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Boys’ Basketball: Dawgs slay Knights to capture Liberty title

By Lauree Padgett / Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

Well, the bad news is that the Dawgs’ winning streak did not reach 18, thanks to the Tigers of Camden Eastside, who eliminated them from the Camden County Tournament in their quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, 2/11. The good news is that win number 17 in a row, which came against Sterling on Thursday, 2/9, gave the Dawgs sole possession of the Colonial Conference Liberty crown, at 9-1. (They also finished atop the overall conference, going 14-1.) Haddonfield’s only conference loss came in the first week of January at the hands of the Silver Knights on Sterling’s home court, so this win at Haddonfield was extra special.

First, I’ll give some highlights of the Dawgs’ initial game of the week at Paulsboro, provide some more details about the Liberty conference clincher, spend a little time assessing the team’s first defeat in 18 games, and then take a look at what lies ahead.

Game 1: Haddonfield at Paulsboro, 2/7/23

My travel buddy and I texted each other ahead of the game that we were both a little antsy about this trip down to the Red Raiders’ turf, as no matter what their record is, it’s never easy putting away Paulsboro on their own court. En route, I asked about something that had been perplexing me for the past few days. Ever since the Colonial had split into two divisions, Paulsboro had been in the Patriot and Haddonfield had been in the Liberty, which meant we shouldn’t have been playing them a second time this season. Had they, I asked, switched divisions? The answer was yes, and the swap-out meant that another team which had been in the Liberty division, Collingswood, took Paulsboro’s place in the Patriot. This happened as a result of enrollment sizes changing in both schools. This is why it’s so helpful to have a travel buddy that knows all these details, since I had clearly missed the (non) memo about the schools switching places.

Meanwhile, our fears about the Red Raiders giving the Dawgs a rough time were put to rest before halftime. Sam Narducci got the offense started by swooshing in a 3 after both teams failed to score their first possessions. The Red Raiders’ first bucket was a 2, at the 4:14 mark, but after Daire Roddy pulled down an offensive board, he passed it to Teddy Bond, who went up and in for 2. Roddy then picked off the ball, dished it to Narducci, who did a dandy overhand maneuver, and with 2:59 on the clock, the Dawgs were up by 5, 7–2.

The Raiders got 2 on a nice drive in the paint, but the Dawgs would finish out the quarter with a 2 from Zach Langan, a 2 from Patrick Ryan, and another 3 from Narducci, putting them up by 10, 14–4, going into the second quarter.

The Red Raiders got 7 on the board in the next 8 minutes, but the Dawgs added 15. Bond and Roddy hit 3’s, Roddy’s coming on a great pass from Langan under the basket. Speaking of Langan, he got another bucket off a nice bounce pass from Ryan. Nate Rohlfing made 3 baskets in the paint; two came from feeds by Roddy, and the last one was off a pass from Ryan. Going into the half, the Dawgs were making Paulsboro see red, up by 18, 29–11.

As if the Dawgs D (aka Haddonfield Havoc) hadn’t been giving the Raiders enough trouble in the first two quarters, in the third, they held Paulsboro to just one field goal, which came midway through. Meanwhile, Bond kicked off the second half with a 3, Langan and Rohlfing each scored a bucket, and Ryan picked up 2 more baskets. Going into the last 8 minutes of play, the Dawgs were ahead by 27 points, 40–13.

The Raiders actually doubled their score in the 4th quarter, but this was the Dawgs’ biggest offensive output of the game as well, as seven players combined for 21 points. Matt Morris got a field goal, Rohlfing got a bucket and made a foul shot, Ryan got another pair of 2-pointers, and Narducci knocked down one more trey. The JV squad came in to contribute 9: Phil McFillin drained a 3, as did Mike Douglas. He also made one from the foul line. And Joe Tedeschi also got a ball in the net from the field.

When the buzzer sounded, the Dawgs had hit sweet 16 in their winning streak, defeating a team that is not usually so easy to beat at home by a score of 61–26. Rohlfing finished with 12, Narducci had 11, and Ryan added 10.

Quarter Scores:

1st Quarter: Haddonfield, 14, Paulsboro, 4

2nd Quarter: Haddonfield, 29, Paulsboro, 11

3rd Quarter: 40, Haddonfield, Paulsboro, 13,

4th Quarter: Haddonfield, 61, Paulsboro, 26

Player Scores:

Nate Rohlfing: 12

Sam Narducci: 11

Patrick Ryan: 10

Teddy Bond: 8

Zach Langan: 6

Mike Douglas: 4

Phil McFillin: 3

Matt Morris: 2

Joe Tedeschi: 2

Game 2: Sterling at Haddonfield, 2/9/23

In 1973, Haddonfield, under the leadership of Dave Wiedeman, our current coach’s dad, won the school’s first state title on St. Patrick’s Day. They did not win the Colonial, however, as they lost two times, both to Sterling. (And by the way, happy 50th anniversary to Dave and his team, which included Kevin Eastman, Tom Betley, Kirby Wood, Tom Hare, and Hank Whitten.) By the mid-70s, the team to beat in the conference was Haddon Heights. I remember one time on a snowy night when Haddonfield, known at the time as the Haddons or the Bulldogs, hosted Heights in game that was stressful from the first whistle to the last buzzer. If memory serves me correctly, Haddonfield eked out a 1-point victory.

