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Boys Basketball Weekly Wrap-Up: Feb 28

By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

The Haddonfield boys basketball team had another busy week, playing four games, three of them against Colonial Conference opponents and one a last-minute switch. I’m not sure how the players are doing it, as I’m getting a bit tired just watching them and filling up my scorebook and notepad. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are all 40-plus years younger than I am!

This past week began with a Monday home game versus the Red Raiders of Paulsboro. Because Dawgs and the Raiders are in different Colonial Conference divisions (Haddonfield is in the Liberty and Paulsboro belongs to the Patriot), the teams only face off once a season. Since the matchup is always toward the end of conference play, it’s usually a big game as far as the standings go. In this pandemic-altered season, the game didn’t have quite the same impact, but I expect no one tuning in to the live stream or watching from the nearly empty benches in the Haddonfield gym was taking it lightly.

The action began with the Dawgs and Raiders exchanging 3’s, with Haddonfield’s coming from Matt Leming. The Raiders would take a quick lead after a Dawg turnover, but the game would be tied at 5 at the 5:15 mark on a slam by Matt Guveiyian. After a pickoff by Carson Wolfe and a jump ball that went Haddonfield’s way, Guveiyian had another dunk to put the Dawgs up 7–5, but the Raiders got 2 to knot it again, 7 all, at the halfway point of the quarter.

After Haddonfield missed two chances to score, Paulsboro hit another 3 to go back in front 10–7. I thought Leming got his second trey with the help of a friendly bounce, but the shot was called off, and I was never sure if Haddonfield was charged with a foul or a travel. But after a block shot and rebound by Guveiyian, Leming did get his second 3 to make it 10–10 with 39 seconds on the clock. No doubt Paulsboro’s coach wanted the Raiders to hold the ball and go for the last shot, but Justin Kasko’s tough “D” caused a Raiders turnover, giving the Dawgs the chance for the last basket. With 4.2 left, Guveiyian went up and in for his third bucket in 8 minutes, putting the Dawgs up by 2, 12–10, as the quarter ended.

The big story of the second quarter was that the Dawgs upped the pressure and the defense and held the Raiders to a single basket, which wasn’t scored until the 4:32 mark. That made it 17–12, Haddonfield, which had already gotten 5 from Matt Kouser: The 2 came off on a nice bounce pass from Dante Del Duca and the 3 came just ahead of the Paulsboro field goal. For the rest of the quarter, it was all Haddonfield at both ends. The rest of the 13 points the Dawgs put on the board came from a feed Tom Mooney to Kasko and then another pair of 3’s from Leming. When the teams headed off the court at the half, the Dawgs had a 13-point, 25–12, lead.

The Raiders found their offensive mojo in the third quarter and scored 14 points, more than their first half total. However, the third quarter was also the best offensively for the Dawgs, who put 19 points on the board. After Paulsboro hit 3 on its second possession to make it 25-15, Kasko got two straight baskets for Haddonfield to make it 29–17, Dawgs. A 3 by the Raiders got the Dawgs’ lead down to single digits, 29–20, but Kasko answered with a 3 to get that double-digit advantage back, making it 32–20 with 4:19 left in the quarter.

Guveiyian, who had an impressive game offensively and defensively, made an amazing save of a ball that the Dawgs almost lost, and after Kasko pulled down an offensive board, he got his third 2 of the quarter, pushing the Dawgs’ lead up to 14, 34–20. Haddonfield got the ball back after a bad pass by Paulsboro, which set in motion a nice piece of ball movement: Leming to Guveiyian to Del Duca, whose drive upped the Dawgs’ lead to 16, 36–20, with 2:23 remaining in the quarter. Kasko’s 5th and final basket of the quarter made it a 38–20 game before Paulsboro managed to get a foul shot.

A full timeout by the Paulsboro coach did not help much, as the Raiders came out of it only to throw up an air ball. Mooney grabbed the ball and dished it to Guveiyian, who went up and in. After picking off the ball, Del Duca went coast to coast and scored, and with 1:28 to go, the Dawgs had doubled the Raiders’ input and were cruising 42–21 with about 90 seconds on the clock. Neither team scored until Carson Wolfe drove in after another display of sharp, tight passing to make it 44–21, Dawgs, with about 16 seconds left, and that is how the quarter ended.

As has been the case a few times, the Dawgs were outscored, only by a point this time, though, by their opponents in the 4th quarter. The Dawgs, thanks to a pair of threes by Del Duca and one by sophomore Teddy Bond, as well as buckets by Guveiyian and Leming, plus a foul shot by Wolfe, put 14 on the board to the Red Raiders’ 15. That made the final score Haddonfield 58, Paulsboro 36. Four players finished in double digits: Leming led with 14, Kasko had 13, and Guveiyian and Del Duca each had 10. I try to keep up with other stats as I go along, such as rebounds, steals, and blocked shots, but I know I’m not as accurate with them as I am with points. I’ll defer to the Courier Post recap, which reported that in addition to his 10 points, Guveiyian pulled down 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals. I also credited him with four blocked shots.

Next up was a rematch against the Eagles of West Deptford the next night, 2/23. If it feels like these two teams just played each other, it’s because they did: On 2/19, Haddonfield won by 27 points, 64–27. Believe it or not, the outcome was almost exactly the same on the Eagles’ home court. Read on to see what I mean.

One aspect of this version of Haddonfield vs. West Deptford that deviated from the first script was that although the Dawgs jumped out to a 6–0 lead on 3’s by Tom Mooney and Matt Leming, the Eagles hung in there, scoring the next 6 points on a basket and a 1-point conversion from the foul line and then a 3 of their own, tying the game at 6 with just under 2 minutes left in the quarter. Carson Wolfe got in on the 3-point act to make it 9–6 at the 1:26 mark, and neither team scored again before the first quarter buzzer sounded.

West Deptford would get the first bucket of the second quarter, but Wolfe rattled in a nice jumper, was fouled in the process, and made his foul shot, making it a 12–8 game with just a minute gone. Wolfe was just getting warmed up, as he would score again after a pickoff by Mooney and a quick reaction by Justin Kasko to secure the ball. This basket would boost the Dawgs’ lead to 14–8. The Eagles lost the ball on a foul, the Dawgs didn’t find the net, but a backcourt violation by West Deptford returned possession to Haddonfield, who again got off a shot that didn’t drop.

This time, Mooney took matters into his own hands, stealing the ball and then swooshing in a 3, giving the Dawgs a 17–8 advantage with just under 5 minutes to go until the half. At the other end, Matt Guveiyian pulled down a board, passed it to Wolfe, who fed it to Mooney, who this time went into the paint for 2, netting the Dawgs their first double-digit lead of the game, 19–7, with 4:21 on the clock. West Deptford broke their drought with a basket, but a few plays later, the Dawgs got the double-digit lead back on a 3 by Matt Kouser, making 22–10 with 3 minutes and change remaining in the quarter.

After West Deptford was called for a travel, Kasko went up and in with a well-executed reverse layup on a feed from Dante Del Duca. Good pressure defense, which the Dawgs exhibited all game, caused another Eagle turnover, and with just under 2 minutes left in the game, Kasko delivered again, this time from behind the arc, making it 27–10, Dawgs. The Dawgs stole the ball again, but this time failed to score. At the other end, the Eagles got only their third basket of the quarter, but after Haddonfield’s shot did not go in, Wolfe got the ball back and went in for his 7th point of the quarter. When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, the Dawgs had the Eagles up a tree, ahead by 17, 29–12 after putting 19 points on the board.

