Camden County Tournament Rounds 3 and 4
To mix my sports metaphors again, playing in the third and fourth rounds of the Camden County tournament resulted in a split decision for the Haddonfield boys basketball team last week. Both games, one versus Cherry Hill West, the other a rematch against Camden Catholic, were close, competitive matches, with the victor only pulling away in the final minutes of each contest. The upside was that two players whose statuses had been in question for the Dawgs, seniors Sam Narducci and Nate Rohlfing, contributed significant minutes out of a combined eight quarters of action. The downside was that the intense schedule of three, and sometimes four, games per week with starters not always in the lineup or able to play full throttle, seemed to catch up with the team in their second bout versus the Irish.
Cherry Hill West vs. Haddonfield: February 12, 2024, at Eastern Regional High School
After taking care of the Winslow Eagles from the Patriot division of the Olympic conference rather easily with a 67–31 win in round one of the Camden County Tournament the previous week, the Dawgs would go up against another Patriot team, the Lions of Cherry Hill West. The Lions would give the Dawgs one of their toughest battles of the season from end to end.
Off the tip-off, the Lions got the basket but did not score. Patrick Ryan pulled down the defensive board, and Dawgs would get their first bucket off a feed from Phil McFillin to Nate Rohlfing that took its sweet time rolling off the rim into the basket. It took the Lions three tries (and two offensive boards) to tie it at 2 all with 6:48 on the clock. Neither team would score for almost 2 minutes until McFillin dropped in a 3 to make it 5–2, Dawgs, at the 4:52 mark. The Lions answered with a 3 to even it at 5 all and would go ahead by 2 after taking advantage of a turnover by Haddonfield.
Daire Roddy’s drive in the paint evened the score again, and after Ryan helped corral a loose ball, McFillin went up and in to put the Dawgs in front by 2, 9–7, with 2:44 left in the first. Another mini scoring draught ensued, and this time Cherry Hill West would break it with a 3 to retake the lead by 1, 10–9, with 1:27 to go. A Rohlfing-to-Narducci pass set Narducci up for a 3. This seemed a positive sign that Narducci was at close to full power after a reinjured ankle had kept him on the bench for the Dawgs’ previous three games. Now it was 12–10, Dawgs, with :49 on the clock. The Lions made 1–2 from the line, but Rohlfing’s 2 would finish out the quarter’s scoring and put the Dawgs ahead by 3, 14–11 going into the second.
Haddonfield inbounded but failed to score, and at the other end, the Lions hit a 3 to bring the game to yet another tie, 14 all, with about 30 seconds having ticked off the clock. After a shooting attempt that left Roddy on the floor (with no foul called), Rohlfing made a huge block—Rohlfing, who had been averaging about 2.1 blocks per game would put on a defensive display and end up with 11 total—but a play later, a Haddonfield foul sent Cherry Hill West to the line, making 1–2. A jumper by Narducci switched the l-point lead back to the Dawgs’ favor. A block by Rohlfing, a defensive board by Ryan, and then an offensive board by Matt Morris set up a Mike Douglas-to-Ryan score, making it 18–15, Dawgs, with just under 6 minutes until the half.
The Lions responded with a 2, keeping it a 1-point game. The Dawgs had two scoring attempts that did not go in, Ryan stole the ball, but the Dawgs again could not get the ball in the net. Good “D” by the Dawgs ended with a Rohlfing block and saw the ball go out of bounds off the Lions. Still, the Dawgs’ shots were not dropping, but a pickoff by Narducci kept the Lions from going ahead. Finally, Douglas drove into the paint, scored, and was fouled in the process. His foul shot went in, and with 4:17 on the clock, the Dawgs were up by 4, 21–17.
More pressure defense by the Dawgs produced a backcourt violation by the Lions, but a bad pass gave the Lions back the ball. Rohlfing blocked a shot, the Lions got called for a foul, and the Dawgs were moving the ball, looking for an opening. From waaaay out, Narducci found it and nailed a 3, giving the Dawgs’ a 7-point, 24–17, lead with 2:49 to go until the half. After Douglas blocked a shot, Cherry Hill West called a timeout. The Lions would get a trip to the foul line after Rohlfing was assessed a foul from what looked like a clean block and would hit 1–2, making it a 6-point, 24–18, game with about 2:30 left on the clock.
