HADDONFIELD – When the Paul VI High School boys basketball team needed some one to come to the defensive rescue, it was Wisler Sanon who stepped up to take on the challenge.
After watching Camden Catholic cut what had been a 19-point deficit down to six with three minutes to play, the sophomore made two key steals that helped the Eagles hold on Monday for a 62-54 win over the Irish in an Olympic Conference National Division game.
The Eagles went into the fourth quarter holding a 50-31 lead, only to see the margin cut to 55-49 as Zack Hicks scored nine of his 18 points for the Irish.
Camden Catholic had a chance to drill further into the deficit with possession of the ball, but Sanon stepped into the passing lane, and forced a crucial turnover. His interception and subsequent driving layup gave the Eagles some breathing room.
On the next possession, Sanon tipped another pass to his teammate Jayden Boyd-Savage whose ensuing drive led to a foul and two free throws with 2:01 to play. The Eagles were thus able to ride out the storm.
Later Sanon spoke about how the game almost got away.
“We were playing with so much energy – playing great defense, communicating, not letting the crowd get into our head,” Sanon said. “But we tend to lose energy near the end. So we knew we had to pick that energy back up.”
According to Sanon, the key to the first steal was in reading the eyes of the Camden Catholic passer.
“He was looking down there the whole time, so I knew I had to keep my hands up,” he said. “When I did that, I hit the ball. Before that, we called a time out, we got everything together and we came back stronger. It was a great win.”
Coach Tony Devlin credited several players with making some big contributions, but he cited Sanon’s defense as one of the keys to the win.
“He’s all over the place,” the coach said. “He saved a couple of run-outs for us. I think we play pretty decent defense, but that was our first big, what I call imploding. But you know how it is in an uptempo game like this was.”
Sanon scored 11 points, five of them coming in the fourth quarter. He was one of four players in double figures, following Savage with 18 points. Hartnel Haye had 13 and Tyshon Judge had 12.
Ajike Babatunde followed Hicks with 15 points. Hicks eventually got the Irish Irish going, however his emergence came a little too late.
“We just kept fighting,” said Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford. “I really thought we were going to close it out and win the game, but it wasn’t our night.”
Until the Camden Catholic surge it appeared Paul VI was well in control of the game.
With the help of back-to-back dunks by Judge and Savage-Boyd, the Eagles broke out to a 22-14 lead in the second quarter and ended the half ahead 29-18.
Paul VI continued to add to the lead as Haye scored eight of his points in the third quarter, but they needed Sanon to save the game in the end.