In the third period, the Dawgs did even better offensively, although so did the Eagles. Led by Leming’s 3-point barrage—he knocked down a trio of them—2’s by Guveiyian, Mooney, and Kasko, and a pair of foul shots by both Mooney and Kasko, the Dawgs entered the 4th quarter up by 23, 48–25. Even though Dawgs’ coach Paul Wiedeman cleared the bench before the game was over, his subs put the ball in the basket, with sophomore Teddy Bond again showing off his 3-point range and junior Jon Bucci getting his first varsity bucket of the season.

The final score was 63–37, which was a point off from round one, which Haddonfield won 64–37. Nine players contributed to those 63 points, and four of the five starters reached double digits: Wolfe and Mooney had 14; Leming had 12, all from 3’s; and Kasko had 11. After starting off the season 0–2, the Dawgs had won 7 straight and were now 7–2, an impressive turnaround.

Before I move onto the Dawgs’ third, and toughest, game of the week, one more note about the West Deptford game: I want to give two thumbs up to the pair of high school students who did the play-by-play of the matchup. I didn’t write down their names, but the young men behind the microphones not only did a nice job overall describing the action on the court, they had a lot of good things to say about how Haddonfield played as a team and the abilities of individual Dawgs. Sometimes when you get the “home” feed, the announcers fawn over their own players and have nothing good to say about the opposition. Kudos for these two, who acknowledged the talents of Haddonfield while being supportive and encouraging of their own team.

In this odd season of ever-changing dates and teams, the Dawgs were originally set to have a 4:15 away game versus who I think was supposed to Burlington Reginal High School. Or was it Northern Burlington? I can’t say for sure, as that game was canceled, and it’s now off the schedule altogether. Instead, the Dawgs headed to Woodrow Wilson to take on the Tigers. It was a “Grrrrr-eat” game, although I would have preferred a different ending.

Unlike the West Deptford game, the two people calling the game were adults, who represented the D2 Sports Network and had not called a Woodrow Wilson, or obviously a Haddonfield, game yet. So that put them a bit in a disadvantage from not knowing the players on either squad. I actually thought the Eagles’ duo did a better job, but what was bugging me most throughout the contest was the D2 pair taking turns ever so often to say, “This is shaping up to be a good game.” OK, during the first quarter, or even the second, this was a fair assessment. But at the 2-minute mark of the last quarter, enough! Everybody watching knew how great a game this had become …

But I am getting ahead of myself. In the first two quarters, it was a close contest, but the Dawgs stayed ahead of the Tigers for most of those 16 minutes. In the initial quarter, the Dawgs did this by relying largely on the 3. Matt Leming tied the match at the 5:59 mark with a trey. Tom Mooney put the Dawgs up by 1 hitting 1–2 from the foul line, and after the Tigers went up 5–4, Carson Wolfe’s 3 made it 7–5, Haddonfield with 2:38 left in the first.

Mooney’s floater put the Dawgs back up by 2, 9–7, after the Tigers had evened it up on a basket. Then, after a pickoff by Justin Kasko, Mooney nailed a 3 (I love that he made a 1, a 2, and a 3 in that order) to make it 12–7, but Woodrow Wilson hit a 3 at the buzzer to make it a 2-point, 12–10, game.

By the end of the half, the Dawgs had increased that edge, but only by a point, and only added 8 total to their score, which came on a pair of baskets by Matt Guveiyian, a 3 by Matt Kouser, and a foul shot by Kasko. When play started in the 3rd, it was 20–17, Haddonfield, and everyone watching (except apparently the two men doing the commentating) knew the Dawgs and Tigers were in a tooth-and-nail battle that was liable to go down to the last few possessions. Or maybe even the last shot …

 In the third, Woodrow Wilson upped its offensive play, putting 19 on the board to Haddonfield’s 12. The game was going back and forth for most of the third quarter, as the teams traded buckets of the 2 and 3 variety. After a 2-pointer by Leming nudged the Dawgs back in front by 1, 26–25, with 3:15 showing on the clock, the Tigers rattled off a pair of unanswered treys, making it 31–26, Woodrow Wilson, at the 1:49 mark, which was the biggest lead either team had had all game. A big 3 by Guveiyian made it 31–29, Tigers, with 1:40 left in the quarter. Good defense on the sideline by Kasko and Guveiyian forced Woodrow Wilson to call a time-out with 1:28 left. That worked, as the Tigers nailed another 3 to go back up 34–29.

The Dawgs did not score during their next possession, but with 35 seconds to go, the Tigers lost the ball out of bounds, and Leming got his second 3 of the game to make it 34–32, Woodrow Wilson with 18 seconds showing on the clock. Right ahead of the buzzer, the Dawgs got charged with a foul, and unfortunately, it was called on a Tiger who had been shooting behind the arc, meaning he stepped up to the foul line with 3 shots to take. He made two of them, which was a bit deflating for Haddonfield, as it put Woodrow Wilson back up by 4, 36–32, going in the final 8 minutes of the game.

For most of the 4th, Woodrow Wilson kept Haddonfield at bay. Every time the Dawgs would start to rally, as when Kouser’s 3 got the Dawgs to within 3 again, 38–35, early in the 4th, the Tigers would answer with a few buckets in a row. One off a steal at the 6:00 mark gave Woodrow Wilson its biggest lead of the game, at 42–35. While a pair at the line from Kasko made it 42–37, a basket at the other end made it a 7-point, 44–37, Woodrow Wilson advantage again.

After a few possessions in which neither team scored, a scramble for a loose ball sent Woodrow Wilson to the foul line with 4 and change left in the game. Neither shot dropped, and that’s when the game started getting really intense. Leming hit a 3, cutting the deficit to 4, 44–40, with 3:35 on the clock. Another Haddonfield foul sent Woodrow Wilson to the line with a 1+1 opportunity (make the first, get a second shot), but again, the ball did not make it into the net. Haddonfield picked a bad time to turn over the ball, but Wolfe got a defensive board and Leming hit another huge 3, this time cutting the gap to 1, 44–43, with 2:11 left in the game.

Woodrow Wilson’s coach called a time-out seconds later. Thanks to pressure D by Guveiyian and Wolfe, the Tigers lost the ball with 1:57 on the clock. After a non-shooting foul was called on the Tigers, Leming made Dawg fans go nuts with his third 3 of the quarter, putting the Dawgs back on top, 46–44, for the first time since midway through the third quarter, with 1:05 left. The Tigers had an immediate response with a 3 of their own, putting them back on top by 1, 47–46. With 35.1 seconds to go, the ball went out of bounds off Woodrow Wilson. Mooney’s clutch 2 gave the lead back to Haddonfield, 48–47, and with 21.4 left in the game, Woodrow Wilson called another time-out.

To no one’s surprise (not even the commentators), the plan was for the Tigers to run the clock down before going for that last shot. The Dawgs were doing their best to keep them from having any outside or inside pathway to the basket while at the same time not committing a foul. With the clock winding down to a few seconds, a shot was finally made, and it did not go in. But it ricocheted to the right of the basket, into the hands of one of the Tigers’ best shooters. Off balance, just ahead of the buzzer, and somehow managing to eye it between the looming arms of several Dawg defenders, the shot hit the rim, paused on it, and rolled in. The Tigers had fought off the Dawgs to claim a 1-point, 49–48 thrilling victory.

I can never decide if it’s worse to lose a game by 10 or 20 or at the buzzer. And knowing that Haddonfield has hit more than its share of buzzer beaters (Mike DePersia, Camden. Need I say more?), it’s hard not to give a tip of the cap to the Tigers for almost letting the Dawgs steal a game away that it looked like they were going to win without nearly as much drama.

Leming’s 3 onslaught (he had five) made him high scorer for Haddonfield with 17. Mooney was also in double figures with 10. This game snapped the Dawgs’ seven game win streak and put them at 7–3 for the year.

