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Senior spotlight: Believing in herself helped Cedar Creek’s Casey Thomas flourish

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By GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor Casey Thomas ended her high school basketball career as one of the top players in Cedar Creek’s short — but extremely successful — history. She became known this season as one of the most versatile players in the Cape-Atlantic League, if not South Jersey, often making an impact on both sides of the hardwood. However, Thomas started making her mark on the program long before her senior season. Cedar Creek coach Fran Raph remembers the first time Thomas influenced the outcome of a game. It was against Lower Cape May four years ago when Thomas was a wide-eyed freshman. The Pirates won, which gave the team home-court advantage in the playoffs later in the season. The season ended with Cedar Creek hoisting both sectional and state titles. “I remember one game when she was a freshman against Lower Cape May and no one knew who she was at the point,” Raph explained. “It was the second game of the season. Lower Cape May came up to play us. We were young, mostly sophomores and juniors, but without her we wouldn’t have beaten them. Casey Thomas, left, had an outstanding senior basketball season for the Cedar Creek girls basketball team, becoming one of the top forwards in the Cape-Atlantic League. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Casey Thomas, left, had an outstanding senior basketball season for the Cedar Creek girls basketball team, becoming one of the top forwards in the Cape-Atlantic League. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “Lauren (Holden) kind of ate us up. I didn’t know who she was. It was her second game of her varsity career and we didn’t know much about eighth-graders. Casey got in that game, and I think she had six or eight points, but she really changed the momentum of that game. I don’t think we win that game if she didn’t play. That game was crucial because of home-court advantage in the state playoffs and everything else. That was the first game she stood out to me.” There have been many more games between then and now in which Thomas shined. Thomas sparked her team to victory that night as a freshman. It may have helped lead the Pirates to championships, but it also shaped Thomas’ career. The senior remembers what that moment meant to her. “That game definitely gave me confidence,” she said. “I feel like that changed my game. Coming in as a freshman to get in a varsity game, I was biting my nails I was so nervous. But when you get in you want to prove yourself and do something great. That game changed my mind set. It helped me believe in myself.” In the four years since, Thomas has only gained confidence helping the Pirates stay among the top teams in the Cape-Atlantic League. In Thomas’ high school career, the Pirates have captured a state title and two South Jersey crowns. The Cedar Creek front-court player can score and rebound, but also likes to play defense. Thomas is specifically fond of swatting away opponents’ shots. “I love blocking shots because it changes the game,” Thomas explained. “It can really change the game. You can be down and soon as you get that really nice block, the crowd goes wild and you start thinking you can get back in the game. That’s why I love it.” The season may have ended a couple games too soon for her liking, but Thomas is extremely proud of being part of the Cedar Creek program. “To me it meant family,” she said. “We are all so close. That’s the only way I can describe it. We are just one big family. We have fun on and off the court. From my freshman year and that team, to sophomore year and that team. Junior year and now senior year, we are always a close-knit family. That is the best part for me.” Thomas, who is in the top 10 of her class academically, plans to continue to play basketball at Holy Family University in Philadelphia. She was drawn to the family atmosphere of the program. Like when she first entered Cedar Creek, Thomas doesn’t know what to expect when she hits the court for Holy Family. However, it won’t surprise anyone this time if she makes an instant impact. Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu [adsense]

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