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Boys’ Basketball: Dawgs have “ruff” week

By Lauree Padgett. Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

The Haddonfield boys basketball team could have won three games this past week. Instead, they finished 1-2, with their only victory coming in a crazy contest against Colonial nemesis Collingswood. I’m going to be focusing on that game, the first one of the week, which took place at home on Tuesday, 2/8, not just because the Dawgs won it but because it truly was a yo-yo match in which both teams were in control—until they weren’t.

The second game, at Sterling on Thursday, 2/10, would decide who was going to win (or at least claim a share of) the Liberty division of the Colonial Conference. If Sterling won, the Silver Knights would spear sole possession, but if Haddonfield won, the teams would both have 12–2 records.

The game could not have started out any better for the Dawgs. Everyone in the starting lineup scored in the first 8 minutes of the game. Senior Matt Leming looked sharp with his two treys; senior Tom Mooney drove in the lane twice for field goals. Senior Matthew Guveiyian went up and in for a basket, and senior Dante Del Duca also scored in the paint. Sophomore Daire Roddy added 1 from the foul line. And except for Leming’s second 3 of the quarter, all the Dawgs’ points came before the Silver Knights made a basket. This was thanks in large part to the Dawgs’ great defensive display, which was causing turnovers and keeping Sterling from setting up plays. In their last possession of the quarter, Sterling had 8 seconds and could not get off a shot.

After putting 15 points to Sterling’s 2 on the board in the first quarter, Haddonfield only got 3 in the second while Sterling got 8. Still, at halftime, the Dawgs were up by 8, 18–10. It’s really hard to explain what happened to the Dawgs in the second half. Maybe they got out of their rhythm; maybe Sterling turned the tables on them and started making it hard for the Dawgs to run their usual offensive plays either in the paint or beyond the arc. But for whatever reason, the team stalled offensively. And instead of trying to make quick scoring attempts, the Dawgs kept passing the ball, looking for the perfect option even when players appeared to be open. If you are up by 10 and you pass the ball five or six times before a shot is made, that’s one thing. But when you are down by 10 and keep passing, it is hard to get the momentum back or cut the deficit.

In the third, Haddonfield managed one 2-point basket while Sterling took charge and put 20 on the board. When the game ended, the Dawgs and their fans looked a bit shell-shocked: Not only had Sterling had decisively won 43–25 in a game they had been trailing by 13 after the first quarter, they had also taken the conference crown for the first time in a long while. It was hard not to appreciate why the Silver Knights and their fans were so excited, but even so, it was a gut-punch loss for the Dawgs.

Saturday, 2/12, the Dawgs headed to Paul VI to go up against the Irish of Camden Catholic. A family matter kept me from the game, but Matthew Guveiyian’s Nanny, aka Debbie Vermaat, who got to the game a little before halftime, kept me posted so well, I felt like I was watching and had the same angst about it as if I were in the stands instead of in my den.

Given how the Sterling game had ended compared to how it had started, it would not have been too surprising if the Dawgs were still reeling and discombobulated. However, that was not the case. The game was close. The Dawgs were up by 4, 23–19, at the half, with the last points coming on a basket by senior Carson Wolff and 3 from the line by Leming, who was fouled behind the arc. At one point (haha) in the 3rd, 3’s by Mooney and Del Duca had the Dawgs up by 10, 34–24, but the Irish were not about to give up without a fight. They hit a few 3’s, including one at the buzzer and going into the 4th, the Dawgs were just up by 5, 36–31.

In the 4th, Camden Catholic kept chipping away. A few Dawg turnovers and another 3 helped the Irish get to within 3, 44–41, with just under 4 minutes left. (Remember, I wasn’t there; this is all from Debbie Vermaat’s texts!!) Another trey from Leming made it 49–43, Haddonfield, but Camden Catholic got the next 5 points to make it 49–46. With 28.6 seconds left in the game, the Dawgs were up by 1, 49–48 and Leming scored to make it 51–48 with 14.5 left. But the Irish swooshed in another 3 to tie the game. With only 2.8 left and having to inbound under the Irish’s basket, the Dawgs weren’t able to score.

Overtime proved the Dawgs’ downfall, as they lost by 2, 55–53. Even with the OT loss, I think this might have been a better bus ride home than the one on Thursday night. The Dawgs stayed in the game and had a chance to win it instead of being totally taken out offensively.

So now that you know how the Dawgs lost two games, let me tell you a little bit about the game versus the Collingswood Panthers that they won. Did I mention how crazy it was?

