By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today
When last we left the Haddonfield boys basketball team, they had pulled their record to .500 with a solid win against Collingswood on 2/13. Due to the COVID-delayed start of the season and then more COVID-related setbacks, that game was only the team’s fourth of the season.
This past week, the Dawgs played three home games versus fellow Colonial Conference teams. I’ll provide the highlights for each. Spoiler alert: The Dawgs are now on a 5-game winning streak.
With the shortened season, the Dawgs hosted Haddon Heights on Tuesday, 2/16, only 5 days after earning their first win of the short season against the Garnets on the Garnets’ court. What would the rematch look like?
Well, to be blunt, it was an ugly first quarter. Haddonfield did not put a single point on the board, not even from the foul line. The Garnets didn’t do much better. After knocking in a 3 within the first minute, they also went scoreless for the next 7-plus minutes.
I’m sure most of the smattering of parents and others in the gym, including yours truly, were thinking that the game from the Dawgs’ end had to improve in the next 8 minutes. But after Heights scored a 3 and a 2 to go up 8-0, I was looking down at my scorepad wondering what had happened to the team that had looked so much more in sync versus Collingswood 3 days earlier. Turns out, they were there, but it took them a while to warm up.
Junior Dante Del Duca entered the game as the 2nd quarter started and proved to be the spark that got the Dawgs going. He gave Haddonfield its first point of the game from the foul line at the 5:29 mark, but that still meant the Dawgs were trailing by 7, 8–1. Coach Paul Wiedeman thought this was a good time for a timeout, and whatever wisdom he must have imparted verbally or on his handy whiteboard, it worked. Junior Matt Guveiyian and senior Justin Kasko pressed the Garnets into a travel, and at the other end, Del Duca swooshed in a 3. Now it was an 8–4 game.
After a blocked shot by Kasko, Del Duca continued his scoring ways, going up and in for a layup after stealing the ball off the Haddon Heights inbound play. Now the Dawgs were only down by 2 with just over 4 to go in the half. Neither team scored for the next few minutes, but when a shot finally made it into the net, it was a 3 from the Dawgs’ freshman, Matt Kouser, who also had come in off the bench, and with 1:39 on the clock, the Dawgs finally had a lead, albeit 1 point, 9–8.
Again, neither team scored for a few plays, and with less than a minute to go, Haddon Heights was in possession of the ball and running the clock down, hoping to get the last shot of the half and retake the lead. However, the best laid plans of mice and Garnets … led to a turnover with 3.7 showing on the clock. (Speaking of the clock, if anyone has been wondering, yes, Jeff Holman is that masked man behind mission control again, although his partner in crime, Dawgs’ play-by-play man Mark Hershberger, is not sitting in his usual position beside Holman. Instead, Hershberger is calling the shots, so to speak, a few rows back, but has had to put his trademark catch phrase, “Get ‘em while they’re hot, … Dawgs” on simmer.)
Back to the action. After giving up two fouls and whittling the clock down to 1.0, Heights called a timeout, and it seemed unlikely the Dawgs would have time to get off a shot from the inbound. Unlikely or not, Kouser got the ball and let it loose. As the buzzer sounded, it went into the basket for his second 3 of the quarter, putting the Dawgs up by 4, 12–8, as the teams headed off the court for halftime.
From putting up a big 0 on the board in the first, the Dawgs exploded for 25 points in the third quarter. Fifteen came off five 3’s: three by Guveiyian and one each by Del Duca and junior Matt Leming. Guveiyian, Del Duca, and another junior, Carson Wolfe, all had 2’s. And Leming and junior Tom Mooney each made a pair of free throws. (Speaking of Mooney, our versatile point guard, although our announcer has dropped the “my” off his first name, perhaps at the behest of the player himself, I’m still calling him “Tommy” out of habit. Well, mostly out of habit.)
Along with finally getting the ball into the net, the Dawgs were also helping to keep the Garnets from getting as many good shots off. While Heights got the first basket of the third to pull to within 2, 12–10, the Garnets did not get a second ball to drop for another 4 minutes. As the quarter came to an end, the Dawgs had more than tripled the Garnets’ score and were in control 37–12.
