HADDONFIELD – As the final buzzer sounded, Haddon Heights boys basketball coach Mike Ricci ran across the court to shake his father’s hand. He said his father hadn’t been to a game in a while.
Well, he certainly picked the right one to come to.
Haddon Heights, needing a win to keep its Colonial Conference Liberty Division hopes alive, got what it came for Tuesday night on the road in a tough gym.
The Garnets used a 5-0 run to open the second half and some tough drives to the basket by Isaiah Turner and Dlyane Peterson along with some excellent defense to defeat Haddonfield, 37-30.
With the win, Haddon Heights improves to 16-4 overall, 10-3 in the conference and 5-2 in the division, while Haddonfield’s record stands at 18-3 overall, 12-1 and 6-1. Haddon Heights has to win out against Collingswood, Sterling and Audubon, and hope Haddonfield stumbles in one of its three remaining games against Audubon, West Deptford and Sterling, all on the road.
“Coming into the season, we had three goals,” said Ricci. “One was to win 20 games. The others were to win the conference and to make it to the (South Jersey) Group 2 finals. Those goals are still in front of us.”
They are still there because the Garnets got a bucket from Joe Monteleone and a three-pointer by Tesean Pressley to take a 19-16 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. The teams traded the lead back and forth through most of the third quarter until Peterson, who scored all seven of his points in the second half, drilled a three-point shot with 40 seconds left in the quarter to pull the Garnets ahead 26-23 going into the fourth quarter.
Haddon Heights made a change at halftime and started playing as Ricci explained “more north and south”, driving the lane and getting to the basket for layups. Isaiah Turner, who scored seven of his game-high 13 points in the first quarter, and Peterson scored the Garnets first eight points in the fourth quarter as they opened up a 34-29 lead with 4:10 left. All their points were on drives or follow shots.
“In the second half we came out and just attacked their zone,” Turner said. “They packed it inside, but in the second half we moved the ball around, and we were more patient.”
Playing Haddonfield is like going to war. Every possession is going to be a battle. There is no letup, just 32 minutes of intense, focused basketball.
“I thought our defense was very, very good tonight,” Ricci said. “Their defense has been good all season and we knew that. That’s why they play in the thirties. We weren’t attacking the gaps. In the first half, all our points were coming underneath. We were playing more east and west and we needed to play more north and south, driving and attacking the middle. I told the guys to take care of the ball and drive the middle for layups.”
Haddonfield coach Paul Wiederman thought the difference in the game was the Garnets ability to drive to the basket and, when they did miss, get the offensive rebound.
“I think the difference in the game was offensive rebounding,” Wiederman said. “In the fourth quarter we were tied or up two, they missed a shot, got the put back and tied it. We don’t score. They come down get a shot, kick it back out and it’s shot made. They come down again, get an offensive rebound and a put back. I think our legs were gone and it affected our offense. On defense they had us running around and chasing them.
“It was a great crowd. I think they wanted to get back at us for last time (when Haddonfield overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to win by one). There was a lot at stake for them and it showed in how they played.”
Haddon Heights’ defense, which was active and stifling all game, held the Bulldawgs to one point over the last five minutes while the Garnets scored their last three points from the foul line.
“It was our biggest win of the season” said Pressley. “It was really like a playoff game. They had a big crowd and we had a big crowd. It was a great game.”
Haddon Hts 9 5 12 11 - 37
Haddonfield 11 5 7 7 - 30
Haddon Hts: Tesean Pressley 10, Patrick Campbell 5, Isaiah Turner 13, Dlayne Peterson 7, Joe Montelone 2.
Haddonfield: Ben Cerrato 5, Andrew Gostovich 8, Steve McClane 32, Connor Fell 4, Justin LAsko 4, Tommy Mooney 6.