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

By Lauree Padgett. Exclusive to Haddonfield Today

Due to the forecasted snow Saturday, 1/29, the Jeff Cooney Classic, which has become a mainstay at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, had already been canceled by Thursday, 1/27, which meant the Dawgs did not have its scheduled contest against Burlington Township High School to see if they would finish 2–1 or 1–2 for week number six of the season. Instead, the Haddonfield boys had to settle for a 1–1 split which saw them score more than 80 points and beat one Colonial Conference opponent by 28 points only to see them faulter against another, losing by 6 but only hitting double digits in one out of four quarters.

The week started off with the Dawgs welcoming the Thundering Herd of Woodbury to their court. When Haddonfield’s play-by-play man Mark Hershberger was introducing the visiting squad, I found out the team was starting with a trio of sophomores and a pair of juniors. Haddonfield’s starting lineup usually (and did this game) sports three seniors, a junior, and a sophomore. The Dawgs raced out to a 12–2 lead with not even 4 minutes gone thanks to 3’s by junior Teddy Bond and senior Tom Mooney, a 2-point field goal by senior Matt Leming, and a pair of 2’s under the rim by senior Matthew Guveiyian. After the Herd hit its first trey of the game to make it 12–5, the Dawgs went on another run, scoring 13 unanswered points (a 2 from Guveiyian, a 3 from Leming, a 2 by Mooney, and 3’s by Leming and senior Dante Del Duca) and were up by 20, 25–5, after 8 minutes.

While Haddonfield hit 5 treys to Woodbury’s 1 in the first, in the 2nd, Woodbury began making shots from beyond the arc. This enabled the Herd to put 20 on the board, matching Haddonfield’s 4 3’s with 4 of their own. The Dawgs still outscored them by 4, and early in the 2nd, after a 2 from Del Duca and a pair of 3’s from the Matts, the Dawgs had amassed a 33–5 edge, which would be their largest lead of the game. Senior Sean Beane got into the scoring act in the 2nd, producing the other 2 of the Dawgs’ 3’s, as well as a 2-pointer. Fellow senior Carson Wolff, who usually plays a good chunk of the 2nd, had a pair of field goals, and a drive in the paint by Guveiyian accounted for the other basket of the 2nd. Despite the Herd’s spurt in offense, when the teams headed off the court for halftime, the Dawgs were still in command, up by 24, 49–25.

The Dawgs’ scoring tapered off in the 3rd because the team was passing more between shots. Guveiyian got 3 buckets plus a pair from the foul line to put up 8 of Haddonfield’s 13 points. Mooney added 3 on a field goal and a foul shot, and Bond got 2 on a field goal. The Herd got 12, so as the buzzer sounded to end the 3rd, the Dawgs had added 1 point to their lead and were ahead by 25, 62–37.

In the 4th quarter, it was sophomore Sam Narducci’s time to get hot. He had 3 3’s, two of which were made back-to-back, Mooney got another 3, Wolff got 3 on a basket and a foul shot, while Leming got a 2, as did sophomore Patrick Ryan. When all was said and done, the Dawgs beat a young Herd 83–55. Nine Dawgs contributed to those 83 points, including four who hit double digits.  Matthew Guveiyian, who also had 7 blocked shots and quite a few rebounds, finished with 19 points. Leming had 13, and Mooney and Narducci finished with 11 apiece.

Based on what I saw, especially from their sophomores, I’m expecting Woodbury to put up much more of a challenge (especially on their home court) when the teams meet up in 2023.

Haddonfield could have used some of those extra points 2 days later when then paid a visit to the Paulsboro Red Raiders. (And let me say thank you to one player’s family—they know who they are—for letting me claim one of the 4 tickets that were supposed to be allotted per player per team even though I was not asked who that player was when I was checked in at the admissions table.) Had I not had that option, I might have been more aggravated at home when the live feed never materialized then I was watching in person. Then again, maybe not …

The first quarter started out well enough for the guests in red and black, who got the first bucket of the game on a 3 by Leming at the 4:28 mark after neither team was able to score their first few possessions. After Paulsboro got a 2 at the other end, Mooney launched a 3 on a feed from Guveiyian. Again, Paulsboro countered with a 2, and Leming hit another 3, so with 2:44 left in the quarter, the Dawgs were looking pretty good with a 9­–4 lead. That did not hold up, as the Red Raiders got the last 5 points of the quarter, first getting a 2-pointer to make it 9–6, Dawgs, and then sinking a 3 to tie it up with about 49 seconds on the clock. The Dawgs had a few more chances to score but failed, so when quarter 1 came to an end, it was still 9 all.

The game only got more exasperating after that. Maybe it was the fatigue of playing a bunch of games over a short stretch, or maybe it was an imperfect storm in which all of Haddonfield’s usually reliable shooters had off nights. While the team played their usual good, often pressure, defense, because Haddonfield was not making shots—no one, in fact, seemed too eager to attempt them—Paulsboro was still able to pull ahead in the 2nd and took a 23–19 lead into the half, thanks in large part to the Dawgs only increasing their 9-point 1st quarter output by 1.

Nine points would have been an improvement over the 4, yes, that was not a typo, 4 points the Dawgs managed to muster in the 3rd. After Guveiyian got the first basket to get the Dawgs to within 2, 21–23, after about 20 seconds had gone off the clock, the Red Raiders would go on a 10-point run. By the time Mooney got the Dawgs’ second field goal of the 3rd, with nearly 5 minutes having gone by since Guveiyian’s, the Red Raiders were ahead 33–21 with just under 2 minutes to go in the quarter. Before the quarter ended, each team had gotten one more 2-point field goal, so going into the 4th, Paulsboro was still up by 12, 35–23.

As for that 4th quarter, it was the definition of frustration. The Dawgs started chipping away at that 12-point lead. With 3:14 (or 3:19, I can’t read my scribble in my notepad) on the clock, a basket by Guveiyian got the Dawgs to within 5, 30–35. At that “point,” I know I was not the only Haddonfield fan remembering the game almost 8 years ago to the day when Rob DePersia cut a 19-point deficit to a 16-point one as he nailed a 3 ahead of the halftime buzzer and then led the Dawgs, who were down by 11 going into the 4th, to a 68–63 comeback. Were the Dawgs going to pull off another come-from-beyond shocker on the Red Raider court?

No. In fact, the Dawgs weren’t going to score another point in those 3-plus minutes. And what was especially excruciating was that the Dawgs defense, combined with the Red Raiders going a bit cold, gave Haddonfield every chance to tighten that gap with possession. But the Dawgs just couldn’t find the net. And while the Raiders only put 1 more up on the board from the foul line, it did not matter. When the horn sounded, the Dawgs had lost by 6, 36–30, in a game in which nothing much went right. Just like in their thriller against Overbrook the week before when the whole team contributed to their 41–40 win, this lost was not on the shoulders of one or two players. As well as the team did defensively, it was not enough to overcome what was by far the Dawgs’ worst offensive showing to date. Still, after 15 games, the Dawgs have a 12–3 record overall and are 8–2 in Colonial Conference play.

Although I am sure the players would have preferred the chance to shake off that lackluster 32 minutes of shooting by playing Saturday, now the team will not take to the floor again until Tuesday, 2/1, when they start the second half of the season by hosting the Hawks of Haddon Township, who they beat 39–27 to kick off the season back in December. Game time is 7 p.m. On 2/3, the team will travel down to West Deptford to take on the Eagles for an early 5:30 start. The week’s action concludes on 2/5, when the Dawgs go to Holy Cross Academy for a nonleague matchup  against Cherokee in a game scheduled to tipoff at 12:15 p.m.