HADDON HEIGHTS – There really is a lot to like about Dominic Dunn’s game, most of all though is his toughness.
The solid 6-foot-5 senior is certainly a dominant physical presence, even on the long and athletic front court for the Camden Catholic High School basketball team. However, Dunn’s toughness also rises above his sturdy shoulders.
Although he struggled through what he called his “worst game of the year,” Dunn still didn’t hesitate to take the last shot for the Irish.
And, as he has done so often in his three years as a starter, Dunn delivered in the clutch, draining a deep corner 3-pointer with just 1.4 seconds left to lift the Irish to a comeback against Rancocas Valley and a 42-39 win.
“I wanted to take the shot,” Dunn said after helping the Irish remain unbeaten Friday night with the win over the previously undefeated Red Devils in the Butch McLean Memorial Showcase at Haddon Heights. “I wasn’t going to go out without making a shot.”
Exhibiting his competitive toughness that any college coach would embrace, Dunn was hard on himself after the game. He had made shots before the game-deciding dagger as he finished with 10 points, but he demands more of himself as the team leader with three new starters.
A handful of college coaches witnessed his toughness. Dunn listed the top five schools recruiting him as Misericordia University, The College of New Jersey, Arcadia, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Susquehanna.
The game was also significant for Dunn since he is a home-grown kid from Haddon Township who had played often on the Haddon Heights floor.
“It's cool, I’ve been playing in this gym since I was in third grade,” Dunn said. “I saw teachers in the stands, I live so close and as a kid I used to go to Haddon Township games here.”
The Irish are following Dunn’s lead, proving mentally tough, too, as they improved to 6-0 with their third buzzer-beater win this season.
“He’s got a shooter’s mentality, if he misses five in a row he feels like he is going to make the next one,” Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford said about Dunn.
According to assistant coach Joe Murtin, it was the sixth “walk-off win” for the Irish over the last two seasons, including triumphs over Eastern and Bishop Eustace this season.
Dunn also connected on the game-winner against Eustace.
“He is a very good listener and extremely coachable,” said Murtin, a veteran of 33 years as a loyal assistant coach for the Irish.
The Camden Catholic coaching staff, led by Crawford, certainly instills confidence in the Irish players. Assistants Joe and Robert Murtin, Pete Dooner, and Brian O’Donnell have been through plenty of big games on the staff of Jim Crawford, who also assists his son along with former Irish great Kevin Owens.
With the coaching staff calm, there wasn’t any panic by the players when the Irish dropped behind by nine points late in the third quarter. Instead, Catholic flashed a trapping 1-2-1-1 full-court press as its only outward sign of urgency.
“I think we feel something good will happen at the end,” explained Crawford of his team’s confidence.
Camden Catholic, which finished 20-8 last year and advanced to the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs, begins its rugged league play next week. The Irish are in the stacked Olympic Conference National Division with Camden, Bishop Eustace, Woodrow Wilson and Paul VI.
“We know we have a difficult schedule so to be in this position is good for us,” Crawford acknowledged on the quick start.
The first test in the gauntlet is Thursday at home against Paul VI.
“We have a lot to work on,” Dunn said. “But we have showed we can win close game.”
The Irish posted a pair of three-point wins against Delsea and Bishop Eustace, a five-point victory over Winslow Township and a season-opening win by two points at Eastern. In the victory over the Vikings, the Irish came back from a four-point deficit on the road in the fourth quarter.
With Dunn scoring eight points, Camden Catholic outscored Rancocas Valley 18-8 in the fourth quarter.
“He is a great kid from a great family,” Crawford said about Dunn. “We are fortunate that we get a lot of kids like that.”
The Red Devils, which lost its first game after four wins to open the season, was paced in scoring by Kyle Lundy with 11 points. RV is always well coached under Jay Flanagan, who boasts over 400 career wins. His teams are always mentally tough, too, and they have the talent to have another strong season.
The Irish fell behind 31-22 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter on a layup by Javontae Jones. A pair of free throws by Babatunde Ajike, who scored a game-high 14 points, cut the RV lead to nine points going into the final eight minutes.
The Red Devils held onto an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter when Jayvon Laster buried a 3-pointer.
During the spurt, Dunn received some inspiration from his younger brother Lucas, a talented freshman who saw quality minutes for the Irish. During the break, the younger Dunn challenged his big brother.
“We get on each other a lot,” Dominic said. “We go at it, we want what is best for each other, even in this game he got in my face.
“I wasn’t playing well and he knew it.”
The brotherly nudge worked. After Hakim Melvin sank a free throw to ignite an 8-0 run by the Irish, Dunn hit two free throws and then converted a steal into a 3-point play after he was fouled on a layup. Ajike tied the game at 37-37 on a follow-up with 2:25 to play.
With Catholic continuing to employ a full-court trap that sparked the comeback, RV scored on a driving layup by Kadian Dawkins to regain the lead.
The Irish knotted the game on a terrific feed by heady junior point guard Patrick Corbett to Ajike for a layup with 1:45 left in the intense game.
The Red Devils couldn’t convert and Dunn grabbed the rebound. Camden Catholic brought the ball up the court with just over a minute to play.
With the floor spread and RV chasing, the Irish moved the ball and didn’t look to shoot until Dunn launched the game winner.
“I was going to shoot if I had made 10 in a row or if I had missed 10 in a row,” Dunn said. “I knew I had to take it.”
Yes he did. Toughness.
Camden Catholic 5 9 10 18 - 42
Rancocas Valley 3 12 16 8 - 39
CC – Babatunde Ajike 14, Dominic Dunn 10, Pat Corbett 6, Lucas Dunn 1, Juan Feliciano 3, Hakim Melvin 5, Christopher Okafur 3,
RV – Curtis Bright 3, Naair Campbell 3, Kadian Dawkins 4, Javontae Jones 5, Jayvon Laster 7, Kyle Lundy 11, Darnell St. Clair 6.