The Dawgs lost the ball again on bad passing—a portend of what was to come two days later with more deleterious overall results—Douglas picked up his second block, but the ball went out of bounds off Haddonfield. Rohlfing’s defense led to a rebound by Douglas and somehow even though he was way off-balance, Narducci got the ball to go in the net, giving the Dawgs’ their biggest lead, 8 points, with about 90 seconds until the half.
A foul sent the Lions to line yet again, but this time, both shots went in, making it 26–20, Haddonfield. At the other end, Zack Langan went down but no foul was called (this would also be part of the story in Haddonfield’s game against Camden Catholic). When the Dawgs got the ball back with 16.8 on the clock, the plan seemed to be to hold the ball until the last shot, but a misfired pass enabled Cherry Hill West to get the last basket of the half, and when the teams left the court, the Dawgs were only up by 4, 26–22.
Cherry Hill West had the inbounds to start the second half and wasted no time in scoring, but just as quickly, the Dawgs scored on a Roddy-to-Rohlfing setup. However, the Lions would get back to within 2, 28–26 at the 7:26 mark. A jumper by Roddy pushed the lead back to 4, 30–26, but a 3 by the Lions at the other end tightened it to 30–29, Dawgs, with 5:42 on the clock A hard drive in the lane by Rohlfing gave the Dawgs some breathing room, and his blocked shot gave the Dawgs back the ball, which McFillin sailed into the net behind the 3-point arc, making it 35–29 with 4:29 to go in the third.
Back-to-back baskets by the Lions, with the second basket including a made shot from the line, deflated the cushion down to 1 point, 35–34. After the Dawgs couldn’t connect ball to net, the Lions had the chance to go ahead, but a block by Rohlfing prevented that. The Lions picked the ball off, but also did not score. At the Dawgs’ end, Narducci found a wide open McFillin, who hit a 3 and was fouled. Although his foul shot did not go in, it still meant that the Dawgs were up by 4, 38–34, with 3:02 on the clock.
The Lions were not going away, however, and after both teams did not score for a few possessions, made 2 from the foul line to get back to within 2, 38–36, with 1:29 to go in the quarter. The Dawgs turned the ball over, but the Lions also did not score. This time, the Dawgs made a shot but it did not go in. With 8.1 on the clock Cherry Hill West was called for an offensive foul, giving the Dawgs the last possession of the quarter, but their shot did not go in. So, with 8 minutes left in the game, the Dawgs were only up by 2.
Haddonfield inbounded the ball to start the fourth, but did not come away with a basket. Cherry Hill West was also unsuccessful. Douglas, who has shown a lot of poise when he comes into games, got a 2 on a jumper, and after Rohlfing blocked another shot and secured the rebound, scored at the other end. In a blink, the Dawgs got the ball back, and Rohlfing scored again. With 6:26 left in the game, the Dawgs had gone back up by 6, 42–36.
That lead went back down to 4 on a basket by the Lions. Douglas got fouled and made his first but not second shot, so with 5:56 remaining, the Dawgs were ahead by 5, 43–38. The Dawgs didn’t score, the Lions did, being fouled in the process. The foul shot did not go in, but the Lions got the rebound and the basket, and suddenly, it was only a 1-point Dawg advantage, 43–42, with 5:26 on the clock. Rohlfing got fouled, missed the first shot, but made the second. At the other end, the Dawgs fouled off a 3-point attempt, which meant the Lions had three chances at the line. Although the first shot missed, the second two went in, and with 4:55 left in the game, it was knotted at 44.
A nice setup in which Rohlfing passed the ball to Ryan broke the tie, and with the Dawgs up a basket, 46–44, Haddonfield called a timeout. A non-shooting foul by Haddonfield gave Cherry Hill West another scoring opportunity, but Rohlfing took care of that with a block, and down at the Dawgs’ basket, Ryan fed Narducci the ball, and he knocked down a 3. With 3:03 left in the game, the Dawgs had gotten back to a 5-point, 49–44, advantage. The Lions got 2 of those points back their next possession, and with 2:25 to go and a 3-point lead, Haddonfield called another timeout.
