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Boys’ Basketball: Dawgs have an up-and-down week

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

As the regular season wound down last week, the Haddonfield boys basketball team only had two games, both non-conference matchups at home, on the docket. The first, on Tuesday, 2/22, was Senior Night and saw the Dawgs take on the Panthers of BCIT Westampton. Two nights later, the Dawgs went up against the Dragons of Kingsway Regional High School. Both games were high-volume and entertaining, but did not result in wins. I’ll break both down momentarily.

First, I want to remind everyone that tonight (Monday, 2/28) begins the NJSIAA hoops playoffs. It offers a rare chance to catch both the girls and boys, representing South Jersey Group 2,  at home. The girls, ranked 8th, will be facing 9th-seeded Point Pleasant Boro at 5 p.m. Then, the 3rd-seeded boys will be going head-to-head against Lower Cape May, the 14th seed.  To quote our unmatched play-by-play announcer, Mark Hershberger, I encourage everyone to come out and “make some noise for your Daaaawwwwggggs!!!”

Now, back to last week’s recaps.

Senior Night is always a bittersweet game. It’s not always the last home game of the season, but it’s usually one of the final ones before the post-season. when the motto becomes “Won or done.” Almost always, it’s a chance for the seniors who don’t start or are not in first off the bench to get some well-earned recognition and extra playing time. (The way I look at it, to be willing to be part of a team—attending all the practices, making all those bus rides, and knowing that your playing time is going to be limited—shows just how much you love the game of basketball and being part of something bigger than yourself and your ego.) Also almost always, Coach Paul Wiedeman honors his seniors by having them on the court for the tip-off. This proved a bit trickier than usual, as the Dawgs roster boasts nine 12th graders, meaning Wiedeman had to leave four sitting on the bench to begin with. But he made sure that all this seniors got in the game and had a chance to shine.

Carson Wolff, Matthew Guveiyian, Dante Del Duca, Tom Mooney, and Matt Leming were the five seniors who took to the court for the opening minutes. Guveiyian tipped the ball to Del Duca, who passed it to Leming. He went up and in for 2. At the other end, Guveiyian blocked the shot, but BCIT got the rebound and a bucket to tie it with less than a minute gone in the quarter. After a missed shot by Haddonfield, BCIT got the defensive board and another basket to take the lead, 4–2.

However, a 3 by Leming, which was his first of 5 in the half, and 2 from Mooney at the foul line put the Dawgs up by 3, 7–4, with 5:12 on the clock. A steal by the Panthers made it a 1-point, 7–6, game at the 4:32 mark. Guveiyian’s 2 in the paint pushed the Dawgs’ lead back to 3, 9–6, but a Panther basket and a foul shot tied it at 9 with just under 4 to go in the quarter.

Leming’s second trey broke the tie with 3:47 to go. Neither team scored again for more than a minute, when Leming, who was standing way behind the arc for most of his 3’s, nailed another one to put the Dawgs up by 6, 15–9. This resulted in a timeout called by BCIT. When play resumed, good hustle D from DelDuca caused an out-of-bounds call against the Panthers. An offensive board by Wolff and a feed by Mooney to Leming gave the Dawgs’ their biggest lead, 9 points, of the game, putting them up 18–9, with 1:12 to go in the quarter. BCIT got the last two baskets of the quarter, a 3 and a 2, so it ended with Haddonfield on top by 4, 18–14.

At the outset of quarter 2, sophomore Daire Roddy and junior Teddy Bond entered the game joining Guveiyian, Leming, and Mooney on the floor. BCIT had possession. What looked like a good defensive board to me was called a foul on Bond. The Dawgs also missed their first shot attempt of the quarter, but got it back on a pickoff by Leming. In my notepad, I scribbled, “WOW, ML!” That was my reaction to Leming’s 4th 3 of the game that seemed to be as high-arching as I could recall. (Expert analysis by Vic Wiedeman after the game explained that the further back a player is from the 3-point line, the more of an arc the shot will have.) That high-arching shot made it 21–14, Dawgs, with 6:27 left in the half.

