Matt Wolfe has so often seen E.J. Matthews-Spratley at Lenape High School events this year, who regularly asks the Cherry Hill East senior class if he has moved on.
“Are you playing basketball for us or for the East this year?” Jokes Wolf, head coach of Lenape. “He just smiles and laughs.”
Matthews-Spratley hangs out on the Medford Township campus because his best friend, Derek Simpson, goes there.
Matthews-Spratley grew up with Simpson at Mount Laurel, and they were inseparable from kindergarten, even after Matthews-Spratley moved to Cherry Hill until ninth grade.
They talk daily, except when on opposite sides of deciduous trees. Usually it’s twice a season, but this winter they get a third game and no one has ever been bigger.
In the final of the 4th group of the South Jersey “Cougars” take on the number 2 “Lenope”. on Monday at 16:00 Cherry Hill East is looking for its first title since 2015 and Lenape has not taken a sectional trophy since 2009.
Both teams shared their games this year, Lenope won 51-46 on December 23rd and Cherry Hill East received an exciting triumph 43-39 on 1 February.
If that wasn’t enough motivation for Matthews-Spratly and Simpson, their rivalry on the field was also 2-2 during their careers at the school.
“We agreed, we said we wanted to play with each other in the final of the section,” Simpson said. “We want to play with each other in the championship. It will be the funniest thing, and we will think about it in 20 years. “
Simpson is one of the best players in New Jersey. The Rutgers rookie this season has averaged 17.8 points and about 6 assists and 5 rebounds, and earlier in the campaign he became the program’s top scorer of all time.
He’s only twice this year and three times in the last three winters – against East and Matthews-Spratley.
“I always tell him I’m the only one who knows how to protect you across the state,” Matthews-Spratley said.
Simpson scored 36 points in four games. While all of Cougar’s defense deserves pride, Matthews-Spratley is the head of the snake.
“He knows my every move, as he would say,” Simpson said. “He sits with my every move.”
Matthews-Spratley does not speak about his performances. He knows exactly what Simpson will lead to.
“I’m not poking the bear,” he said. “… He’s going to Rutgers for a reason.”
Matthews-Spratley also did not bow down.
He averages 15.1 points per game and is a leader in defense of the East. He started in three years and this will be his second last performance in the section.
“Over the last two years, his physical presence has gotten much better, he’s better at shooting the ball, as a freshman he hasn’t shot the ball either,” Simpson said. “Now he’s a player.”
Matthews Spratley has suggestions from Penn State Harrisburg, Scranton, Arcadia and Alfred, and other schools have also shown interest.
It won’t be long before Simpson and Matthews-Spratley will live far enough away so they can’t hang out every weekend like now, instead of reminiscing about good moments over the phone.
“We did some wild things,” Simpson said. “AAU tournaments, stealing from hotels, driving at night, returning home at 3am, sleeping with each other, staying in the jacuzzi until 3am. We’re just going back. “
They won’t talk on Sunday or Monday, but not with that championship hanging by a thread.
“I love you, boy,” Simpson said, his last words being before the game to Matthews-Spratley. “We did what we had to do for our schools. We showed pride and came and worked every day. “
For more than a decade, Josh Friedman has created award-winning Southern Jersey sports reports for the Courier Post, The Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times. If you have or know an interesting story you can tell, contact Twitter at @ JFriedman57 or email email@example.com. You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism by subscribing.