Next up was an away game on Saturday, 2/26, at Lindenwold, a member of the Patriot division of the Colonial Conference. I am sure both Dawg and Lion fans were quite dismayed to tune into Lindenwold’s YouTube channel to find out no one was there streaming the game. Thanks to the High School Sports page on NJ.com, I can give you some of the particulars. The Dawgs started a new winning streak, beating the Lions 52–41. Tom Mooney and Carson Wolfe led the Dawgs’ offensively, with 17 and 11 points, respectively Matt Guveiyian pulled down 7 boards, and Justin Kasko, 5. Wolfe had three assists and Guveiyian, 3. I also heard from a reliable source that the refs called in the vicinity of 40 fouls, which made the game not a lot of fun to watch for those who were in attendance, which is a small consolation to those of us who did not get to watch it live-streamed.

Believe it or not, the Dawgs have their last four games of the season this week, beginning tomorrow, 3/1, with a home game against Rancocas Valley Regional High School at 7. Then it’s back-to-back Colonial Conference away games, both at 5:30. First up are the Collingswood Panthers on Tuesday, 3/2. Then it’s the Silver Knights of Sterling, one of the two Colonial teams to have beaten the Dawgs this season, on Thursday. Let’s hope both those games are shown live. The last game of the season is back at Haddonfield on Saturday, 3/6. It’s a 1 p.m. matchup against Bordentown Regional High School.

Go Dawgs!

COVID-19: Local tally hits 500

The addition today of a male juvenile and a male in his 40s to the list of Haddonfield residents confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus brought the local total to 500 persons. That number represents 43.13 residents per 1,000 of population (2010 Census), or 1 in every 24.

The Camden County Department of Health has attributed the deaths of 11 Haddonfield residents to COVID-19.

To date, 145 cases have been reported by the school district: 111 children and 34 adults.

Bezich to seek new term as commissioner

Colleen Bianco Bezich, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner John Moscatelli in 2019, and currently serves as the Borough’s Director of Public Affairs & Public Safety, has announced that she will be a candidate in the municipal election on May 11.

She released the following statement to Haddonfield[dot]Today on February 22.

“In early 2019, a surgical procedure left me bed & couch-bound for several weeks,” Bianco Bezich said when explaining the genesis of her first run for office. “Shortly thereafter, Commissioner Moscatelli resigned, and former Mayor Tish Colombi’s call-to-action for young women to get off our backsides and run for office immediately came to mind. It was if she was speaking directly to me – because getting off my own backside quite literally presented more challenges than most could comprehend.”

Bianco Bezich received 1730 votes in that election, defeating appointed incumbent Robert Marshall, who was supported by Colombi, by over 350 votes.

“In 2019, I worked tirelessly to become the second female Commissioner in our Borough’s history – and I could not have done it alone. I had active, engaged, & committed volunteers supporting me” Bianco Bezich said. “Importantly, I was received with open arms by many lifelong Haddonfield residents, but newer residents also felt they were deserving of a seat at the table, and my candidacy resonated with them.”

Bianco Bezich has one (1) son, Luca, who will eventually attend Tatem Elementary. She works full-time as a lawyer, counting land use, local government law, real estate & small business representation among her practice areas. She also serves as general counsel of Be Films, LLC and Five Story Media, the video production companies that she and her husband Anthony Bezich operate from their Tanner Street studio.

“I’ve spent almost two (2) decades working in local government, from helping to create the Partnership for Haddonfield nearly 20 years ago, to drafting & negotiating redevelopment agreements, to arguing the legality of local land use ordinances in court,” Bianco Bezich stated. “I was the most experienced & qualified candidate in 2019, and that remains true in this cycle, too.”

In addition to her volunteer service as a Borough Commissioner, Bianco Bezich is a member of the Haddonfield Celebrations Association, a Board member of LUCY Camden, a member of the Supreme Court of New Jersey District IV Ethics Committee, and an active member of the Haddonfield Lions Club. She also serves as a pro bono attorney for Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Assoc. Delaware Valley Chapter, as well as the South Jersey Perinatal Cooperative. Before joining Board of Commissioners, she was a member of the Haddonfield Zoning Board of Adjustment.

When addressing her first year in office, Bianco Bezich acknowledged that the pandemic impacted many of her plans. 

“I had to adjust my expectations & shift my priorities, because we entered a time of great uncertainty, and confronted very real risks to health & safety,” she said. “But I am really proud of what I was able to accomplish and set into motion, despite the pandemic. Even in this incredibly challenging climate, I worked diligently on behalf of our residents & business owners, and I hope they’ll support me this May so that I can continue to do so.” 

In her launch video, Bianco Bezich identified some of her most significant accomplishments of 2020 as new & improved public safety initiatives, obtaining grant funding for stormwater management, developing a new affordable housing policy that utilizes existing housing stock, and creating a micro grant program for the Borough’s small business community.

“I truly love where I live, and live where I love,” she said.

The Borough of Haddonfield is a Walsh Act municipality, which functions as a non-partisan commission form of government. The three (3) Commissioners serve concurrent four-year terms.  As such, all three (3) Commissioner seats are up this year. The Commissioner with the highest vote count traditionally serves as mayor.  The municipal election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 11. 2021.

Those interested in learning more about Colleen Bianco Bezich’s campaign can connect here:

Boys Basketball Weekly Wrap-Up: Feb 21

By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

When last we left the Haddonfield boys basketball team, they had pulled their record to .500 with a solid win against Collingswood on 2/13. Due to the COVID-delayed start of the season and then more COVID-related setbacks, that game was only the team’s fourth of the season.

This past week, the Dawgs played three home games versus fellow Colonial Conference teams. I’ll provide the highlights for each. Spoiler alert: The Dawgs are now on a 5-game winning streak.

With the shortened season, the Dawgs hosted Haddon Heights on Tuesday, 2/16, only 5 days after earning their first win of the short season against the Garnets on the Garnets’ court. What would the rematch look like?

Well, to be blunt, it was an ugly first quarter. Haddonfield did not put a single point on the board, not even from the foul line. The Garnets didn’t do much better. After knocking in a 3 within the first minute, they also went scoreless for the next 7-plus minutes.

I’m sure most of the smattering of parents and others in the gym, including yours truly, were thinking that the game from the Dawgs’ end had to improve in the next 8 minutes. But after Heights scored a 3 and a 2 to go up 8-0, I was looking down at my scorepad wondering what had happened to the team that had looked so much more in sync versus Collingswood 3 days earlier. Turns out, they were there, but it took them a while to warm up.

Junior Dante Del Duca entered the game as the 2nd quarter started and proved to be the spark that got the Dawgs going. He gave Haddonfield its first point of the game from the foul line at the 5:29 mark, but that still meant the Dawgs were trailing by 7, 8–1. Coach Paul Wiedeman thought this was a good time for a timeout, and whatever wisdom he must have imparted verbally or on his handy whiteboard, it worked. Junior Matt Guveiyian and senior Justin Kasko pressed the Garnets into a travel, and at the other end, Del Duca swooshed in a 3. Now it was an 8–4 game.

After a blocked shot by Kasko, Del Duca continued his scoring ways, going up and in for a layup after stealing the ball off the Haddon Heights inbound play. Now the Dawgs were only down by 2 with just over 4 to go in the half. Neither team scored for the next few minutes, but when a shot finally made it into the net, it was a 3 from the Dawgs’ freshman, Matt Kouser, who also had come in off the bench, and with 1:39 on the clock, the Dawgs finally had a lead, albeit 1 point, 9–8.

Again, neither team scored for a few plays, and with less than a minute to go, Haddon Heights was in possession of the ball and running the clock down, hoping to get the last shot of the half and retake the lead. However, the best laid plans of mice and Garnets … led to a turnover with 3.7 showing on the clock. (Speaking of the clock, if anyone has been wondering, yes, Jeff Holman is that masked man behind mission control again, although his partner in crime, Dawgs’ play-by-play man Mark Hershberger, is not sitting in his usual position beside Holman. Instead, Hershberger is calling the shots, so to speak, a few rows back, but has had to put his trademark catch phrase, “Get ‘em while they’re hot, … Dawgs” on simmer.)

