HADDONFIELD – Aiden Blake corralled the ball in the defensive lane and took off.
Blake, destined to attend Cornell next year as one of the area’s top lacrosse players, had a singular focus as he took off down the court at Cherry Hill East High School. The Haddonfield senior beat the first two Haddon Heights defenders with ease, two more fell by the wayside as Blake found that next level at half court and then one final defender, well, it may be a bit of exaggeration, and then maybe not, never had a chance as Blake scored two of his 10 points on the night.
“He gives us that north-south attitude he brings from lacrosse,” Haddonfield head coach Paul Wiedeman said. “He plays with a carefree attitude because he has nothing to lose. Basketball is fun for him because his real sport is lacrosse.
“Don’t misunderstand me, he’s a fantastic basketball player. He’s part of a senior class that for us is incredibly self-motivated. We won a state title last year and there has been no letdown. (Blake) will assume an even bigger role due to injury but he’s ready and we’re ready for anything this season has for us.”
Haddonfield (3-0 overall, 2-0 conference) has lived up to its preseason hype as one of the top programs in the state over the first week of the season. On Tuesday, a visit from arch-rival Haddon Heights – which entailed a trip to Cherry Hill East for the second straight year while the Dawgs wait for the renovation of their home gym to be completed – left little to the imagination for a squad that is well acquainted with their noisy neighbors.
“We knew (Heights) would be a good test,” Blake said. “Hey, they beat us last year in the regular season. I’m sure they knew (Mike DePersia) was out and that maybe that gave them a chance. They came in here like they always do, ready to compete. We were ready.”
The fact is DePersia is a serious loss for Haddonfield however long the senior is out with a right wrist injury suffered against Camden Catholic one game earlier. DePersia is a four-year starter with 88 career starts and, on a team that is coming off a NJSIAA Group 2 state title, it’s a loss that most teams in the region would struggle to overcome.
Still if there is a team that can survive the loss of such a key asset, if not arguable it’s top player, it’s this Haddonfield team which rightfully can claim the top starting lineup in South Jersey. In particular, a lot will now be placed at the feet of Blake who will assume much of DePersia’s responsibility
"You don’t replace (DePersia),” Wiedeman said. “You look for the next man up and you spread out the responsibility.”
“Mike’s still here,” Blake said. “We picked up another coach on the sideline. We’d prefer for him to be on the court, but that’s not going to happen right now. Instead we can lean heavily on him because he can see things on the bench and keep us steady.”
Blake of course will assume more point guard responsibilities on the offensive end of the court along with his usual assignment of the top scorer on defense. With his lacrosse background, Wiedeman is assured the senior is capable of handling any situation.
“He’s really stepped up his game,” Wiedeman said. “(DePersia) will be back and we are ready for that but, until that, this team is more than capable of maintaining a high level of play.
“We’re a team. We all have the same goal and that’s another state title. Every season presents challenges and we’re ready for anything.”
Bulldawgs 64, Garnets 41
Haddon Heights 9-- 7--12--13---41
Haddon Heights (1-1, 1-2)
Bolling 5, Campbell 11, Higgs 11, Pressley 7, Turner 7.
Haddonfield (2-0, 3-0)
Blake 10, Cerrato 3, Evans 3, Fleming 19, Gavranvich 10, Heine 19.
* Quick Start: Dylan Heine scored 10 points in the opening quarter as Haddonfield built an early 11 point lead and never looked back.
* Big Man: Dan Fleming had four blocks and six rebounds to go with his game high 19 points.
* On the shelf: Three year varsity start Mike DePersia, who entered the year having played 86 varsity games, was sidelined with an injury to his right wrist. His timetable for return has yet to be established.