Fast-forward to the early 2000s, and the Panthers of Collingswood had become the main conference nemesis of the (now) Dawgs. In one contest at Collingswood in 2007, the Panthers were up by 5 and literally seconds away from a victory when Greg Steinberger hit a 3 and after an out-of-bounds off Collingswood with maybe 1:5 on the clock, Spencer Reed tied it off the inbounds, pushing the game into OT. Haddonfield won that easily.  

And now, in the 2020s, it seems like Sterling and Haddonfield are once again the big rivals in the conference. The Silver Knights’ 8-point win in January at home versus Haddonfield meant they had won four out of the last five games against the Dawgs going back to the abbreviated 2020 season. However, coming into Thursday’s contest, Sterling had one more loss than the Dawgs in the Liberty (having been defeated by Haddon Heights and Paulsboro). So if the Dawgs could pull off a W, they would claim the Liberty outright, not have it end in a tie with the Silver Knights.

Thanks to a strong first 8 minutes of play, the Dawgs were able to secure that win and the title. Daire Roddy started things off with a 3 on a pass from Zach Langan. Although Sterling failed to score, the Knights speared the ball away and got a bucket to make it 3­­–2, Haddonfield, with 6:41 on the clock. The Dawgs shook that mistake off and went on a 7–0 run with a pair of 2-point baskets by Patrick Ryan on feeds from Langan and then a 3 from Bond off an assist from Roddy, which made it 10–2, Dawgs.

The Silver Knights ended their mini drought on a field goal, but Ryan and Bond followed with another 2 and 3, respectively. With 1:15 left in the quarter, the Dawgs were now up by double digits, 15–4. Sterling did get a 3-pointer, but Ryan got his third field goal of the quarter, and when the buzzer sounded, the Dawgs on top by 10, 17–7.

Ryan kept the Dawgs in front in the second. His series of baskets and foul shots looked like code in my scorebook: 2 1 2 1 2. At one ahem, point, he was outscoring Sterling all on his own. He was aided and abetted by a 3 from Sam Narducci, 2-pointers from Bond and Langan, and a foul shot by Nate Rohlfing. Although the Silver Knights upped their points in the second quarter, the Dawgs still bested them by 5, and at the half, the Dawgs’ chances of the Liberty title were looking quite promising, as they were ahead by 15, 33–18.

In the third quarter, Sterling put 1 more point on the board than Haddonfield, with 13. The Dawgs only had four field goals, 2 by Narducci and 1 each by Ryan and Bond. The other 4 points came from the foul line. Matt Morris was fouled attempting a 3, so he was awarded 3 shots from the line and coolly sank all of them. Ryan also added 1 from the line. Sterling’s 1-point quarter edge didn’t make much of a dent in the Dawgs’ lead, and going into the final period, Sterling was still trailing Haddonfield by 14, 31–45.

In the fourth, 8 of Haddonfield’s 12 points came off of foul shots. Narducci and Bond each made 4. I thought this was a good sign overall, as one of my few criticisms of the Dawgs has been there inconsistency at the foul line. Bond also had a field goal, as did Joe Tedeschi in off the bench. So without causing their fans (or coaches) much angst at all, the Dawgs evened the season series with Sterling at 1 all but, most importantly, won the Colonial Liberty with their 57–40 victory. Patrick Ryan, with his 7 buckets from the field, was high scorer for Haddonfield with 17. Bond was close behind with 16, and Narducci had 13.

I contacted Haddonfield Coach Paul Wiedeman the next day for some comments about the team. I specifically asked about the tough D they have been playing all year, and if the streak had helped them with their confidence. This is what he had to say.

First, he noted that they have had the same mentality all year: “Play fast and unselfish on the offensive while pressuring the ball on the defensive side with our zone defense.” He did acknowledge that while the streak is not something they have focused on, it has helped them to know if they “play hard and unselfishly, good things occur.”

He added that the emphasis has been on instilling good habits in practice that the players can then execute during games. His response to how much the team has worked on defense was interesting: “Because of the new basketball calendar, and playing so many games in a week, we have not had as much time to practice and work on our defense. We just instinctively know how to pressure the ball and cause teams to rush their shots or turn the ball over.”

