HADDON TOWNSHIP – According to West Deptford High School boys basketball coach Jay McKeown, a lot of the Eagles' success is based on the play of the team’s two starting guards.
When M.J. Iraldi and Brandon Ratcliffe play well - which they have done a lot this season - more often than not, the Eagles will come out ahead.
The evidence of that was on display Tuesday night when the two combined to lead the Eagles to a 46-44 win over Haddon Township in a Colonial Conference interdivision game.
Iraldi scored 18 points and Ratcliffe added 13, including the game-winning layup with one second to play.
“Those two have really driven our team this year,” McKeown said. “When they’re playing well, we’re a really tough team. A lot of pressure is on them to do that, but that’s what’s been keeping us winning games”
Tuesday’s win pushed the Eagles to 14-2 and assured them of a high seed for the start of the upcoming South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
The Eagles pulled out the victory with the help of a 10-point run late in the fourth quarter that helped erase a five-point deficit.
“The press that we did turned the whole game around,”” said Ratcliffe. “We went on a big run and M.J. had a big dunk and it just turned the whole game around.”
The surge did not surprise the team’s coach.
“That’s who we are this year – that’s how we are,” McKeown said. “We look like we can’t score, and we can’t score. Then we go on these little mini runs. It might take one minute, but we’ve had some fortunate outcomes because of that run.”
Iraldi fueled the burst, along with Chris Rudd, as each scored four points. Oddly, for Rudd, it was his only four points of the game.
“I know that we’ve been in that situation before and I know we have a really good press,” Iraldi said. “I knew if we played like we can we would make them turn the ball over and create and luckily that’s what happened.”
For most of the game, Haddon Township was able to hold a slim lead. The fourth quarter began well for the Hawks as Patrick Eife hit two 3-point goals to help the team get out to a 44-39 lead with just over four minutes to play.
At that point, coach Paddy McNamara thought his team was in pretty good shape.
“To have a five-point lead with four to go, I felt really good about it,” he said. “But West Deptford can turn up the heat just as well as anyone in South Jersey. When they go to their 1-2-2, they do a good job of making you feel like you have to rush and we turned the ball over.”
After the run, West Deptford led 44-39 with less than two minutes to play, but this time it was Haddon Township’s turn to rally.
The Hawks closed the deficit with a basket by Brian Burns and then Brandon Mulligan converted his fourth 3-point goal of the game en route to a game-high 19 points.
With the scored now tied at 44 with 25 seconds to play, West Deptford cashed in on its opportunity.
“On that last play we basically designed it for either Brandon or Elijah Malloy to catch it on the move . . . and just say, `go to work, try to beat ‘em,’” McKeown said. “Brandon ended up taking it to the middle and taking it to the rim, and he does a great of that. That’s his thing.”
According to Raltcliffe, it was a nice win for the Eagles, because he said the team got it without playing at its highest level.
“Not all of us were having our best night tonight,” he said. “I got the ball and I went to the basket hard. I was going to pass it if someone was open, but luckily I went in and we got the `W.’”
West Deptford 7 8 13 18- 46
Haddon Twp. 13 5 8 18-44
WD: Chriss Budd 4, M.J. Iradli 18, Bradon Ratcliffe 13, Elijah Malloy 9, CaArter Cranmer 2.
HT: Brian Burns 11, Brandon Mulligan 19, Brett Hintz 3, Patrick Eife 9, Jake Packman 2