Under the BCIT basket, Guveiyian grabbed the rebound and then, at the other end, dropped in a “mini”-slam off an assist from Mooney. This put the Dawgs out in front again by 9, 23–14. The Panthers could not score, the Dawgs also failed on their attempt, but a steal by Guveiyian put the ball in the hands of Mooney, who was fouled going up and in. He made 1–2 from the line, and with 4:50 on the clock, the Dawgs had a double-digit, 24–14, advantage.

Senior Jon Bucci entered the game for Guveiyian and wasted no time making his presence felt. He bounced into a steal, passed the ball to Leming, and take a wild guess as to what happened next. Yup. Leming hit his 5th 3 of the half to give the Dawgs a 27–14 lead with about 4 minutes on the clock. Meanwhile, Bucci kept on displaying his good defensive moves, blocking a shot and pulling down a board. Bond pulled down a clean offensive board and then followed it up with a 3, adding to the Dawgs’ lead, which was now 16 points, at 30–14.

Senior Sean Beane, who is a good ball-handler and can steal the ball or hit a 3, came in for Roddy with about 3 minutes left in the half. BCIT finally got a shot to drop for its first points of the 2nd, but Mooney got a 3 off the backboard, giving the Dawgs a lead that more than doubled the Panthers’ score,  33–16. That lead was cut by 3 on a behind-the-arc shot by BCIT on its next possession. Senior Evan Rohlfing came in for Bucci and got into the defensive mode immediately, picking up a foul and then blocking a shot. The quarter ended with the Dawgs still keeping the Panthers at bay by 14, 33–19.

The 3rd quarter started with Mooney, Wolff, Guveiyian, Leming, and DelDuca on the court and in possession of the ball. The Dawgs did not score but DelDuca’s “dogged” D at the other end resulted in an out-of-bounds call on BCIT. After Wolff grabbed the ball off a BCIT blocked shot, he passed it to DelDuca, who hit a 3, making it 36–39, Dawgs, with about 70 seconds gone in the quarter. He then pilfered the ball, but the Dawgs could not get a pair of shots to drop. BCIT replied with a 3, but even so, the Dawgs were still up by 14, 36–22. Foul shots by Mooney make it 38–22, Dawgs, with 5:32 left in the quarter.

A lot of action that did not include the ball going into the net ensued for about 90 seconds before Mooney put 3 on the board in one motion, and with 3:53 on the clock, the Dawgs were up by 19, 41–22. About 30 seconds later, Bucci returned to the court and was joined by senior Christian Raymond. I feel inclined to “note” that while I’m not sure if he knows the accompanying floor moves or just the lyrics, I saw Raymond lip-synching to a country line-dance song a few games back at Haddon Heights during a timeout. Whether he has dance moves remains to be seen, but he definitely has 3-point moves, as he swooshed one in, to the great delight of the crowd, especially his fellow students. That made it 44–22, with 2 and change left in the quarter.

The Panthers got that 3 back at the other end, and after a bad pass by the Dawgs that turned over the ball, scored a 2, and with 1:09 on the clock, the lead was “down” to 17, 44–27. What the fans in the stands saw next was hard to describe On my notepad, I said that it resembled a slapstick Keystone Cops routine, as no player on either team seemed to be able to hold onto the ball, even after diving on top of it. Finally, BCIT came up with the ball and finished out the 3rd with a 2, and a mini-run of 7 unanswered points. Despite the run, the Dawgs were still up by 15, 42–27, going into the last 8 minutes of the game.

In the 4th, BCIT outscored Haddonfield by 3, putting 16 points on the board to the Dawgs’ 13. Seven of the Dawgs’ points came from Mooney. Of those 7, 3 came from the line. Guveiyian, Bucci, and Roddy each scored a basket to account for the Dawgs’ other 6 points. Mooney’s 4th quarter offense gave him 18 for the game. Leming, who did all his scoring in the first 2 quarters, finished with 17. All nine seniors played, seven of them scored, and all of them played hard.

That win gave the Dawgs a 17–8 record going into their game versus the Dragons of Kingsway Regional High School, who play in the Tri-County league, 2 nights later. You may have guessed by this week’s recap title that if the BCIT game was the “up” side of the week, the Kingsway game was the “down” side. It was, and it wasn’t. Let me explain.

