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Valedictorian: A year like no other

by Olivia Stoner, Haddonfield Memorial High School Class of 2021

Good evening and welcome, families, teachers, administrators, and the esteemed Class of 2021. It is an honor to be speaking before you all today. I would like to begin by saying a few personal thank-you’s. To my parents and family, I could never extend enough gratitude to you for your support and sacrifices. I love you all beyond words. Thank you. And I would next like to thank God for His blessings and provision always- all glory to Him. Lastly, I would like to thank our administration and staff for this incredible Commencement Ceremony. Mrs. McHale, Mr. Tarrant, Coach Q, and Mr. Licata, among others, you have worked tirelessly this past year to bring our senior class a sense of normalcy. Who would have thought, mere months ago, that this magnitude of a graduation would be feasible? I speak for everyone when I say thank you for your creativity, patience, and foresight in a year like no other.

Now, I would like to extend my congratulations to you all, Class of 2021. High school has truly been four years to remember. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of you for your strength, endurance, and grace. Without going into detail, I think it’s safe to say that Clint Eastwood’s famous “improvise, adapt, and overcome” quote could very well have been the mantra of our senior class.

Looking out at all of you, I cannot help but reminisce. I remember the days back in elementary school when we all stealthily traded Silly Bands and fought against the infamous title of “Man on Ground.” I remember belting the Lizzy Haddon anthem together in the APR and comparing Justice graphic tees with each other during indoor recess. A few days ago, I had a similar feeling of nostalgia when cleaning out my room. Among the dusty HYBA participation trophies and old race bibs was a toy that reminded me of quite the formative phase in my life, and probably in the lives of many here- the American Girl Doll. 

This particular toy and phase of my life were certainly memorable, as these dolls were my creative outlet. Through them, I could present tales of princesses, Spartans, and scholars all on my makeshift bedroom desk stage. I could learn how to sew costumes and braid hair, albeit on a much smaller, doll-sized scale. However, the conclusion of this toy obsession is an even more vibrant memory for me. One day, after pulling my dolls out to play, something just felt off. I no longer experienced the rush of excitement that usually ensued. In fact, I did not feel much at all, other than the urge to put my dolls back and go do something else. Frustrated by my inability to care for these dolls that had once been such an integral part of my life, I began to cry. I cried for the end of my American Girl Doll experience, and for how much of my money I had wasted on those unreasonably-priced doll accessories, but even more so, I cried because of my fear of growing up. I thought that outgrowing this phase meant that I was slowly inching towards adulthood. To me, adulthood was a large and confusing word that most closely meant the end of my child-like sense of wonder. I thought growing up and nurturing my creative interests were mutually exclusive, and I was grieving the loss of something that had brought me so much joy.

What I offer to you, Class of 2021, is the perspective I wish I had at seven years old as I was going through that American-Girl-Doll-existential crisis. What I did not anticipate was that after I put my dolls down, I soon picked up a needle and thread, making human-sized clothes this time rather than the former doll-sized ones. My imagination kept its fervor, but it took on a different, more exciting form. 

Yes, today marks the end of quite the formative phase for all of us- tomorrow, we will wake up as high school graduates, anticipating jobs, higher education, traveling, or other endeavors. We will no longer call this school’s campus our home. But the exciting news is that our imaginations and passions do not end here; rather, we now get the opportunity to take them out onto a larger stage. We get to play with bigger, better, and far cooler toys and do so for a larger audience than we could have possibly imagined in our childhood bedrooms. Though I no longer play with dolls, I look forward to employing the same creativity I used to design clothes and costumes to someday design prosthetic limbs. Perhaps the same rush you got while playing Minecraft can be used to code the next generation’s video game experience. You may no longer decorate the hallways for Spirit Week, but perhaps you will thrive as an interior designer in a few years’ time. The same care you extended to freshmen as a Peer Leader can someday reach thousands of patients as a nurse or doctor.

Class of 2021, throughout our years here in Haddonfield, we have found the things we get most excited about. We know the topics that light up our eyes in conversations, the activities we lose track of time while doing, the interests we could spend hours down a Youtube rabbit-hole to learn about. So, although this day is sobering, marking the end of this formative phase, I am so excited for each of us to explore our interests on a larger scale. Perhaps this will later be your job, or maybe it just manifests as a side hobby, but either way, I implore you all to keep exploring the things that spark joy, keeping that child-like sense of wonder and imagination alive. My wish for each of you is that you continue to reach bigger and better stages, but always remember to bring your inner child along for the ride. Congratulations, Class of 2021!

Students to return to school

On Monday, April 19, 2021, students in Haddonfield Public Schools will return to school, full-time, in-person, for the first time in a year.