Quarter Scores:

1st Quarter: Haddonfield, 17, Sterling, 7

2nd Quarter: Haddonfield, 33, Sterling, 18

3rd Quarter: Haddonfield, 45, Sterling, 31

4th Quarter: Haddonfield, 57, Sterling, 40

Player Scores:

Patrick Ryan: 17

Teddy Bond: 16

Sam Narducci: 13

Matt Morris: 3

Zach Langan: 2

Joe Tedeschi: 2

Nate Rohlfing: 1

Game 3: Haddonfield versus Camden Eastside at Sterling—Quarterfinals of the Camden County Tournament

I admit that I was more than a little apprehensive coming into Saturday’s quarterfinal game against the Tigers of Eastside. I had done a bit of checking and found out that although Eastside was seeded third to Haddonfield’s sixth slot (with the seedings determined earlier in the season before Haddonfield had gone on its tear), going into the match, the Dawgs had the better overall record, 23–3, to Eastside’s 14–4. The Dawgs also had a better conference record, 14–1, to Eastside’s record of 7–4 in the Olympic conference. Those extra wins did not convince me that the Dawgs were going to roll over the Tigers in the same way as they had done to so many other opponents this season.

The first half of the game was competitive, and the Dawgs led for a good part of it. Although the Tigers jumped out to a 5–0 and then a 3–8 lead (with the 3 for Haddonfield coming off a trey by Sam Narducci), the Dawgs fought to tie it at 8 a the 3:22 mark thanks to another 3 from Narducci and 2 in the paint by Patrick Ryan. After a pickoff that was a team effort but ultimately credited to Narducci, Ryan scored again to put the Dawgs up by 2, 10–8, with 2:02 on the clock. The Tigers tied it off an offensive board, but Teddy Bond’s 3 with about 38 seconds to go put the Dawgs back in front 13–10. After the Tigers answered with a 2, Narducci drove into the lane just ahead of the buzzer for 2, giving the Dawgs a 3-point, 15–12, edge going into the second quarter.

At the outset, Eastside brought the match even again with a foul shot and then a basket. At the foul line again with a chance to make a 3-point play, the Tigers did not convert, and Bond grabbed the rebound. He set up another 3 from Narducci, and after the teams exchanged turnovers, Bond picked off the ball again and Nate Rohlfing scored, making it 20–15, Haddonfield, with 5:35 to go in the half. That would be the Dawgs’ last field goal of the half. Rohlfing did add 1 from the line, and Eastside got another 2. The Dawgs lost the ball out of bounds with 13.1 on the clock and instead of the Dawgs having a chance to add to their lead, the Tigers had a chance to get closer. Narducci’s steal kept that from happening, and as the teams left the court at halftime, the Dawgs were up 21–17, and I was feeling a bit more optimistic than I had before the game tipped off.

The way the second half began did not bode well for the Dawgs, who had possession. The Tigers, who gave the Dawgs a taste of their own medicine the whole game with a lot of pressure defense, caused the Dawgs to lose the ball out of bounds off a bad pass. They scored to make it a 21–19 game. A few plays later, Eastside stole the ball and scored again, tying it at 21 with 6:06 on the clock.

Narducci broke the tie with a 3, enabling the Dawgs to go back up 24–21. Foul shots by Eastside cut that cushion to 1, before a basket by Zach Langan pushed the lead back up to 3, 25–21, with 1:59 to go. The Tigers finished out the quarter on an 8–0 run with a pair of 3’s and 2 shots from the line. Going into the final 8 minutes, were up by 5, 31–26, and most concerning, they had held the Dawgs to just 5 points.

The Dawgs did a little better offensively in the fourth, putting 9 on the board, but Eastside began to pull away. Haddonfield just could not hold onto the ball, losing it on bad passes or due to sloppy ball handling. This seemed to be largely due to fatigue that was overtaking the Dawgs, who were not used to playing with a team that liked to push the ball offensively and press defensively. They bested the Dawgs by 16 in the quarter, with 2 coming off impressive (said grudgingly) slams. When the horn sounded, the Dawgs’ 17-game win streak had been snuffed out at the claws of the Tigers, who won by a 12-point, 47–35, margin. Narducci was the only Dawg in double figures, finishing with 19, and kept the Tigers from winning by a larger margin.

Quarter Scores;

1st Quarter: Haddonfield, 15, Eastside, 12

2nd Quarter: Haddonfield, 21, Eastside, 17

3rd Quarter: Haddonfield, 26, Eastside, 31

4th Quarter: Haddonfield, 35, Eastside, 47

Player Scores:

Sam Narducci: 19

Teddy Bond: 5

Patrick Ryan: 4

Nate Rohlfing: 3

Daire Roddy: 2

Zach Langan: 2

The Week Ahead

Having been eliminated from the final two rounds of the Camden County Tournament, the Dawgs have some open slots to potentially fill between now and the start of the NJSIAA tournament on 2/28. (Bracket selections should be out by Tuesday, if not Monday.) It looks like Tuesday night (but double-check the Dawgs’ online schedule), the Dawgs are going to host Eastern Regional High School, as the Vikings also lost their quarterfinal match on Saturday. I suspect Coach Wiedeman will try to get a few more games onto the schedule so the Dawgs aren’t idle for too long. It’s looking hopeful that the Dawgs will get a high, if not the number 1, South Jersey Group 2 seed, which means they would be playing on their home court for at least the early rounds of the state tournament.