Haddon Heights actually outscored Haddonfield 24–17 in the last 8 minutes, but by then it did not matter, and also, the Dawg starters and first-off-the-bench players got to watch the game for the last few minutes. When all was said and done, the Dawgs had won by 18, 54–36. Fittingly, Dante Del Duca, who kick-started the squad in the second, finished as high scorer for Haddonfield with 14 points. Matt Guveiyian, helped by his trio of treys in the third, had 12.
Due to another round of winter weather, the Dawgs’ matchup with the Eagles of West Deptford got pushed back a day and was played at an earlier time of 4:30 at Haddonfield on Friday, 2/19. This was probably Haddonfield’s most consistent showing of the early season. And it was put in motion by its two seniors, Justin Kasko and Jack Deegan, who are also the team’s co-captains. While Deegan comes off the bench regularly and always gives good minutes, he is not a starter. But as is tradition on Senior Night at Haddonfield, Coach Wiedeman honors his graduating Dawgs by having them play the opening quarter.
While the Eagles jumped out 3-0 on their first possession, senior co-captain Kasko, who had almost picked the ball off ahead of the 3, sent a 3 in at the other end to tie it at 3 apiece. Matt Guveiyian (who I have called “Matthew” all his life, and yes, I do mean all his life; we met in the hospital a few days after he was born, although he may not remember that as well as I do) kept the 3’s rolling in, and with 6:32 on the clock put the Dawgs up by 3, 6–3.
After a full pickoff by Kasko, Deegan added to the scoring with a nice layup, making it 8–3 Haddonfield with about 3 minutes gone in the first. A layup and foul shot by Mooney would push the Dawgs’ lead to 8, 11–3, before the Eagles landed another shot in the rim to make it 11–5. After a few missed scoring opportunities by the Dawgs, the Eagles hit a 3 to get to within 3, 11–8, with just under 2 minutes to go. Kasko got a roll on a drive under the basket to push the edge back to 5, 13–8. A travel by West Deptford gave Haddonfield back the ball. Another Dawgs’ shot rolled on the rim but this time didn’t drop, but a steal by Mooney gave the Dawgs another shot, which also did not go in. The quarter ended on a blocked shot by Kasko and a 3 by Mooney to give the Dawgs an 8-point, 16–8, advantage going into the second quarter.
The Dawgs improved on their first quarter scoring by 4 points, thanks in large part to the offensive contributions by Carson Wolfe, who alone outscored West Deptford 10–6. Wolfe hit a 3, three 2’s and also got one from the foul line. While adding 20 points to their score, the Dawgs held the Eagles to a miserly 6 points, and at the half, the Dawgs were up by double digits, 36–14.
In the third quarter, the Eagles matched their combined first half points, knocking in 14, outscoring the Dawgs, whose offense cooled down a bit, by 4. Even so, going into the 4th quarter, the Dawgs were still up 46–28. The Dawgs picked up their play at the offensive end in the last 8 minutes, putting up 18 to the Eagles’ 9, giving the Dawgs a 27-point, 64–37 W. Six of those 18 4th-quarter points came from a pair of 3’s from Mooney. Those 3’s meant that for four straight games, the Dawgs hit 10 baskets from behind the arc.
Mooney, who had 8 in the first half and 12 in the second, was the Dawgs’ high scorer with 20. Wolfe was right behind him with 16. All five starters and four who came in off the bench combined for Haddonfield’s 64 points.
The final contest of the week for Haddonfield was on Saturday, 2/20, against the Haddon Township Hawks. You may recall that a mere 13 days earlier, the Hawks had broken a very long (40-plus-years in the making) losing streak against the Dawgs by defeating them at their home nest 38–30. I was hopeful that the Hawks’ losing streak would start anew in their rematch.