Back to the action. After giving up two fouls and whittling the clock down to 1.0, Heights called a timeout, and it seemed unlikely the Dawgs would have time to get off a shot from the inbound. Unlikely or not, Kouser got the ball and let it loose. As the buzzer sounded, it went into the basket for his second 3 of the quarter, putting the Dawgs up by 4, 12–8, as the teams headed off the court for halftime.

From putting up a big 0 on the board in the first, the Dawgs exploded for 25 points in the third quarter. Fifteen came off five 3’s: three by Guveiyian and one each by Del Duca and junior Matt Leming. Guveiyian, Del Duca, and another junior, Carson Wolfe, all had 2’s. And Leming and junior Tom Mooney each made a pair of free throws. (Speaking of Mooney, our versatile point guard, although our announcer has dropped the “my” off his first name, perhaps at the behest of the player himself, I’m still calling him “Tommy” out of habit. Well, mostly out of habit.)

Along with finally getting the ball into the net, the Dawgs were also helping to keep the Garnets from getting as many good shots off. While Heights got the first basket of the third to pull to within 2, 12–10, the Garnets did not get a second ball to drop for another 4 minutes. As the quarter came to an end, the Dawgs had more than tripled the Garnets’ score and were in control 37–12.

Haddon Heights actually outscored Haddonfield 24–17 in the last 8 minutes, but by then it did not matter, and also, the Dawg starters and first-off-the-bench players got to watch the game for the last few minutes. When all was said and done, the Dawgs had won by 18, 54–36. Fittingly, Dante Del Duca, who kick-started the squad in the second, finished as high scorer for Haddonfield with 14 points. Matt Guveiyian, helped by his trio of treys in the third, had 12.

Due to another round of winter weather, the Dawgs’ matchup with the Eagles of West Deptford got pushed back a day and was played at an earlier time of 4:30 at Haddonfield on Friday, 2/19. This was probably Haddonfield’s most consistent showing of the early season. And it was put in motion by its two seniors, Justin Kasko and Jack Deegan, who are also the team’s co-captains. While Deegan comes off the bench regularly and always gives good minutes, he is not a starter. But as is tradition on Senior Night at Haddonfield, Coach Wiedeman honors his graduating Dawgs by having them play the opening quarter.

While the Eagles jumped out 3-0 on their first possession, senior co-captain Kasko, who had almost picked the ball off ahead of the 3, sent a 3 in at the other end to tie it at 3 apiece. Matt Guveiyian (who I have called “Matthew” all his life, and yes, I do mean all his life; we met in the hospital a few days after he was born, although he may not remember that as well as I do) kept the 3’s rolling in, and with 6:32 on the clock put the Dawgs up by 3, 6–3.

After a full pickoff by Kasko, Deegan added to the scoring with a nice layup, making it 8–3 Haddonfield with about 3 minutes gone in the first. A layup and foul shot by Mooney would push the Dawgs’ lead to 8, 11­–3, before the Eagles landed another shot in the rim to make it 11–5. After a few missed scoring opportunities by the Dawgs, the Eagles hit a 3 to get to within 3, 11–8, with just under 2 minutes to go. Kasko got a roll on a drive under the basket to push the edge back to 5, 13–8. A travel by West Deptford gave Haddonfield back the ball. Another Dawgs’ shot rolled on the rim but this time didn’t drop, but a steal by Mooney gave the Dawgs another shot, which also did not go in. The quarter ended on a blocked shot by Kasko and a 3 by Mooney to give the Dawgs an 8-point, 16–8, advantage going into the second quarter.

The Dawgs improved on their first quarter scoring by 4 points, thanks in large part to the offensive contributions by Carson Wolfe, who alone outscored West Deptford 10–6. Wolfe hit a 3, three 2’s and also got one from the foul line. While adding 20 points to their score, the Dawgs held the Eagles to a miserly 6 points, and at the half, the Dawgs were up by double digits, 36–14.

In the third quarter, the Eagles matched their combined first half points, knocking in 14, outscoring the Dawgs, whose offense cooled down a bit, by 4. Even so, going into the 4th quarter, the Dawgs were still up 46–28. The Dawgs picked up their play at the offensive end in the last 8 minutes, putting up 18 to the Eagles’ 9, giving the Dawgs a 27-point, 64–37 W.  Six of those 18 4th-quarter points came from a pair of 3’s from Mooney. Those 3’s meant that for four straight games, the Dawgs hit 10 baskets from behind the arc.

Mooney, who had 8 in the first half and 12 in the second, was the Dawgs’ high scorer with 20.  Wolfe was right behind him with 16. All five starters and four who came in off the bench combined for Haddonfield’s 64 points.

The final contest of the week for Haddonfield was on Saturday, 2/20, against the Haddon Township Hawks. You may recall that a mere 13 days earlier, the Hawks had broken a very long (40-plus-years in the making) losing streak against the Dawgs by defeating them at their home nest 38–30. I was hopeful that the Hawks’ losing streak would start anew in their rematch.

At the outset, it seemed my wish had a reasonable chance of coming to fruition. Matt Leming got the Dawgs on the board with a 3 off a nice feed from Justin Kasko. After a jump ball gave possession back to Haddonfield, Leming did it again, this time off a dapper pass from Tomm—er, Tom Mooney, to make it 6-0, Dawgs. The Hawks got on the board off a way-too-easy layup, but Matthew Guveiyian got a 3 with a roll, putting the Dawgs up by 7, 9–2, with 3:44 left in the quarter.

About 90 seconds later, after neither team had added to their total, a questionable call gave Kasko his second foul of the game and sent a Hawk to the line. He made both shots, edging the Hawks closer, at 9­–4. Kasko had to take a seat, but his co-captain and fellow senior Jack Deegan came in and promptly got a bucket on another assist from Mooney, making it 11–4, Haddonfield, with 1:44 to go in the period. With 34.2 seconds on the clock, the Dawgs picked up another shooting foul, and again, the Hawks picked up a pair from the free throw line. After the Dawgs did not score, Haddon Township hit a 3 just ahead of the buzzer, closing the gap to 2, 11–9.

The second quarter seesawed back and forth. Haddon Township got the first basket to tie it at 11 with just under a minute gone. Mooney was fouled attempting to drive into the basket and made 1–2, tipping the lead back to Haddonfield, 12–11, with 6:35 remaining in the half. Neither team scored on their next few trips up and down the court, as Haddon Township went 0-2 from the foul line and Haddonfield’s shots from the field also did not drop.

A nice drive up and in by Mooney broke the mini-scoring drought and with 4:25 on the clock, gave the Dawgs a 3-point edge. For about 40 seconds, that is, until the Hawks hit a 3 to even things up at 14 with 3:38 to go. The Hawks had a ball rim out, and Matt Kouser, who had come into the game in the second quarter, hit a 3, making it 17–14, Dawgs, with 2:39 left in the half. However, after getting the ball back on a travel violation against the Hawks, the Dawgs failed to take advantage of it and did not score. Instead, Haddon Township got the last two baskets of the half and were up by 1, 18–17, as the teams left the court for the half.

The third quarter started with Haddonfield inbounding the ball, but no points came off it. Haddon Township got their offense going right away with a 3, boosting their lead to 4, 21–17, with 6:36 on the clock. At the other end, Mooney went in the lane for 2, cutting that lead in half, but 60 seconds later, the Hawks nailed another 3 to take their largest lead, going up by 5, 24–19, with just under 5 minutes left in the quarter.