Suerintendent of Schools Chuck Klaus previewed the momentous development in letter to parents, guardians, staff, and students on March 31:

When our students and staff left school on March 16, 2020, most of us could not imagine they would continue in a virtual learning model through the end of the year and return to school in a hybrid model in September. The abrupt shift required schools to quickly re-imagine how to best deliver virtual instruction and serve our students. And of course the continuation of the pandemic required many additional changes in the areas of PPE, cleaning, ventilation, meal deliveries, athletics, and more.

Today we are approaching the point we have been anticipating for many, many months: initiating Phase III, bringing ALL tudents to school, all day, five days per week! (Of course, students and families may continue to choose the 100% virtual model through the end of this school year.)

The Leadership Team of Haddonfield School District has been working on this plan for months, anticipating the time when safety and health conditions would allow us to move forward. The following pages will show the new Phase III schedules, set to begin April 19th (grades 1-12) if major indicators continue to improve. (Preschool and kindergarten will continue in their current schedules.)

It is important to note, however, that the schedules for the original hybrid model (cohort A attending Monday and Tuesday, cohort B attending Thursday and Friday), the Phase II combined-cohort model, and the contingency model (if schools are forced to close by state or county mandates) are still contained in these pages. If health conditions worsen, we might have to return to one of these more restrictive schedules.

We appreciate the difficulties and the stresses placed on students, staff and families over the last year. We also realize that each of us has unique circumstances, perspectives, and feelings about how best to return to school. During this process, the Phase III model was explored and reviewed with feedback from families, students, staff, community members and frequent consultation with our district physician and nursing staff. As always, our planning must balance safety, instruction, and operations in a way to provide the best solution for all 1,500 families and 350 staff members in our district.

Basketball in the Season of COVID-19

By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

Photo: Four of Haddonfield’s five starters from this season are juniors and will be back on the court in December. Left to right, Tom Mooney, #11 (holding the ball); Matt Leming, #21; Matthew Guveiyian, #4; and Carson Wolfe, #2. Photo by Lefteros Banos, Athletic Director

When the Haddonfield boys basketball team lost, rather soundly, to Camden in the Group 2 South Jersey championship last March 9, the term “COVID-19” was just getting into the everyday vernacular of our country and the world. No one could have expected that, 2 days later, just as all the teams that had made it to the state semifinals were preparing to take to the court for the thrill of advancing to and participating in the state championship games, all sports—from professional to collegiate and high school on down—would come to a screeching halt. As improbable and impossible as that shutdown seemed at the time, that was just the beginning of a year that often would make people feel like they were trapped in a nightmare they couldn’t wake up from or were forced to be characters in some combined sci-fi–horror movie that never got to the closing credits.

I was lucky that my job as managing editor for a publishing company in Medford never missed a beat. I started working from home on March 17 and have now been doing so for more than a year. I think early on, most of us expected that by summer 2020, life would be back to normal. Discussions with my boss and then an announcement from my church, both in the middle of summer, came as a one-two punch: My boss, also the president of the company, said he did not see most people coming back to work until there was a vaccine, and the leaders of my church made the decision to keep doing virtual services through 2020, which meant no in-person Christmas celebrations. Although my friends and family largely remained unscathed in any serious way from COVID-19, for which I am profoundly grateful, the thought of being mostly isolated (I am single and live on my own) indefinitely hit hard. Then at some point as summer turned into fall, I had a sinking thought: Suppose there wasn’t going to be a 2020–21 high school basketball season?

Basketball, hands down my favorite sport, although baseball comes in a close second, has been the highlight of my winter for decades. It makes the short days and cold, long nights bearable and gives me something to look forward every week from mid-December to at least early March. When I’m asked, “What’s your favorite season?” I reply, “Basketball.” What would get me through a COVID winter, I wondered, if basketball didn’t happen at all?

As I wrestled with this possibility, I tried to hold out contacting our favorite (not to mention South Jersey’s best) coach, aka Paul Wiedeman, until November. I came close, but I caved and emailed him on Oct. 30 after I had heard that players’ parents might be in the stands and hoped press might also be allowed. As usual, I got a quick reply that said, in part: “As of today, there will not be any fans, including parents, allowed in the gymnasium for games. The state is going to revisit this policy before the season begins. I do not know if the media can come to games either. It’s going to be a delicate balancing act trying to complete an indoor winter season. I do believe each home game will be live-streamed by the Athletic Department.” He added that my streak (of attending at least one home game a year since 1969) was going to be seriously tested, but noted, keyboard in cheek, that since there would be no playoffs again this year, the Dawgs would be the reigning Group 2 state champs for the 4th year running. Lefty Banos, the HMHS AD, also confirmed the no- fans-in-the-stands status later in November: “I am sorry but as of now we do not plan on having any people at games besides players, coaches and refs.” He told me if anything changed, he would let me know.

At some point before 2020 came to its inglorious end, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy did announce that indoor high school sports could resume with very limited capacity in the gyms and other venues. For Haddonfield basketball, that meant that practices were to start up in early December and the first game was listed on the schedule as being an away game on Friday, December 18 versus Haddon Township. That never happened. The new plan was that the season would start on January 11 with the first game on January 26.