At the outset, it seemed my wish had a reasonable chance of coming to fruition. Matt Leming got the Dawgs on the board with a 3 off a nice feed from Justin Kasko. After a jump ball gave possession back to Haddonfield, Leming did it again, this time off a dapper pass from Tomm—er, Tom Mooney, to make it 6-0, Dawgs. The Hawks got on the board off a way-too-easy layup, but Matthew Guveiyian got a 3 with a roll, putting the Dawgs up by 7, 9–2, with 3:44 left in the quarter.
About 90 seconds later, after neither team had added to their total, a questionable call gave Kasko his second foul of the game and sent a Hawk to the line. He made both shots, edging the Hawks closer, at 9–4. Kasko had to take a seat, but his co-captain and fellow senior Jack Deegan came in and promptly got a bucket on another assist from Mooney, making it 11–4, Haddonfield, with 1:44 to go in the period. With 34.2 seconds on the clock, the Dawgs picked up another shooting foul, and again, the Hawks picked up a pair from the free throw line. After the Dawgs did not score, Haddon Township hit a 3 just ahead of the buzzer, closing the gap to 2, 11–9.
The second quarter seesawed back and forth. Haddon Township got the first basket to tie it at 11 with just under a minute gone. Mooney was fouled attempting to drive into the basket and made 1–2, tipping the lead back to Haddonfield, 12–11, with 6:35 remaining in the half. Neither team scored on their next few trips up and down the court, as Haddon Township went 0-2 from the foul line and Haddonfield’s shots from the field also did not drop.
A nice drive up and in by Mooney broke the mini-scoring drought and with 4:25 on the clock, gave the Dawgs a 3-point edge. For about 40 seconds, that is, until the Hawks hit a 3 to even things up at 14 with 3:38 to go. The Hawks had a ball rim out, and Matt Kouser, who had come into the game in the second quarter, hit a 3, making it 17–14, Dawgs, with 2:39 left in the half. However, after getting the ball back on a travel violation against the Hawks, the Dawgs failed to take advantage of it and did not score. Instead, Haddon Township got the last two baskets of the half and were up by 1, 18–17, as the teams left the court for the half.
The third quarter started with Haddonfield inbounding the ball, but no points came off it. Haddon Township got their offense going right away with a 3, boosting their lead to 4, 21–17, with 6:36 on the clock. At the other end, Mooney went in the lane for 2, cutting that lead in half, but 60 seconds later, the Hawks nailed another 3 to take their largest lead, going up by 5, 24–19, with just under 5 minutes left in the quarter.
Carson Wolfe picked a good time to get his first basket of the game and was fouled while doing so. His free throw got the Dawgs back to within 2, 24–22, with 4:45 on the clock. The Hawks had a quick answer, but just as quickly, Kasko got his first 2, and it was back to a 2-point, 26–24, Haddon Township lead, at the 4:14 mark. After both teams missed shots and lost balls out of bounds, Haddon Township took a timeout with 2:53 left in the third. After the inbounds, Haddonfield was charged with a foul, and when play resumed this time, the Hawks hit yet another 3, reclaiming a 5-point, 29–24, lead with 2 minutes and change on the clock. Mooney connected the ball with the net, cutting that to a 3-point, 29-26, edge with just under 2 minutes remaining.
After Haddonfield got charged with two more fouls, Kasko stole the ball and was fouled himself. His shots made it a 1-point, 29–28, game with 1:38 showing on the scoreboard. The Dawgs stole the ball again, and it then went out of bounds off the Hawks with 1:25 left in the third. A pretty jumper by Wolfe put the Dawgs out in front for the first time in the second half, 30–29, with 1:02 showing on the scoreboard. A blocked shot by Haddonfield led to a jump ball call, and the possession arrow returned the ball to Haddon Township. A Hawk basket also gave them back the lead, 31–30, but Mooney responded with a shot just ahead of the buzzer, and with 8 minutes left in what was proving to be the Dawgs’ most exciting match of the season, Haddonfield was up by slimmest of margins, 32–31.
