MEDFORD – A lesser player, anyone lower than an All-South Jersey level guard, wouldn’t have had the grit to flash into the corner for the inbounds pass and take on a desperate double-team trap against this opponent.
Dean Noll, though, continues to show why the conversation of the best point guard in the area this year includes him.
With his Shawnee team squeezing a one-point lead against Camden, the No. 1 ranked team by South Jersey Sports Digest, and after the Renegades just missed two front-ends of one-and-ones in overtime, Noll answered the bell ringing in his head.
“I wanted the ball,” Noll said. “I wanted two free throws.”
Noll wanted this win.
The senior got the ball in the corner and was promptly trapped. He took a whack on the arm and one to the head. He grimaced as he clenched the ball tighter. A look of relief coincided with the ref’s whistle.
Noll knew the hard part was over. He had the courage to get the ball. Now all he had to do was sink two free throws, just like he had done thousands of times in his Medford driveway.
Noll’s grit, which included scoring 13 of his 15 points in the final 12 minutes, including overtime, carried No. 3 ranked Shawnee to an impressive 51-48 win Tuesday over The High in an Olympic Conference inter-division game between two teams that reached the State Finals last year.
“It shows how much confidence he had and how much of a winner he is,” Shawnee senior Dylan Deveney said about his classmate. “He has a lot of pride. He had a tough three quarters, but he kept grinding.”
In front of a packed Shawnee gym that included Camden great Dajuan Wagner, Noll’s poise and determination down the stretch lifted Shawnee to 11-2. The Renegades have lost to Gill St. Bernards and No. 2 Timber Creek.
“They are good, they are a great group of guys on and off the court,” Shawnee coach Joe Kessler said about his team. “And when they had to do it, they did.”
Camden, which dropped to 8-2, was coming off a statement 74-71 win over powerful Westtown (Pa.), which boasts Duke recruit Cameron Reddish, a 6-7 forward and a McDonald’s All-American, and Indiana recruit Jake Forrester. The Panthers won that showcase game on a dramatic 3-pointer by Corey Greer, a senior point guard who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate injury last season.
Greer, who came back from a shoulder injury in the third quarter, scored a game-high 23 points for Camden Tuesday night and certainly padded his case for the top point guard in the area as well.
The Panthers, whose only other loss was also to Gill St. Bernards, used a 10-1 run over the last four and a half minutes of the second quarter, which was capped by two driving layups by Greer, to stake a 21-18 lead at the half.
“We didn’t shoot well in the first half, it was a low-scoring half, and we were down just three points,” said Kessler after the Renegades missed their final seven field goal attempts in the first half. “I told them the shots would start to drop in the second half and to just play defense.”
Camden built its lead to nine points midway through the third quarter and led 31-23 before Noll scored his first field goal of the game on a driving layup with 1:28 left in the quarter.
“I struggled a little bit shooting, I knew it would be tough coming in,” Noll said. “That is the scouting report most teams use coming in to each game.”
Noll scored on three-straight possessions with pull-up jumpers in the face of a defender to keep the Renegades within one possession of taking the lead.
The second 3-pointer of the quarter by Conner Deveney gave Shawnee the lead at 43-41 with 1:15 to play.
“My brother made big shots, Dean made big shots, everyone did their thing,” said senior Dylan Deveney, who led the Renegades with 16 points.
Camden tied the game on a driving layup by senior forward Myles Thompson, a three-year starter with the determination to match Noll. It was only the fourth field goal of the quarter for the Panthers.
“I thought that was the key, we held them in the fourth quarter,” Kessler said. “I’m proud of them.”
In overtime, after both teams traded buckets, Noll broke the tie with another diving layup. Instead of wearing down with man pressure in his face all game, Noll was somehow getting stronger and adding more bounce off his dribble in the extra session.
The 6-foot-1 Noll added a spinning layin for a four-point spread with 2:05 left in OT. A 3-pointer by Thompson trimmed the Shawnee lead to 49-48.
The Renegades then missed the front of a pair of one-and-ones in the final one minute before Noll toed the line with 13.4 seconds left.
“He is really mature and he is our go-to-guy,” Kessler said about Noll. “Camden did a great job on him, they were on him all game, but he just went off in the fourth quarter.”
Last year, the Renegades started five underclassmen in the title game, however senior guards Patrick Kernan (7.9 points last year) and Sean Heine (9.4 points last year) are both sidelined.
Really, winning without Kernan and Heine, a pair of elite players, just adds to Kessler’s resume as one of the top coaches in South Jersey history and certainly keeps the Renegades in the Group 4 state title talk.
“It was a great team win and it is good for our season,” Deveney added. “And it was the first time we beat them in my four years.”
Even with the injuries, the goal of winning the school’s sixth state title and 12th South Jersey championships hasn’t wavered. With a win over Camden, which is certainly a favorite to win Group 3, the resolve of the Renegades should only be stronger.
“This gives us confidence,” Noll said. “We are getting better game-by-game.”
Camden 8 13 10 12 5 - 48
Shawnee 9 9 10 15 8 - 51
C- Corey Greer 23, Myles Thompson 9, Saleem Brown 8, Nasim Hinson 8.
S- Kane Feudtner 5, Daevon Robinson 4, Connor Deveney 11, Dean Noll 15, Dylan Deveney 16.