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.