Rohlfing got another feed from Ryan, missed the shot, but got his own rebound and scored, making it 51–46, Haddonfield. Narducci grabbed a defensive board under the Lion basket, and then set McFillin up for a 3, which gave the Dawgs an 8-point, 54–46 lead with only 1:31 left in the game. Cherry Hill West got 2 from the foul line, cutting that down to 54–48, but Haddonfield got the ball to Narducci, who was wide open under the Dawgs basket to make it an 8–point lead again, 56–48, with 1:02 on the clock. The last point for either team would come from the line after Morris was fouled and made 1–2. Narducci would get the last rebound of the game and bounce down the clock. When it hit 0:00, the Dawgs had prevailed 57–48, and Dawg fans heaved a collective sigh of relief. Sam Narducci led the Dawgs with 15, and McFillin added 14. In addition to his 11 blocks, Rohlfing scored 13.
1st: Haddonfield 14, Cherry Hill West 11
2nd: Haddonfield 12, Cherry Hill West 11
Halftime: Haddonfield 26, Cherry Hill West 22
3rd: Haddonfield 12, Cherry Hill West 14
4th: Haddonfield 19, Cherry Hill West 12
Sam Narducci 15
Phil McFillin 14
Nate Rohlfing 13
Mike Douglas 6
Patrick Ryan 4
Daire Roddy 4
Matt Morris 1
Record-Breaking Season for DePersia
I had to share this amazing stat with Dawg fans. This past Saturday, the men’s basketball game between the Le Moyne University Dolphins and the Stonehill Skyhawks was televised on the YES network, which is part of my cable sports package. I was quite excited to watch these two Division 1 teams from the NEC (Northeast Conference) because it meant I could root for my favorite Dolphin, Mike DePersia, who was a huge part of Haddonfield’s back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019. (In case you were wondering, because COVID-19 hit during Mike’s freshman year at IUPUI, he had 2 years of eligibility remaining when he enrolled at grad school at Le Moyne in 2022, and he was able to keep playing hoops.) Throughout the broadcast, the announcers were talking about Mike’s ball-handling skills and how he was able to take care of the basketball while setting up his teammates to score.. During one such rave, they said Mike was “shattering” the NEC’s all-time assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, as they explained, no one in the history of the conference had come close to what he has been averaging this season: a 3.65 ratio. That means as of that game, he had only committed 23 turnovers, which translates into about one per game, while dishing out 73 assists. The previous record was a 2.95 assist-to-turnover ratio. Whoop, whoop, Mikey!!
Camden Catholic vs. Haddonfield: February 14, 2024, at Camden Eastside
Haddonfield’s fourth-round opponent in the Camden County Tournament would be a familiar one from early on in the season: Camden Catholic The two teams had met in the Dawgs’ second game of the season back on December 16 as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Cherokee High School. The Dawgs had led after every quarter and held off the Irish to win by 6, 48–42. Dawg fans were hoping for a similar outcome.
And at the outset, that prospect was looking promising. The Dawgs rattled off the first 6 points of the game. Daire Roddy got the offense going, then Nate Rohlfing got the next two baskets, the first off an offensive rebound and the second off a feed by Roddy. With about 90 seconds gone, the Dawgs were up 6–0. Camden Catholic’s first point came from the foul line, and a few plays later, Roddy added a pair from the line, making it 8–1, Haddonfield with 3:19 left in the game.
Before Dawg fans could start feeling too cocky, the Irish hit a 3 to make it 8–4, but after a timeout, Phil McFillin hit the first of his treys and put the Dawgs back up by 7, 11–4 with 2:07 on the clock. The Irish got 2 back before Narducci’s jumper returned the Dawgs’ advantage to 7 points, 13–6, with 1:33 to go. The Dawgs had a few more chances to score in the remaining 90 seconds of the quarter, but sloppy play, which would plague them the whole game, kept them at 13 and enabled the Irish to get an easy bucket right ahead of the buzzer.
Haddonfield inbounded to start the second quarter up by 5, 13–8. They did not score, but a foul by Camden Catholic gave the Dawgs back the ball. This time, Rohlfing was fouled as he went up and in, and his shot from the line gave the Dawgs an 8-point, 16–8, advantage with less than a minute off the clock. Unfortunately, the Dawgs would only get 2 more points, again from Rohlfing on the foul line, the rest of the quarter. His shots with 2:31 remaining in the half temporarily put the Dawgs back in front 18–17. The Irish regained the lead a few possessions later from a 3, with 1:44 on the clock. Neither team could score after that, and when the halftime horn sounded, the Dawgs were trailing by 2, 18–20.