This game started out with Collingswood scoring the first two baskets. A jumper by Mooney got the Dawgs on the board, but the Panthers struck again to make it 2–6 before Del Duca made 1–2 from the foul line. Collingswood scored again, but a 3 by Mooney got the Dawgs to within 2, 6–8, with 2:54 left in the 1st. Mooney blocked a shot at the other end only to have the Dawgs lose possession on a bad pass. Neither team scored until the 42-second mark, when Guveiyian got an offensive board and went up and in, making it a 2-point game again, with the Dawgs down 8–10. Collingswood got the last basket from behind the arc to go up by 5, 13–8, as the quarter ended.

Mooney started off the 2nd with a basket to make it a 3-point game again, but after missing 2 shots from the foul line, Collingswood took advantage of a Dawg turnover to score on a slam and take that 5-point lead back, making it 15–10, Panthers, with 6:28 left in the half. But then the Dawgs went on a mini-run. Mooney hit a 3 and Wolff scored off a feed from Teddy Bond. With 5:33 on the clock, the game was tied at 15.

After a backcourt violation on Collingswood, Haddonfield gave the ball back, possibly on a travel. Then there was what I wrote down as “wild and woolly ball-handling” by both teams. The Panthers failed to score, got the rebound, and missed again. At the other end, Mooney did not miss and put the Dawgs up for the first time in the game, 17–15, with 4:11 to go in the half. A floater by Wolff after a ball went out of bounds off Collingswood pushed the Dawgs’ lead to 4, 19–15, and after good D by Bond and—hmm, what did I scribble on my notepad?—well, Bond and one of his teammates, the Panthers did not score again. And again, Mooney did, this time sinking a 3 to make it 22–15 with about 2:40 until the half.

At an angle that defied physics, Bond took a shot that somehow went in the net, giving the Dawgs a 9-point, 24–15, lead with 2 minutes on the clock. The Panthers broke their scoring drought to make it 24–17, but sophomore Sam Narducci, who had come into the game a few minutes earlier, nailed a 3 to give the Dawgs a double-digit, 27–17, edge at the half.

So, from being down by 5 after 1, the Dawgs were up by 10 at the half. I relayed this info to Vic Wiedeman, who was “stuck” in 80° weather in Florida, as he and his wife were visiting family. His comment was, “Good. Keep it up.” However, not too long into the 3rd quarter, the Dawgs were doing anything but. That was because in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd, not only did the Dawgs fail to score, the Panthers hit back-to-back 3’s and then with 5:57 on the clock, got a 2. Suddenly that nice 10-point cushion had shrunk to a 1-point, 27–26, advantage.

The Dawgs missed again, got the rebound but remained scoreless. A turnover by the Panthers gave the Dawgs back the ball and finally on a nice hesitation move off a pass from Mooney, Guveiyian got Haddonfield 2 points, making it a 4-point, 29–25.point game with 4:48 on the clock.

After a Dawg foul sent the Panthers to the line, where both shots were made, it was 29–27, Haddonfield. But not for long. The Panthers went on a run. After scoring a basket to tie it at 29 with 3:48 to go in the quarter, they scored another 2 and then a 3. In a little over a minute’s time, they had come from behind to take a 5-point, 34–29, lead. A floater from Guveiyian cut that to a 3-point, 34–31, lead, but Collingswood would get the last basket of the quarter, and going into the 4th, the Dawgs were now trailing by 5, 31–36.

Before I break down the last minutes of the game, let’s review the first 24 minutes. At the end of the 1st quarter, Collingswood was up by 5, 13–8. After putting 19 on the board in the 2nd while holding the Panthers to 4 points, Haddonfield was ahead by 10, 27–17. But by the end of the 3rd, Collingswood had literally returned the favor, adding 19 points to their total and only allowing the Dawgs, that is, Guveiyian, to score 2 baskets. As Haddonfield inbounded the ball to begin the final segment of the game, the only thing that seemed certain was that nothing was certain.

On that first possession, the Dawgs took a chunk out of that 5-point Panther lead thanks to Leming’s first basket of the game—a 3, making it 36–34, Collingswood, with 7:45 left in the quarter. And that score held for about 90 seconds before the Panthers scored off a Dawg turnover. So now the Dawgs were behind by 4, 34–38, with 6:15 to go. Another 3, this time by Mooney, with 5:50 on the clock cut the lead once more to 1, 37–38. Then another 2 by the Panthers made it a 3-point, 37–40, deficit again.

