HADDON TOWNSHIP – For a while this season, the Haddon Township boys basketball team seemed to play more effectively on the road than on their own cozy home court.
With the start of the post-season, senior Brian Burns and his teammates looked to turn that dynamic around.
“We want to make Haddon Township a place where people are nervous to come to,” said the Hawks’ swingman, “We want get that early lead and have teams dig out of hole all night.”
That’s the way things turned out on Thursday night.
The Hawks raced out to a 12-0 lead to start the game and then rode that advantage to a 59-47 win over Overbrook in a South Jersey Group 1 tournament game.
“They were playing from behind the whole time,” Burns said. “It made it very difficult for them to come back.”
Burns led the early surge when he scored seven points in the first quarter and then he went on to help his team cement the victory by scoring a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore point guard Brendan Mulligan followed Burns with 14 points. He too addressed the issue of the Hawks’ fast start.
“We talked about coming out and getting an early lead,” Mulligan said. “It was great because then the whole game was about them coming back.”
The victory moved Haddon Township into the next round for another home game, this one against Clayton. The Clippers on Thursday knocked off No. 1 seed Penns Grove to advance.
Coach Paddy McNamara spoke about how the post-season strategy included getting better efforts at home.
“Going into the tournament we talked about coming out at home with a lot of swagger and energy,” the coach said. “I’m proud of these guys because the seniors, led by Brian Burns – in the first quarter just jump started us.”
For Burns, the performance was one of the latest of what has been a special season for himself and his teammates.
On a personal level, he surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career, and from a team standpoint, the Hawks were able to annex the Colonial Conference Patriot Division title.
McNamara says Burns has played a big part in what the Hawks’ have accomplished.
“He will go down as one of the best players to come through here,” the coach said. “He eclipsed the 1,000-point mark, but the best thing about him was all he wanted was a division championship. That meant more to him than getting on that 1,000-point banner.”
Burns teammates have responded to his leadership role.
“I play two sports (soccer and basketball) with him, and he’s just one of the best leaders,” Mulligan said. “He’s not only good at every sport, he just leads. His teams would be nothing without him.”
However, Burns was more than a one-man show.
Aside from Mulligan’s complementary scoring and floor leadership, the Hawks got a third double-figure performance from Eric Shuttleworth with 11 points.
All of those points came in the second half and helped all but cut off any chance of the Rams completing a comeback.
After scoring only 10 points in the first half, Overbrook didn’t give up.
Even though the Rams trailed by double figures throughout, they did make one early run to get within 10 points early in the third quarter, but the Rams could not sustain any momentum.
“Trying to dig ourselves out was tough,” said Overbrook coach John Rosses. “We thought a 3-2 zone was a good way to start, but then we realized `man’ would have been the way to go. But the guys worked hard. Even when we were down they kept fighting back."
Mulligan helped blunt the third-quarter comeback attempt when his 3-point goal triggered a 10-2 run that led the Hawks with a 35-17 lead.
The quarter ended with Haddon Township holding what proved to be an insurmountable 44-31 lead.
Davon Thornton led the Rams with 14 points followed by Damian Rawls with 12 and Aaron Stephens with 11.
S.J. Group 1 Tournament
Haddon Twp. 59, Overbrook 47
Overbrook 4 6 21 16-47
Haddon Twp. 14 9 21 15-59
Overbrook: Davon Thornton 14, Aaron Stephens 11, Julian Durr 4, Shamar Grant 6, Damian Rawls 12, Desean Wright 2.
Haddon Twp.: Brian Burns 24, Brendan Mulligan 14, Brett Hintz 7, Eric Shuttleworth 11, Cavan Narkiewicz 4.