Quarter 4 started with Haddon Township inbounding the ball … and getting called for a travel. A bad pass was rescued by Kasko, and Mooney was fouled attempting to score. His foul shots pushed the Dawgs’ lead to 3, 34–31, with only 40 seconds gone. Guveiyian picked up his second foul by osmosis (the ensuing look on his teammate Kasko’s face was priceless), but Haddonfield got the ball back on a steal, and Guveiyian went in the paint for 2 after a nice dish by Kasko, giving the Dawgs a 5-point, 36–31, edge with just about 6:30 to go in the game.
After another pilfered ball by Kasko, Haddon Township was called for its 6th foul of the half, but Haddonfield could not capitalize, turning the ball over with 5:54 left in the game. The Hawks got 2 to get back to within 3, 36–33, but Guveiyian answered with a 3 at the opposite basket, making it a 6-point, 39–33, game with 5:26 on the clock. After a Haddonfield timeout, a Haddon Township bucket made it 39–35, Dawgs, with 5:01 left. The Dawgs missed a few shots, then got called for a foul. At the Hawks’ end, a loose ball caused quite a scramble, with Kasko coming up with it on the floor and calling a timeout with 3:01 remaining.
Haddonfield did not get a good shot off, but their defense was stellar, as the Hawks were stuck on the perimeter without an open shot or a way into the basket. Finally, a ball from behind the arc went in … and out. Matt Leming, who was just back into the game, got the big rebound. In the near empty gymnasium, it was not hard to hear Coach Wiedeman yelling, “Hold the ball,” as the clock ticked down to less than a minute. With 54.4 seconds left, Wiedeman called a timeout to talk over the strategy.
Almost as soon as the ball was inbounded, it became clear that the Haddon Township strategy was to foul Haddonfield so the Dawgs could not keep holding onto the ball without shooting. This was the Hawks’ 7th foul of the half, setting up a 1+1 opportunity, which, for the uninitiated, means if the player taking the foul shot makes it, he gets to take another. With 51.2 on the clock, Mooney stepped to the line. Mooney, who is usually reliable on the line, did not get his shot to drop. Leming and Wolfe combined for an offensive board to give the Dawgs back the ball only to have Haddonfield turn it over.
Before the Hawks had time to set a play, Guveiyian swiped the ball and passed it to Wolfe, who was fouled with 26.1 seconds to go. It was still a 1+1 opportunity. Wolfe’s first shot went in, but his second did not, making it a 40–35 game. At the other end, the Hawks found an open man behind the arc who hit a 3. Now, with 18.0 showing on the clock, the Dawgs’ lead was down to 2, 40–38. Haddon Township called a full timeout.
After inbounding the ball, Guveiyian got it back and was immediately fouled. It was the 9th of the half for the Hawks, meaning it was still a 1+1 situation. Guveiyian stepped up to the line with 14.1 left in the game and his team up by 2, meaning it was still a one-possession game. He released the ball, which fell into the net. The crowd—all 50 or so of us—went wild. His second shot also was nothing but net and put the Dawgs up by 4, 42–38.
The Hawks did not have time to waste, and their shot did not hit the mark. Guess who got the rebound and was immediately fouled again? That’s right. Guveiyian. Now that the Hawks had hit 10 fouls, the Dawgs were in the double bonus, meaning Guveiyian automatically had 2 shots. And again, he made both, giving the Dawgs a 44–38 lead and leaving the Hawks with only 3.6 seconds, not enough time to battle back again. When the horn sounded, the Dawgs had officially won their 5th straight game, and their 5th game overall, to go 5–2 in the Colonial Conference.
Thanks to his 4th quarter offensive heroics, Matt Guveiyian finished as the Dawgs’ leading scorer with 12. Tom Mooney, who had an equally important 3rd quarter, finished with 11. Five other Dawgs scored to help secure the W.
Next up is a home game versus the Red Raiders of Paulsboro Monday, 2/22 at 7 p.m. That will be followed by road games versus West Deptford on Tuesday, also at 7, and then an early nonconference Thursday game on 2/25 at 4:30 against Northern Burlington Regional High School.