The Dawgs started off the game down by as much as 6 in the first quarter. But they hung in there thanks to baskets by Guveiyian and Mooney. The quarter ended, in fact, with the Dawgs trailing 6–12. However, the Dawgs kept fighting. In the 2nd quarter, the Dragons only out-scored them by 1 point. Leming and Bond each hit a 3, Beane and Guveiyian each had a basket, and Wolff knocked in 3 on a basket and a foul shot. So, going into the locker rooms at halftime, the Dawgs were down by 7, but had picked up the offense.

The third quarter got the Dawgs back into the game. Although Kingsway had the possession arrow and inbounded the ball, good hustle by DelDuca led to a jump ball and Haddonfield gaining the ball. DelDuca then scored, and his basket was followed by a basket by Guveiyian after the Dragons’ pass went out of bounds. With barely a minute gone, the Dawgs had cut into the Dragons’ lead and were now within 3, 23–26.

Kingsway and Haddonfield exchanged baskets, with the Dawgs’ coming on a drive by DelDuca, and with 5:56 on the clock, it was once again a 3-point game. After Roddy procured the defensive rebound, he handed off the ball to Mooney, who scored. Now the Dawgs were within 1, 27–28, and their fans were urging them on.

Again, the teams scored at either end of the court, with Guveiyian going up and in for Haddonfield. With 4:30 on the clock, Kingsway was holding onto that 1-point, 30–29, lead. The Dragons expanded that lead to 4 on a 3-pointer at the 4:15 mark. The Dawgs lost the ball on an errant pass, but the Dragons also did not score. DelDuca secured the rebound, and Roddy secured the basket, getting the Dawgs to within 2, 31–33. A Haddonfield foul sent Kingsway to the line, where 1 of 2 shots went it. With 3 minutes left in the quarter, the Dawgs were close but needed someone to make a big shot.

On cue, Leming sent a 3 into the net—although for added drama, the ball paused on the rim before slipping in—tying the game at 34. Dawg fans roared their approval. Kingsway decided to try for the last shot of the quarter, but the tactic backfired as they lost the ball out of bounds. Although Roddy’s half-court shot with about 1 second to go hit the backboard and bounced off, the fans still cheered. The Dawgs had overcome a 7-point halftime deficit and were going into the 4th in a dead heat.

The 4th quarter possession belonged to Kingsway, but their shot missed the mark. At the other end, Haddonfield’s shot also did not drop. With 7:07 left in the game, the Dragons pulled ahead on a basket, but their lead was short-lived, as Guveiyian got an offensive board and put the ball up and in. After a Dragon miscue turned the ball over, the Dawgs had a chance to go ahead for the first time. The setup for the shot looked  good, but the ball did not go in the net. At the other end, as the Dawgs’ students were chanting “Air ball, air ball” to a Dragon who had whiffed earlier in the game, he once more obliged.

A steal by Kingsway did not result in a basket, and although the Dawgs got the rebound, they lost it out of bounds before a shot could be taken. The Dragons got their own rebound and scored, and were fouled in the process. They missed the foul shot but again got the rebound before losing the ball out of bounds on an overthrown pass.

Finally, the Dawgs scored on a feed from Guveiyian to Leming, knotting it up at 38 all with 3:29 on the clock. After a timeout, Mooney came back in the game sporting a #44 shirt, so he must have gotten blood on his #11 uni, although how and when that occurred, I am not sure.

With 3:08 left in the game Kingsway hit the first of its back-to-back 3’s; the second put them up by 6, 44–38, with 2:45 showing on the clock. The Dawgs weren’t giving up, and after both teams did not score, Wolff stole the ball and scored. With 1:42 remaining, the Dawgs were back to within 4, 40–44. However, those 2 points would be the last ones the Dawgs managed to put on the board. The Dragons scored the next 6, and when the buzzer sounded, they had won by 10, 50–40, although the game was much closer for most of the quarter. The Dawgs had fought and come oh so close, but in the end, they just could not get that tie-breaking basket to go in when they had the chances. Guveiyian was the only Dawg in double digits, finishing with 10. Leming had 8, and Mooney, 6.

It wasn’t the W that Paul Wiedeman likes to see as the regular season closes out. But it was a gut game; the Dawgs could have let the game get out of reach, but that’s not how they are coached nor how they play. Sporting a 17–9 record as the South Jersey playoff starts, they still have the ability, the tenacity, and the heart to keep on playing—and winning. So come on out tonight and show them some well-deserved support.