Certainly a 2-point deficit did not seem insurmountable as the third period began. When McFillin got the first basket of the second half to tie the game at 20, I think the Dawg fans who had made the 4 p.m. game at Camden Eastside (formerly Woodrow Wilson) thought, “OK, here we go.” But Camden Catholic would score the next two baskets to push their lead to 4, 24–20, at the 5:35 mark. A Ryan-to-Narducci pass made it a 2-point game with 4:55 left in the quarter. The Dawgs lost the ball on a travel, but after holding the Irish scoreless their next possession, failed to score again. An offensive board gave Camden Catholic another chance to score and they knocked down a 3 to go up by 5, their biggest lead of the game, 27–22, with 3:05 on the clock. Mike Douglas drove in the paint for a much-needed Dawg basket with 59 seconds left in the quarter. Camden Catholic then got fouled with 49 seconds to go. The two shots from the line were good, putting the Irish up by 5 once more, 29–24, which is how the quarter ended.
Douglas got the Dawgs’ first bucket of the 4th, but Camden Catholic answered with a 2 to keep their lead at 5, 31–26. Matt Morris made it 28–31 with 6:52 on the clock. The Irish would score the next 4 points, two from the line and a 2 from the field, and at the 5:55 mark, the Dawgs were behind by 7, 28–35. The two teams traded buckets twice, with Douglas and Narducci scoring for the Dawgs, but the second score by Camden Catholic earned them a trip to the line. That made foul shot put the Irish up by 8, 40–32, with 4:23 to go in the game.
Although they were playing hard, the Dawgs just weren’t able to get the ball in the basket. The effort was there, but fatigue was taking its toll, especially on the offensive end. Sure shooters were missing the mark. Narducci did get a ball to drop with 4:02 left, getting the Dawgs to within 6, 34–40, but the Irish got a point back from the line their next possession. Narducci attempted to score again but was knocked to the ground. When no foul was called, I joined the Dawg faithful in booing the fact that all three refs failed to see that Narducci didn’t fall down on his own. This might be a good time to note that many Dawgs fans were gripping rather loudly throughout the game about the fact that the three-ref team was calling fouls left, right, and center on the Dawgs but not making the same type of calls against the Irish. I would say they had some cause for complaint, but in the end, the Dawgs were hurt more by their own inability to put the ball in the net than they were by foul calls.
Of course, to add insult to (hopefully not) injury, after the no call on Narducci, the Irish scored and got a trip to the foul line, giving them a 3-point play that also gave Camden Catholic its first double-digit lead, 44–34, with 2:19 remaining in the game. A Dawg turnover on a travel call led to another basket by the Irish, and with less than 2 minutes to go, the Dawgs were now down by 12, 34–46. A 3 by McFillin got the Dawg fans cheering, and after 2 by Camden Catholic, McFillin launched another 3. (He would be the only Dawg to score behind the arc this game, making four treys.) That 3 got the Dawgs to within 8, but there were only 50 seconds left on the clock. After the teams went 1–2 from the line (Narducci got the basket for Haddonfield), McFillin hit his third 3 in about 70 seconds. The Dawgs were now down 5, 44–49, but time was not on their side. The scoring ending with Camden Catholic making 2 from the line. When the buzzer sounded, the Dawgs had been defeated for only the second time in 27 games, losing by 7, 44–51.
1st: Haddonfield 13, Camden Catholic 8
2nd: Haddonfield 5, Camden Catholic 12
Halftime: Haddonfield 18, Camden Catholic 20
3rd: Haddonfield 6, Camden Catholic 9
4th: Haddonfield 20, Camden Catholic 22
Final: Haddonfield 44, Camden Catholic 51
Phil McFillin 14
Sam Narducci 9
Mike Douglas 6
Daire Roddy 4
Matt Morris 2
Patrick Ryan 2
The Dawgs, seeded fourth behind Middle Township, Camden, and Cinnaminson in that order, will take to the court this Wednesday night in a 5 p.m. home game that starts the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs. Their opponent will be Manchester Township, seeded 13, with an overall record of 10–15. Those in the know, however, say the Hawks will be a tougher opponent than their record indicates. Hopefully, with 7 days between games, the Dawgs will have had time to recuperate from nagging injuries and full up their tank again. After the boys game, stay on to root for the Lady Dawgs, who will be playing a Colonial Conference opponent, the Gloucester City Lions, at 7 p.m.
Let’s go DAWGS!