CHERRY HILL – For the seniors on the Haddonfield Memorial High School basketball team, Monday’s victory in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game was the 100th of their careers and one they are likely to remember for a long time.
Trailing Camden by 11 with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter and by five with :44 left, Haddonfield tied the game with :08 remaining on a three-point basket by Dan Fleming, then won it in overtime, 69-67, on a short jump shot by Fleming before a boisterous standing-room crowd at Cherry Hill East.
“We were down double digits and we were not used to it, but we always stay confident,” said Fleming after the game as his teammates and their fans celebrated on the court. “We are always confident no matter how much trouble we’re in.
“We were just giving it everything we got. We were determined that this wasn’t going to be our last two minutes. It wasn’t going to be our last quarter."
The Bulldawgs, who improved to 29-1 with the win, were in trouble because Camden took advantage of its length to dominate inside early. Jerome Brewer, Lance Ware and Taquan Woodley crashed the boards on just about every Camden shot and, either getting put-back baskets, or passing the ball back out for opportunity by another Panther. The three combined for 43 points.
Camden’s quickness was also a factor, pressuring on defense and moving the ball on offense to get good looks for the big men.
“Every time we scored, they scored again,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said. “They brought a lot of pressure tonight. They’ve made us a better program. I appreciate having to go through Camden to win the South Jersey championship.”
Leading 47-38 after three quarters, Camden scored the first five points on the fourth quarter to take a 52-38 lead and the Panthers looked like they were in control, but Fleming and point guard Mike DePersia literally willed the Bulldawgs back into the game. Fleming, with 14 points, and DePersia, with 11, scored all their team’s points in the fourth quarter.
“They had to (will us back in),” Wiedeman said. “It wasn’t about X’s and O’s at that point. It was about their heart. It was about their will.”
Haddonfield got the lead back down to nine on a DePersia three-pointer and two foul shots by Fleming, but Brewer, who had eight of his team-high 22 points in the quarter, hit a long three from the corner to get the lead back up to 12.
“Down 12, two minutes to go, you can’t make this stuff up,” DePersia said. “It just tells you about the character of this team. We just kept fighting.”
Haddonfield still trailed, 62-55, when Fleming was fouled on a three-point attempt with :44 remaining. He made all three foul shots to trim the lead to four points.
Will Young was fouled and made the first half of a one-and-one to get the Camden lead back up to five, 63-58, with :36 remaining. But DePersia was fouled in the backcourt with :29 left and he drained both foul shots to make it a three-point game.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Haddonfield’s Drew Gavranich stole the pass in the corner, swung it to DePersia who passed to Fleming who hit the three-pointer to tie the game, 63-63 with :05 left.
“I was just hoping to get open,” Fleming said. “Just create a little bit of space, just enough to get a shot up.”
In overtime, Fleming hit a layup off a lob from Dylan Heine, but Ware answered with a bucket. Heine put the Bulldawgs ahead with a backdoor layup, but Brewer tied it with two free throws.
Then with :18 left, Fleming faked a jumper, drove the lane and pulled up and hit a short floater to put Hadddonfield up for good. The Panthers had several chances to tie but couldn’t get the shot to fall.
“Dan has hit a lot of big shots for us in the past,” Wiedeman said. “There is never any doubt in his mind. He’s got ice in his veins.”
Fleming led Haddonfield with 28 points, while DePersia finished with 19. High man for Camden was Ware with 22 followed by Nasir Lett and Lance Ware, both with 12, and Taquan Woodley, with 11.
Haddonfield will play the winner of the Central Jersey title game between Manasquan and Lincoln on Wednesday.
S.J. Group 2
Haddonfield 69, Camden 67 (OT)
Camden 17 12 18 16 4 - 67
Haddonfield 12 16 10 25 6 - 69
Camden – Nasir Lett 12, Taquan Woodley 11, Ethan Tarte 5, Jerome Brewer 22, El-Khana Hidalgo 5, Lance Ware 12.
Haddonfield – Dan Fleming 28, Mike DePersia 19, Ben Cerrato 7, Drew Gavranich 3, Dylan Heine 10, Aiden Blake 2.