After picking off the ball, Wolff went all the way to the other end and scored. With 4:25 to go, the Dawgs were back to within 1, 39–40. Collingswood scored 2 but Wolff answered with another basket, so with 3:37 showing on the clock, the Panthers’ lead was once more down to 1, 42–41. A Haddonfield foul sent Collingswood to the line and resulted in 1 point going up on the board. However, Wolff (referred to by his initials, i.e., CW in my notepad, which is also my shorthand for Collingswood, which means things can get a bit confusing) scored his third straight basket. That meant with 3 minutes and change to go in regulation, the game was tied at 43.

After a timeout on the court, Roddy drove in the lane for a basket and was fouled. His shot from the line put the Dawgs out in front 46–43 with 2:23 to go. About 30 seconds later, Leming picked up his 5th foul, meaning he had fouled out of the game. (I don’t ever remember him doing that before. )Del Duca came in as Leming left the court. The foul sent the Panthers to the line for a 1+1 opportunity, but the first shot did not drop and Del Duca quickly got into the action by pulling down the defensive board.

After a missed shot and an offensive board, Coach Paul Wiedeman called a full timeout with 54.8 seconds left in the 4th. When play resumed, Wolff threw the ball inbounds to Guveiyian, who passed it to Mooney. He went driving into the basket and was flattened underneath. Not only was the play by Collingswood not deemed an intentional foul by the refs, it was not called a foul at all. Nobody in the Haddonfield contingency could believe that Mooney wasn’t going to the line for two shots.

Play stopped and started a few times as the Panthers had fouls to give. With 31.7 seconds left, Mooney went to the line for a 1+1. His first shot did not drop. Haddonfield committed a foul going for the rebound. Collingswood had another 1+1 opportunity and this time, made both shots. With 14.7 left, the Dawgs were now clinging to a 1-point, 46–45, edge. The Dawgs had to inbound the ball under the Panther basket. Guveiyian was set to pass the ball in, except he tossed it to Mooney, who had stepped to the sidelines as well, and then raced down the court as Mooney made a football pass. Guveiyian and the ball hooked up under the basket and he scored, putting the Dawgs up by 3, 48–45, with 3.5 seconds left. The Dawgs fans erupted. That celebration was then cut short as Collingswood hit a 3 ahead of the buzzer.

It was time for overtime, which starts with a tip-off at center court. The ball went to Collingswood, but Wolff, whose first sport may be football, but who is a tenacious presence on the hardwood, hustled and caused a jump ball, with the possession arrow favoring Haddonfield. The Dawgs gave the ball back after losing it out of bounds, only to have Collingswood do the same, and with a 1:20 off the clock, Mooney got the first basket of OT, a 3, putting the Dawgs up 51–48, with 2:40 left.

Collingswood tied it right back up with a 3 at its end, but Roddy, who had the big basket and foul shot in the 4th, got a 3 this time in one fell swoosh, and with 1:53 remaining, the Dawgs were back on top by 3, 54–51. Mooney and Roddy combined for a pickoff and Collingswood was called for a foul on Wolff, who was not able to convert the first end of a 1+1. However, he stole the ball at the other end and Mooney was fouled, which sent a Panther to the bench. Mooney also missed the front end of a 1+1, so with 19.4 left in OT, the Dawgs were still up 54–51. Wolff pulled off another steal and was fouled. He made both shots, making it a two possession, 56–51, game with 9.7 seconds left. Collingswood committed another foul to stop the clock with 3.8 remaining. Wolff inbounded the ball, sending another long pass to Guveiyian, who was on the court this time. He went up and in for a basket—but in a great display of good sportsmanship, chose not to slam the ball in the face of the Panther who was at the rim with him.

The OT buzzer sounded. After 36 minutes of a seesaw game, the Dawgs had prevailed 58–51. Tom Mooney, who had 15 of the Dawgs’ 19 2nd quarter points, finished with 21. Wolff had 12, 6 of which came in the last 12 minutes of the game. Guveiyian added 10, 8 of which came in the second half.

With the 1 win and 2 losses, the Dawgs are now 14–6 overall and 11–3 in the Colonial Conference. They have 3 games this week, all of them taking place in the afternoon. Tuesday, 2/15, they head to Haddon Heights for a 5:30 matchup against the Garnets, which will be the final Colonial Conference game of the season.  On Thursday, they host Pemberton Township for an extra early 3:45 game. Saturday, Lenape comes in for a 1 p.m. game. Looking ahead to next week, the Dawgs will host BCIT Westampton on Tuesday, 2/22, which will be Senior Night, at 7 p.m. and will close out the regular season at home on Thursday, 2/24, when they take on Kingsway Regional High School.