Carson Wolfe picked a good time to get his first basket of the game and was fouled while doing so. His free throw got the Dawgs back to within 2, 24–22, with 4:45 on the clock. The Hawks had a quick answer, but just as quickly, Kasko got his first 2, and it was back to a 2-point, 26–24, Haddon Township lead, at the 4:14 mark. After both teams missed shots and lost balls out of bounds, Haddon Township took a timeout with 2:53 left in the third. After the inbounds, Haddonfield was charged with a foul, and when play resumed this time, the Hawks hit yet another 3, reclaiming a 5-point, 29–24, lead with 2 minutes and change on the clock. Mooney connected the ball with the net, cutting that to a 3-point, 29-26, edge with just under 2 minutes remaining.

After Haddonfield got charged with two more fouls, Kasko stole the ball and was fouled himself. His shots made it a 1-point, 29–28, game with 1:38 showing on the scoreboard. The Dawgs stole the ball again, and it then went out of bounds off the Hawks with 1:25 left in the third. A pretty jumper by Wolfe put the Dawgs out in front for the first time in the second half, 30–29, with 1:02 showing on the scoreboard. A blocked shot by Haddonfield led to a jump ball call, and the possession arrow returned the ball to Haddon Township. A Hawk basket also gave them back the lead, 31–30, but Mooney responded with a shot just ahead of the buzzer, and with 8 minutes left in what was proving to be the Dawgs’ most exciting match of the season, Haddonfield was up by slimmest of margins, 32–31.

Quarter 4 started with Haddon Township inbounding the ball … and getting called for a travel. A bad pass was rescued by Kasko, and Mooney was fouled attempting to score. His foul shots pushed the Dawgs’ lead to 3, 34–31, with only 40 seconds gone. Guveiyian picked up his second foul by osmosis (the ensuing look on his teammate Kasko’s face was priceless), but Haddonfield got the ball back on a steal, and Guveiyian went in the paint for 2 after a nice dish by Kasko, giving the Dawgs a 5-point, 36–31, edge with just about 6:30 to go in the game.

After another pilfered ball by Kasko, Haddon Township was called for its 6th foul of the half, but Haddonfield could not capitalize, turning the ball over with 5:54 left in the game. The Hawks got 2 to get back to within 3, 36–33, but Guveiyian answered with a 3 at the opposite basket, making it a 6-point, 39–33, game with 5:26 on the clock. After a Haddonfield timeout, a Haddon Township bucket made it 39–35, Dawgs, with 5:01 left. The Dawgs missed a few shots, then got called for a foul. At the Hawks’ end, a loose ball caused quite a scramble, with Kasko coming up with it on the floor and calling a timeout with 3:01 remaining.

Haddonfield did not get a good shot off, but their defense was stellar, as the Hawks were stuck on the perimeter without an open shot or a way into the basket. Finally, a ball from behind the arc went in … and out. Matt Leming, who was just back into the game, got the big rebound. In the near empty gymnasium, it was not hard to hear Coach Wiedeman yelling, “Hold the ball,” as the clock ticked down to less than a minute. With 54.4 seconds left, Wiedeman called a timeout to talk over the strategy.

Almost as soon as the ball was inbounded, it became clear that the Haddon Township strategy was to foul Haddonfield so the Dawgs could not keep holding onto the ball without shooting. This was the Hawks’ 7th foul of the half, setting up a 1+1 opportunity, which, for the uninitiated, means if the player taking the foul shot makes it, he gets to take another. With 51.2 on the clock, Mooney stepped to the line. Mooney, who is usually reliable on the line, did not get his shot to drop. Leming and Wolfe combined for an offensive board to give the Dawgs back the ball only to have Haddonfield turn it over.

Before the Hawks had time to set a play, Guveiyian swiped the ball and passed it to Wolfe, who was fouled with 26.1 seconds to go. It was still a 1+1 opportunity. Wolfe’s first shot went in, but his second did not, making it a 40–35 game. At the other end, the Hawks found an open man behind the arc who hit a 3. Now, with 18.0 showing on the clock, the Dawgs’ lead was down to 2, 40–38. Haddon Township called a full timeout.

After inbounding the ball, Guveiyian got it back and was immediately fouled. It was the 9th of the half for the Hawks, meaning it was still a 1+1 situation. Guveiyian stepped up to the line with 14.1 left in the game and his team up by 2, meaning it was still a one-possession game. He released the ball, which fell into the net. The crowd—all 50 or so of us—went wild. His second shot also was nothing but net and put the Dawgs up by 4, 42–38.

The Hawks did not have time to waste, and their shot did not hit the mark. Guess who got the rebound and was immediately fouled again? That’s right. Guveiyian. Now that the Hawks had hit 10 fouls, the Dawgs were in the double bonus, meaning Guveiyian automatically had 2 shots. And again, he made both, giving the Dawgs a 44–38 lead and leaving the Hawks with only 3.6 seconds, not enough time to battle back again. When the horn sounded, the Dawgs had officially won their 5th straight game, and their 5th game overall, to go 5–2 in the Colonial Conference.

Thanks to his 4th quarter offensive heroics, Matt Guveiyian finished as the Dawgs’ leading scorer with 12. Tom Mooney, who had an equally important 3rd quarter, finished with 11. Five other Dawgs scored to help secure the W.

Next up is a home game versus the Red Raiders of Paulsboro Monday, 2/22 at 7 p.m. That will be followed by road games versus West Deptford on Tuesday, also at 7, and then an early nonconference Thursday game on 2/25 at 4:30 against Northern Burlington Regional High School.

My Journey: Citizen of the Year Joe Serico

Haddonfield Citizen of the Year Joe Serico was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting on February 17, 2021. He shared these prepared remarks with Haddonfield[dot]Today.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman of Rotary. Thank you very much for extending me an invitation to speak with you today.

I am exceedingly grateful to the Haddonfield Lions Club for recognizing me with this prestigious award as Haddonfield’s Citizen of the Year. This award has been bestowed on an amazing group of local citizens, many of whom I have known personally. I am humbled to be included in such exemplary company. I am not so certain that I am deserving in this pandemic year, when there are so many worthy health care workers, caregivers, and others who put their lives on the line daily. I am very appreciative nonetheless.

When [Rotarian] Cheryl [Laney] approached me about speaking today, I was flattered by the invitation but a bit perplexed as to what my focus might be. In our conversation, Cheryl asked me what people, places, and events encouraged my involvement in community activities.

As a boy growing up in the New York City borough of the Bronx, I never gave much thought to the Little League and CYO coaches who surrounded me, the volunteer ladies and men who worked alongside me at the hospital, and the many adults who gave freely of their time and treasure to support church or synagogue activities in our neighborhood. More obvious to me was the dynamic that ruled city life: local government officials were professional politicians paid for their services and aspiring to higher office. There were no local garden clubs that I could recall, as the Parks Department oversaw all the green spaces. What I knew growing up and in my first two teaching positions was nothing like what I would experience beginning in 1987.

It was in coming to work in Haddonfield that I experienced the exceptional commitment citizens can make to a community. In my first year at Haddonfield Memorial High School, it was evident that parents played a unique role supporting the schools. Sure, some schools have booster clubs and parents have some limited involvement in supporting teams that their children play on, but HMHS was different. At the High School, parents undertook major events like the Senior Fashion Show, the After-Graduation Party, Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, back-to-school breakfasts, and the hosting annual back-to-school nights. Beyond this very substantial commitment, parents were equally willing to become partners in school decision-making. They served on multiple school committees on scholarships, curriculum review, school advisory councils, teacher recruitment, and strategic planning. Equally committed were the selfless men and women who served on the Board of Education, most of whom had children in the schools. They undertook tasks like negotiating contracts, overseeing personnel decisions, and making decisions about facilities — decisions that put them squarely in the public eye. They devoted enormous amounts of time and energy assisting in overseeing the operation of the schools.

