive force in a 2013 arrest, swore on the witness stand Wednesday that his dog did not bite the suspect when he was unconscious.

    "That's totally false," retired K-9 Officer John Devlin said in U.S. District Court in Camden.

    Steven Stadler, 49, of Glen Gardner, has claimed that the three officers beat him until he was unconscious even though he was compliant, and that he came to when the police dog, Clancy, bit down on the inside of his upper thigh.

    Stadler filed suit five years ago against Devlin and Atlantic City police officers Glenn Anthony Abrams and William Moore, alleging they used excessive force after he was caught breaking into a lockbox at a carwash on March 13, 2013. The suit also claims that the Atlantic City Police Department allows and even promotes excessive force by training officers poorly and either ignoring or exonerating problem officers.

    devlin-clancy.jpgJohn Devlin, then an Atlantic City Police Officer, poses for a photo with his dog, Clancy in this 2015 photo. (Atlantic City Police Facebook) 

    Stadler testified Feb. 14 that Abrams, who was off-duty and not in uniform, pulled up to the car wash and eventually chased him on foot without identifying himself as an officer. Stadler told the jury that as soon as Moore pulled up in a cruiser and told him to put his hands on the hood, he complied. He said Abrams ran up and punched him and the beating began.

    He said the dog bite gave him permanent nerve damage and he now walks with a slight limp and has nightmares about a dog attack. Photographs of the bite marks in the hospital appeared to move him to tears when shown in court.

    Abrams, Moore and Devlin have contradicted much of Stadler's testimony. Abrams claimed he identified himself as an officer in an alley where he found Stadler holding a crowbar, and that Stadler punched him in the face and took off.

    Stadler denied hitting him, and the jury saw photographs showing no sign of injury to Abrams face. Stadler also said he never had a crowbar, and officers investigating never found or documented a crowbar.

    Moore testified last week that Stadler was initially compliant but that after he got one handcuff on him, he started to pull away. He said that Abrams, who had been giving chase, ran up and tackled Stadler to the ground and an "all out struggle began." The officers said Stadler was kicking out, rolling and trying to get up on his hands and knees.

    Untitled design (25).jpgSteven Stadler, seen in his mugshot and in the hospital after his arrest on March 13, 2013. 

    "There was a struggle going on, they were fighting," Devlin testified of the scene when he and Clancy arrived in his cruiser. "All three were on the ground."

    He testified that he got the dog out of the car and warned Stadler three times that if he did not stop resisting the dog would bite him. He said he gave the dog the command to "target" Stadler but denied Stadler's attorney's claim that he ordered the dog to aim for Stadler's groin and thigh area.

    "He presented that to my K-9 when he was recovering from the ground and my partner Clancy apprehended him," Devlin said.

    He said he could not recall how long he was on scene before ordering the dog to bite. Stadler's attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, asked him why he didn't use other kinds of use of force options, like compliance holds or blows, before unleashing the dog. Devlin said a K-9 is considered a kind of "mechanical" force that can be used in that kind of situation.

    Devlin also testified that the K-9s are trained to "bite and hold" a person, as opposed to making multiple bites. Stadler maintains he was bit at least two times, and Bonjean asked Devlin to count the bite marks on Stadler's leg in a photograph. There were at least three, he testified, but said it was impossible to tell if other bloody spots were puncture wounds or scrapes.

    "It is your testimony that that is one bite?," she asked him.

    "Yes," Devlin replied.

    Defense attorneys for the city and the officers pointed out to the jury that Stadler has already admitted resisting arrest when he pleaded guilty seven months after the arrest in question. Stadler admitted that he pleaded guilty to pushing and running from the officers, but said he only did it to get a plea deal that got him into a drug rehab. 

    Like officers Moore and Abrams before him, Devlin testified that he had had enough Internal Affairs complaints against him in the past to trigger the department's Early Warning Alert System. The system is supposed to notify superiors if an officer gets three or more internal affairs complaints in a year, so that the officer can be monitored, retrained or otherwise investigated.

    Abrams and Moore said they were never disciplined or monitored as a result of triggering the system. Devlin, who triggered it for four years of his roughly 15-year career, testified that he only learned about the system in 2013. That year, he said, he met with a ranking officer and was told he'd be monitored, but was never told to change his behavior at all.

    Bonjean has argued in court that the department's Internal Affairs Division is a sham that has exonerated officers in all but two excessive force cases in the last seven years.

    The trial continues Thursday.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Favorites, contenders and more for each section of the tournament.


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    Favorites, contenders and more on each section of the girls basketball state tournament.


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    The best performances at Eastern States Championships by N.J. athletes


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