Jaymere Hadden played inside for the Millville High School boys basketball team last season.

Thunderbolts coach Dale Moore told the 6-foot-3 junior to work on his ballhandling last summer.

Hayden is the point guard this season.

His move epitomizes the successful changes Millville has made after losing four starters from last season's 18-8 team.

The Thunderbolts are 6-1 and a contender for the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference.

Millville had modest expectations when the season began.

"We told the team we wanted to improve each game," Moore said. "Our goal was to make the playoffs and keep getting better."

So far, Millville is doing more than that.

The Thunderbolts turned some heads with their 73-69 win over Egg Harbor Township (6-3) last Thursday.

"We think we have a good team," Moore said. "We have smart players. They play together. They're very coachable."

Hadden averages 17.7 points. His long arms and size make him difficult to defend.

"We didn't have a point guard who had his ballhandling ability," Moore said. "He's made a tough transition (from forward to guard). It's difficult to trap him."

Several newcomers have boosted Millville.

Khalil Wallace, a football standout and one of the CAL's top athletes, averages 11.4 points and is a force inside. He scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Tuesday's 64-54 win over rival Vineland.

Derrick Gattis sat on the bench last season but is an accurate outside shooter and averages 13.6 points.

Millville has several big games ahead.

The Thunderbolts host Bridgeton (6-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Games with Atlantic City (7-0), St. Augustine Prep (4-2) and Ocean City (4-3) loom in the last week of January. Ocean City beat Millville 43-41 opening night.

Sapp out

Bridgeton has dropped back-to-back games to Lower Cape May Regional and Buena Regional.

But the Bulldogs (6-2) have been without forward David Sapp, who has missed the past four contests with a sprained ankle.

The 5-11 Sapp is one of the region's most dynamic players. Few have his athletic ability. He averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds in Bridgeton's first four games - all wins.

Bulldogs coach Osco Williams said Bridgeton hopes to have Sapp back for Saturday's game at Millville.

A.C./Spirit update

Ibn Morgan is a big reason why Atlantic City (7-0) leads the CAL American Conference. The 6-1 swingman barely played the past three seasons. But the senior is averaging 14.3 points. He has averaged 21 points in his past four games.

Guess who still leads the National Conference?

The answer is Holy Spirit (6-2), despite Wednesday night's upset loss at Wildwood Catholic. The Spartans faded from view after a 53-47 loss in Atlantic Christian in the second game of the season Dec. 23. But Spirit won five straight after that and is 5-1 in the conference. The Spartans will be back in the limelight soon. Spirit has high-profile games against St. Joseph (6-2), Middle Township (4-3), Atlantic City (7-0), Bridgeton (6-2), Lower Cape May (6-1) and St. Augustine (4-2) from Jan. 19-30.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185