These volunteer women and men were nothing short of inspiring in their effort and commitment to support the school. I had never been exposed to anything like that. When they accepted a seat at the table, they were willing to commit many hours and do the heavy lifting that such work required. To this day I remain very grateful to PTA Presidents Jeanne Runne, Linda Giudice, Nancy Wills, and Julie Vick, who were role models for what engagement in the community could look like.

That commitment to volunteerism was everywhere you looked. HMHS students were also deeply involved in service activities. Organizations like the National Honor Society, Interact, and perhaps a dozen other clubs had a focus on community service when I arrived at HMHS. Today that number is even larger than when I left the High School nineteen years ago.

If I needed further evidence that service was a deeply ingrained in the culture of this community, I needed to look no further than the civic leaders who I deeply admired: Bill Reynolds, Gene Kain, Tish Colombi, and Jack Tarditi. The town was blessed with role models that a neophyte leader could look to. My very first encounter with our current mayor, Neal Rochford, occurred when we worked together at a children’s venue on a very frosty First Night.

Haddonfield provided both the environment and the opportunity for me to get involved in three key organizations that led to my increased engagement in the community: the Haddonfield Educational Trust, the Haddonfield Alumni Society, and the HMHS Beautification Committee.

As Assistant Superintendent and later a community member, I have been fortunate to serve for several years as one of the members of the Haddonfield Educational Trust board. The Trust has the responsibility for managing the Haddonfield Memorial High School Scholarship Fund and distributing established scholarships to graduating seniors. The Trust has supported several School District projects in the past few years, including the Turf Field project, playground renovations at both Central and Elizabeth Haddon schools, the “Lights, Camera, Action” project, and the HMHS Beautification Project in 2018 and 2019. The HET board has supported these major initiatives through individual donations and their annual Golf Tournament. In addition, the HET has annually sponsored and supported Teacher Innovation Grants to promote excellence in teaching and learning in the Haddonfield Public Schools. The HET has also tended to some short-term needs of the schools like supplying head-sets for teachers to assist with virtual learning and to support school clubs in going to national competitions. It has been a pleasure to serve alongside dedicated fellow volunteers like recent presidents Sarah Tambussi and Dave Larkin, and current president Adam Puff.

When the Haddonfield Educational Trust needed a liaison to the Alumni Society, I was happy to serve in that position. In large measure this propelled me into a much larger role working with the alumni community. The Haddonfield Alumni Society — especially Tom Baird and Wayne Hunter — allowed me to take on more responsibility in the organization.

Finally, Maureen Eyles, a BOE member at the time and an alumna, initiated a committee to improve the exterior spaces at the High School. Maureen asked me if I would serve as the chairperson of the committee. It was Maureen’s vision that saw the possibility of a collaboration among the Haddonfield Educational Trust, the Alumni Society, and the Beautification Committee.

Much of the work of the Beautification Committee has been completed. I discovered that a person with little background in development was going to find raising $200,000 quite a challenge. So, this effort became a series of projects, large and small, that evolved continuously over two years. Fortunately, there were extraordinary folks who contributed throughout the process to different phases of the project. Maureen Eyles and Joanne Connor joined with David Hunter to publicize our early efforts. Some individuals like Gwen Hotaling, who did a pop-up art show, and Jamie Grookett, who organized a fifth grade service project at Elizabeth Haddon School, made their mark. Other larger organizations stepped up, including the Haddonfield Educational Trust, which agreed to pledge up to $25,000 of the proceeds from their golf tournament for two successive years. Golf chairpersons Chrissy Nelson Del Duca and Jack Tarditi were a dynamic duo who relentlessly worked to achieve these financial targets.

Another fundraising project emerged from a conversation some months before the project started. Alumnus Brad Spence, highly acclaimed chef/partner at Amis Trattoria, expressed an interest in doing an alumni event. Brad has been no stranger to supporting the schools, serving as the driving force in the highly successful Central School Spaghetti Dinners. Brad suggested a pig roast. I could not say “yes” fast enough and proposed that we do this event in support of the Beautification Project. Brad was all in. He sourced the pig, roasted it, made all the accompaniments, and served it. Other alumni stepped forward to help make this event a success. Dan Smith, vice president of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, set up the bar and made specialty cocktails. Drew Perry and Brian Needham of Double Nickle Brewery contributed the beer; the Albericos — Carolina, Michael, and Tom — supplied the wine; Christy Bowman provided a sound system and Doug Legnola the music; and Lisa and Chris Wolschina opened their home as the venue. For two successive years, the pig roast raised some $36,000, which the HAS contributed directly to the Beautification Project.

Much of that alumni contribution can now be seen in the Legacy Walk that resides in the newly reconstructed stadium plaza. The Alumni Society purchased brick pavers for all of the 108 Lifetime Achievement Award winners and the 200 or so members of the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Legacy Walk also commemorates several other team championships achieved by boys’ and girls’ basketball, tennis, cross country and football, as well as numerous alumni and community members. This is an ongoing effort. Families, alumni, and future Hall of Fame members and Lifetime Achievement Award winners will continue to be recognized on the Legacy Walk. The beautiful designs for nearly all these outdoor spaces were rendered by landscape architect, Lynn Raus, a Haddonfield parent. She was at my side from the beginning of this project through today. I owe her the largest debt of gratitude for her exceptional vision and for giving so much of herself to this project.

The Board of Education provided the impetus for another project by giving the committee permission to honor cross-country and track coaches Nick and Maureen Baker for their exceptional achievements over forty-plus years at HMHS. A committee of track alumni — Tom Brennan, Colin Baker, Tom Herdelin, and coach Dave Stewart — worked tirelessly to reach out to track and field athletes from many decades, and they came through in a major way to support the efforts to have the HMHS track named for the Bakers. Many bought benches, trees, and pavers that expressed their appreciation for the Bakers and their dedication to the program. In the spring of 2019, we had an alumni barbecue and officially named the facility the Baker Track.

I was not surprised that the community and especially the alumni community would support the beautification efforts. In fact, alumni giving is one of our town’s best-kept secrets. On Senior Awards Night, the Alumni Society and the classes of 1953, 1956, 1963, 1971, and 1982 all offer scholarships supporting students in continuing their academic careers. In addition, numerous individual alums or their families have established trusts or make gifts that are directed to scholarships. Alums were responsible for more than $150,000 of scholarship awards for the 2020-21 academic year, and an additional $300,000 of awards to be spread over the remaining three years of college. This is an extraordinary achievement which reflects the exceptional generosity and goodwill of our alumni. The alumni and community support for the Beautification Project has been exceptional, with gifts ranging from $25 to $25,000.

As you might expect, the pandemic has put quite a crimp in the kinds of activities that the HAS has thrived on for several years. Our annual Happy Hours scheduled in spring and late fall had to be cancelled, as was the HET Golf Tournament and Pig Roast. Several reunion classes had to postpone or cancel their events in anniversary years like the 25th, 35th, 50th, etc. The trustees of the HAS began to think of some ways that we might reconnect with the alumni community despite our inability to meet safely face-to-face. We created some interactive Zoom events like beer and wine tastings. Modeled after the Master Class website, the trustees proposed and instituted an Alumni Master Class where our talented and highly successful graduates created short classes to share their expertise, demonstrate their skills, or talk about their experience in their given field. To date they have been well received. Upcoming on February 19: Dave Guggino, a New York-based dancer and choreographer will lead a session entitled, “No Judgment, Just Move”. Dave promises to show us a move or two that are certain to embarrass our children. On February 27, Ben Axler, founder and CIO of the Spruce Capital Management hedge fund will present on “The GameStop Drama and Investing in Today’s Market.”

