For the first time ever, a big holiday gift comes early for local high school basketball fans.

It comes in the form of the Boardwalk Basketball Classic, an annual showcase of the region's best high school teams that tips off three days before Christmas. The week-long event is the nation's largest co-ed high school basketball tournament in the country, and has raised over $275,000 in scholarships since its debut in 1998.

Brian Cunniff is just one of the many set to cover all the action on the court in Wildwood. We asked him what makes the Boardwalk Basketball Classic so special, and why the event's only gotten bigger, and better, over its 14-year run.

South Jersey Hall of Fame sports reporter Tom Williams will also be covering the brackets all week. He reveals which games he's most looking forward to, including several featuring some of South Jersey's best. He also breaks down which teams are off and running in the early season, and why a few dark horses could make big statements in the Cape-Atlantic League.

All eyes, including Tom's, were on a huge girls basketball showdown last week that featured two of the best players in South Jersey. Cedar Creek's Kristine Miller and Ocean City's Julia Duggan put on a fantastic show in the paint, matching up against each other at both ends of the court. In the end, it was Duggan and the Red Raiders who emerged victorious, earning a huge 53-41 victory over the defending State Champion Pirates.

The Ocean City captain joined us on the South Jersey Sports Report to reflect on the emotional win, and describes her relationship with Kristine Miller both on and off the court. We also asked her about her decision to attend Rider University next year, and why it was the right time to make a commitment so early.

The response to Hurricane Sandy by many local high schools couldn't have been better; that according to the man in charge of the Cape-Atlantic League and all its fall sports programs. C.A.L. president Mike Gatley reflects back on a tremendously successful high school fall sports season, including how two local squads managed to bring home state titles, despite dealing with one of New Jersey's worst natural disasters ever.

We also asked the Mainland Regional H.S. athletic director about the latest on negotiations with the West Jersey Football League, and what kind of impact a new playoff format could have on this year's high school basketball season.

And it'll be a season of firsts for the Cape-Atlantic League's newest varsity sports program: the Atlantic County Institute of Technology. The Red Hawks have now added cross country, soccer, basketball, bowling, cheerleading, baseball and softball teams for their student body.

We asked Athletic Director Dr. Robert Wagner about what we can expect from the program in 2013, including the mindsets of players, coaches and administrators going into their first full varsity season. He also revealed what he's looking forward to, how the Red Hawks will meet the challenge of competing against the Cape-Atlantic League's best, and if "opportunity through athletics" could be bringing in more students to A.C.I.T.



Listen to this week's show:

Julia Duggan, O.C. Red Raiders senior basketball standout

Brian Cunniff, Cape May County Gazette sports editor

Mike Gatley, Cape-Atlantic League president, Mainland Regional H.S. athletic director

Robert Wagner, Atlantic County Institute of Technology athletic director

Tom Williams, South Jersey Hall of Fame sports reporter

We’d also like to congratulate the South Jersey Athlete of the Week:

Michael Holloway

Basketball, Sacred Heart

The sophomore center has helped spearhead Sacred Heart’s surprising 3-0 start in the United Conference. Holloway tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 45-38 victory over defending conference champion Pleasantville.

It’s all right here, on The South Jersey Sports Report. Listen every Saturday, 9-11 a.m. on 97.3 ESPN-FM or

Follow Tyler Donohue on Twitter @TDsTake