I suppose that it would be gratifying enough just to see the sketched designs for gardens or a stadium plaza come to fruition and improve the HMHS campus spaces. I am especially grateful that I am able to give back in some small measure to the place where I enjoyed a work life that was so personally fulfilling for me. I recognized in coming to Haddonfield that I enjoyed the gifts of a wonderful student body, a talented and caring faculty, supportive parents, and a community that highly values education. What I could not appreciate when I arrived was how deep and meaningful the connections to students, parents, and faculty would become. For me, one of the great joys in working with each of the three organizations was reconnecting with these talented, accomplished, and caring adults who are so willing to support the schools.

While the work on the Beautification Project is nearly finished, we will continue to add to the Legacy Walk and accept gifts toward the Sarah Tarditi Gallagher Garden that will take shape between the A and C buildings. The BOE has decided to expand on the Gallagher Garden to more fully utilize that space and to build an outdoor classroom.

As we go forward, one project worthy of further consideration sits squarely in front of the High School. Some time ago, David Hunter met me at the flagpole and suggested that it might be a good idea to include the restoration of the base of the flagpole in the Beautification Project. Unfortunately, the base has deteriorated significantly in recent years. While I really liked David’s idea, frankly I was a bit too timid to consider adding another piece to the project. Now, I would like to get it off the back burner. So, in the next several months, you may hear a bit more about that project. Keep us in mind if it is something you feel you can support.

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today and to share this story. I appreciate your time and all that Rotary does for the community.

Male resident succumbs to COVID-19

The Camden County Department of Health reported today that the death of a Haddonfield resident — a male in his 50s — has been attributed to the novel coronavirus. This brings to 11 the total number of local residents who have died of COVID-19.

The health department also added two residents to the list of those who have tested positive: a female in her 10s and a male in his 20s. The total number of cases for Haddonfield now stands at 485 — about 1 in 24 residents.

The Haddonfield death was one of 15 county-wide that the health department reported today. In commenting, County Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families as we mourn the passing of 15 additional members of our community due to COVID-19. Even with cases falling, we must continue to take preventative measures to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. In the coming months, we may begin to see life return to something resembling normal with the continued rollout of vaccinations. Until then, please continue to wear a mask, social distance, and work with our contact tracers when they call.”

New uses for old trees

The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a story titled “New roots: Haddonfield creates works of art out of cherished and historic fallen trees.”

It describes how some residents and community organizations are working to turn Borough trees that fall or are cut down into objects of art and utility.

Read Kevin Riordan’s story HERE.

Historic home burns in two-alarm fire

Courtesy of Matt Skoufalos, njpen.com

A historic Haddonfield home was badly damaged by a two-alarm fire that drew a heavy response from several area fire companies.

Units responded to the 500 block of Coles Mill Road around 5:45pm Friday [February 12], said Haddonfield Fire Chief Lou Frontino.

The occupants of the home were evacuated safely, and no injuries were reported, the chief said.

However, the fire took some time to subdue.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Boys Basketball: Know the team; watch them play

By Lauree Padgett. Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today.

Without the benefit of the roster that hangs on the wall by the entrance to the gym, it’s tough to put all the new faces with the numbers and figure out who is who. Here is the current roster to help Dawg fans get familiar with the 2021 team.

  • 21 Matt Leming — Junior — 6-3 Guard               
  • 2 Carson Wolfe — Junior — 5-11 Guard               
  • 4 Matt Guveiyian — Junior — 6-4 Forward            
  • 11 Tom Mooney — Junior — 6-2 Guard                
  • 22 Justin Kasko — Senior –6-4 Forward            
  • 5 Dante Del Duca — Junior — 6-2 Guard                 
  • 15 Jack Deegan — Senior — 6-4 Forward          
  • 3 Sean Bean — Junior — 5-10 Guard                
  • 13 Teddy Bond — Sophomore — 6-4 Guard              
  • 20 Matt Ventola — Junior — 6-1 Forward          
  • 24 Jon Bucci — Junior — 6-3 Guard              
  • 25 Christian Raymond — Junior — 6-1 Guard              
  • 32 Matt Kouse — Freshman — 6-2 Guard              
  • 33 Evan Rohifin — Junior — 6-2 Forward          
  • 35 Darragh Roddy — Freshman — 5-11 Guard  

Unless you are related to a player or are a member of the press (woohoo!), current COVID-related restrictions do not permit fans to attend games in person. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch games in real time or after the fact. Happily, for all hoops fans out there, the host school is providing a live feed of each game — varsity, JV, and frosh — via its athletics’ YouTube channel.

For a list of Colonial Conference YouTube channels, go HERE. Click on the desired school to be taken to that channel.

To access the Dawgs’ schedule. go HERE. Keep in mind that it will change as the season evolves … meaning, check the day of each scheduled game to make sure it’s still on and the time is still accurate. The weather forecast for this coming week could impact one or both of the upcoming home games.

And while there is nothing quite the same as being in the gym to cheer on your team, I will admit that sitting in a comfortable chair instead of going out in the cold, dark of winter to drive to a school to watch a game isn’t a bad deal. That being said, I am also grateful that I have the opportunity to see the Dawgs play at home from my own little corner of the gym, dubbed “the press” area.            

The long road back for Haddonfield Boys Basketball

By Lauree Padgett. Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today.

No one could have anticipated that when the Haddonfield Dawgs’ 2019–20 season came to an end on March 10, 2020, in a South Jersey Group 2 championship loss to Camden, it would be a few weeks short of a year before the team took to the court for an actual Colonial Conference contest. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought the New Jersey 2020 basketball state semi-finals to a screeching halt a few days later and would go on to upend sports on all levels, that spring, I doubt few people aside from maybe infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci weren’t thinking that by the fall of 2020, life, including high school sports, would be back to normal. Sigh.

The original Dawgs 2020–21 schedule had the first game happening on Friday, Dec. 18th versus Haddon Township. That schedule did not last too long before Governor Phil Murphy halted all winter (indoor) sports activities until mid-January. January 18, Dawgs’ coach Paul Wiedeman replied to an email of mine, saying in part, “So far we have successfully completed 7 days of practice uninterrupted. Our opening game against Haddon Township on January 26th has already been postponed and moved back to February because of COVID concerns on their part. …  Guys are working real hard in practice and are just excited to be in the gym playing basketball. I hope we can play all 15 games this year.”

Fifteen games, for those of you who don’t keep basketball stats memorized, would be exactly half of what the Dawgs played last season when they finished 25–5. Sectional playoff games were eliminated (meaning the 2019 Dawgs are still the reigning Group 2 state champion!), although individual conferences, such as the Colonial, could have their own playoffs. The number of non-conference games allowed, normally capped at 11, was also reduced.

But alas, per COVID-19 protocols, the Haddonfield squads had to then stop practicing for 2 weeks, pushing back the opening game even further. Finally, on Feb. 6, which, by this same date in 2020, the Dawgs played game 19 in their schedule, the team took to the court at Haddon Township. No fans were in the stands. The only people in the gymnasium were the players and their coaching staffs, the refs, and the other essential personnel, such as those running the clock/scoreboard and providing the audio and video feeds.

That first game showed just how much the delays and setbacks had impacted the Dawgs, who only brought back two players with starting varsity experience: senior Justin Kasko and junior Tom Mooney. The game was tied 5 all after one quarter, and the Dawgs had a 3-point, 14–11 lead at the half that they built up to a 19–13 advantage early in the third quarter. However, the shots stopped dropping and those quick 5 points would be the only ones that went on the board for the team in the remaining minutes of the quarter. (If I could tell you the time on the clock when the Dawgs made it 19–13, I would, but the Haddon Township feed did not provide a scoreboard, nor did the announcer think to provide any time updates.) When the quarter ended, the Dawgs were behind by 2, 19–21. Mooney and junior Carson Wolfe did help boost the Dawgs’ 4th quarter points, scoring two buckets each, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Hawks had beaten the Dawgs 38–30. According to the Courier Post, Haddon Township had not accomplished this feat in 48 years!!! The Retropsect was more, uh, circumspect, and reported it had been more than 40 years since the Hawks had secured a W versus the Bulldogs.

Game two of this shortened season took place 3 days later at Haddonfield. The Silver Knights of Sterling road into town and put it to their Colonial nemesis all four quarters, leading by 5, 11–6, after the first 8, upping that lead to 8, 31–23 at the half, and taking that to a double-digit advantage of 50–35 at the finish of the third. The final score was Sterling, 64, Haddonfield, 55. And although the Dawgs were now 0–2, those last 8 minutes gave a glimpse of what the team might be capable of, as five players—Wolfe, Mooney, juniors Matt Leming and Dante Del Duca, and freshman Matt Kouser—had scored to put 20 points, to Sterling’s 14, in the net. The team had also hit 10 three-pointers during the game.

Thursday, 2/11, the Dawgs went up the highway (Kings Highway, that is) to take to the court against another longtime rival, the Garnets of Haddon Heights. Last year, the Dawgs and the Garnets split their pair of conference games and then faced off for the third time in the South Jersey Group 2 semi-finals. That nail-biting 35–33 win, secured on a nifty poach of the ball and a layup by Dawg Connor Fell, also gave Paul Wiedeman his 500th as Haddonfield’s coach.

On one hand, the stakes weren’t quite so high in this matchup as they had been the last time the teams had met. On the other hand, no one wanted to see the Dawgs start off 0–3. (Or, as Vic Wiedeman reminded me when we passed each other in our cars in our Voorhees neighborhood and rolled down the window to chat, lose 4 games in a row, counting the Camden game.) From the outset, it was clear the Dawgs were not going to let that happen. Unlike the first two games, the Dawgs scored the first 5 points of the match on a 2 by Wolfe and a 3 by Leming. Heights got 2 back from the foul line, but the Dawgs scored the next 5, in a second verse same as the first, but in reverse order: a 3 by Leming and a 2 by Wolfe. Heights got another point from the free throw line, and Wolfe closed out the scoring for the quarter with his third bucket, putting the Dawgs up by double digits 12–3.

The Dawgs never looked back. Heights did score a bit more (7 points) and Haddonfield a bit less (9 points on another 3 from Leming and two more drives by Wolfe) in the second 8 minutes, but going into the half, the Dawgs were leading by 9, 19–10.

The Dawgs really stepped on the offensive gas in the third quarter, putting up 25 points to the Garnets’ 5. Wolfe knocked in 7 on a trio of 2’s and a foul shot. Leming got his fourth and fifth 3’s of the game (he would finish with 6 of them and a total of 22 points). Justin Kasko showed that he had been honing his 3-point shot in the offseason, swooshing in 2 along with as a basket from the foul line, and Dante Del Duca got into the 3-point act as well. Going into the last 8 minutes, the Dawgs were definitely in control, ahead by almost 30 points, 43–15.

Heights finally found its shooting range in the 4th, outscoring the Dawgs 18–11, but the Dawgs still won by a decisive 26 points, 54–28 to secure their first win of the 2021 season. In addition to Leming’s 22, Wolfe finished with 13 and six other players contributed to the total.

Saturday, 2/13 was the day I had pegged to go to a home game in person. As it turned out, it was the first game family members (two per player) were also allowed in the stands. (The Dawgs’ athletic department, under AD Lefty Banos, did a great job arranging the seats, assigned by numbers marked on the benches, so that social distancing protocols were followed. While families did chat a bit during halftime and as they were exiting the stands, I think everyone felt safe.) The foe was the Collingswood Panthers, always a tough team to beat. Could the Dawgs get another win to get to the .500 mark?

Well, Collingswood got the first bucket of the day at the 7:25 mark of the quarter 1. The Dawgs got on the board to tie it off a nice feed from junior Matthew Guveiyian to Tom Mooney. Then after rebounding a board at the other end, Guveiyian hit a 3 to put the Dawgs on top 5–2. The Panthers got 2 and then the Dawgs got 2 more on a nice drive by Kasko, putting the Dawgs up 7–4 with 4 minutes and change to go in the quarter.

Collingswood got to within 1 point on a basket its next possession, then went up by 1, 8–7, on a steal and a slam at the 3:22 mark. The next score of the game would come on a 2-point bucket by Leming, who was fouled. His shot at the line went in to put the Dawgs back on top by 2, 10–8. He got another 3 in one shot to push the lead up to 13–7 with 1:44 to go in the first.

Collingswood ended their mini-scoring drought with a 2, but Leming answered with another 2 and Mooney drained a 3. The Panthers got another basket, but Mooney hit another 3, and the first quarter ended with the Dawgs up 9, 21–12.

Both teams scored a bit less in the 2nd quarter, but the Dawgs were still able to build onto their lead, putting 10 more points on the board on 3’s by Mooney and Kasko and the equivalent of one by Leming, who was fouled beyond the 3-point arc and made all of his resulting foul shots. Mooney also added a point from the foul line, and going into the half, the Dawgs were ahead 31–17, with their solid D having held the Panthers to 5 points.

The third quarter was a little more evenly matched, as the Dawgs again got 10 on the board but this time the Panthers got 7. Still, going into the last 8 minutes, the Dawgs had a comfortable 41–24 lead. Sometimes that comfortable edge can vanish, as a team starts to lose a bit of momentum. However, thanks to Matt Kouser, who played a good part of the 4th and send in a trio of treys from way out there, and Mooney, who drove in for three consecutive layups, the Dawgs put 15 more on the board. The Panthers took a bit of an advantage of Wiedeman clearing his bench and actually outscored the Dawgs by 1 point, but it did not change the outcome. The Dawgs won their second straight by a 56–40 margin.

For the third straight game, the team combined for 10 3’s. Tom Mooney knocked in 18, Matt Leming, 16, and 7 Dawgs contributed to those 56 points.

So, what happened between the first two games, when the Dawgs lost by 8 and 9 points, respectively, and the second two games, when they won by 26 and 16, respectively? In my mind, it was almost like a switch was flipped. A team that looked tentative at best versus Haddon Township and even for the first three quarters against Sterling, with no one really taking charge, was in control from end to end of their games versus Heights and Collingswood. A parent I was in touch with put this about-face into perspective after the Heights victory: “That 14-day quarantine and coming back into games with virtually no practice time was tough. They are getting their rhythm back,” he noted, adding, “Great to see that win!”

And I think that is really the right takeaway. Teams returning most of their starting lineup from the previous year probably are in somewhat better shape than teams who are bringing in players who don’t have a lot, or even any, varsity minutes under their unis. Between the long delay of the season at the outset, and then the 2-week quarantine just as the Dawgs were getting ready to play ball, the players lost valuable time interacting with each other as a unit. How can a team gel when the players and coaches are isolated from each other? The short answer is, it can’t.

By the end of the Sterling game and then the full matchups against Haddon Heights and Collingswood, the players started being more in synch with each other. Turnovers started decreasing on their end and passing and assists picked up. Balls started dropping into the net instead of clacking off the rim or the backboard. Defensively, through great double teaming, pressing, and quick hands, the Dawgs started turning the tables on their opponents, forcing them to turn the ball over before getting shots off.

I’m not predicting that the Dawgs are now going to win their remaining (if the schedule holds up) 11 games, which doesn’t count the Colonial Conference Tournament. But I think the team is finding its mojo, now that they can really be a team again and under the in-person tutelage of one of South Jersey’s greatest coaches, Paul Wiedeman. And in a season that has been like no other, that counts for a lot.

Come back on Monday night (February 15) for:

  • Getting to Know the Team
  • How to Watch the Games, Live or Later