When I checked in with the coach on January 18 for a roster, this I got this unwelcome update: “So far we have successfully completed 7 days of practice uninterrupted. Our opening game against Haddon Township on January 26th has already been postponed and moved back to February because of COVID concerns on their part. Fams are still not allowed to be in the gym except for essential personnel. I do not think that is going to change this season.” Ending on an upbeat note, Wideman told me that the players were practicing hard and were “just excited to be in the gym playing basketball.”

I was also excited to unexpectedly get another email from Lefty on Jan. 19. It was short and very sweet: “No fans but we are allowing press with media credentials at our home games.” I quickly alerted David Hunter I would need a new badge and shared the good news with the Dawgs’ coach, who quipped, “The streak continues.”

But COVID wasn’t finished upending the season. On January 23, I learned that a JV Dawg had tested positive, and since freshman, JV, and varsity practiced together, everything basketball-related, including obviously games, had to be put on hold for 2 weeks. February 5, the players were allowed to be together again, which did not give them much time to prepare for what would finally be their first game of the (2020–) 2021 season, that twice postponed away matchup against Haddon Township.

Amazingly, Haddonfield ended up playing all 15 of its allotted games, although more than a few times, before actually happening, the opponents for a game changed, sometimes more than once. The Dawgs would go 12–3. After losing their first two Colonial Conference games to Haddon Township and Sterling, the team went on to win 12 out of their next 13, losing only one more time on the buzzer to Woodrow Wilson.

I have already done weekly recaps of the games themselves, but this season seemed to deserve one more article with the main theme being: Were those 15 games and all that transpired on and off the court to compete in them worth it? To get a variety of perspectives, I went to Paul Wiedeman, Lefty Banos, Mark Hershberger, Jeff Holman, and Dawg senior Justin Kasko. Each of them, along with my own experiences, helped me come up with an answer.

How COVID-19 affected the 2020–21 season goes back to the summer and fall. As Wiedeman put it, “The normal routines of preseason basketball heading into the 2020–2021 season were severely disrupted by the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols set by the state of New Jersey. In the past, we would have summer workouts twice a week at the high school, and our team would participate in the Haddon Heights summer league. We did not meet in person the entire offseason. … As a coaching staff, we felt it was in the best interest not to have any contact with the players because of the virus. We did, however, put [together] personal workouts that included skills and drills as well as conditioning.”

Justin Kasko told me, “Not having the summer practices and our normal fall league was definitely a large challenge for the team. For me personally, I took the cancellation of both as a sign to get out and work on my game” He acknowledged, however, “personal workouts just aren’t the same as official practices and preseason leagues, and those are crucial times for our offense and chemistry to build, which was a major challenge for the team overall.”

There was a bit of an upside, although I don’t think he’d call it a plus, for Kasko being on his own to prepare for the season. “This off-season, I was motivated to put the most work in as I could. … Putting in the offseason work is a regular thing for athletes at Haddonfield, especially our basketball program.” He said that going into his senior year combined with lots of downtime due to COVID from last year, he was extra motivated in his offseason workouts. Kasko also confirmed something I suspected from watching his shot choices this season: “My three-point shot was definitely one of my main off-season focuses.” And it paid off. In those 15 games, he made more treys than he did (or possibly even attempted) the previous season, and they often came at crucial points in a game.

Kasko admitted that the news about the shortened season was tough to take. “When Coach revealed our 15 game, no-playoffs schedule to the team, it was 110% rough to hear as a senior. Being told that you won’t be able to compete in a high-stakes playoff game again is a hard pill to swallow, and definitely made me reflect on the playoff games I got to play in last year a lot more. Although it was pretty disappointing to hear ‘no playoffs,’ I was relieved to finally have confirmation of any type of season, which was a bit of a silver lining.”

That silver lining still had some dark clouds when the season started even later than anticipated. As Wiedeman saw it, “The 2-week COVID quarantine to begin our season was just another challenge our program had to deal with that was frustrating for the players and coaches.” Kasko added, “When we got shut down at the beginning of the season, it was a gut punch for all of us.” However, his fall soccer season’s playoffs had just been cancelled a few weeks prior, so Kasko had been through it before and knew the 2-week downtime protocol. He said, “I obviously had some doubt, but stayed optimistic about our season following through, and it did!”

 In that 2-week COVID-19 detour, the team and the coaches met together with Google Meets just to keep the players engaged with each other and to go over some concepts and plays. That wasn’t exactly an ideal way to get ready for the first game. “It is not the same as practicing on the court and getting the continuity and conditioning that help our team compete,” Wiedeman explained. “It definitely was a factor leading into our games against Haddon Township and Sterling. We were a little rusty, especially with our shooting and knowing our plays and where we should be on the court with our execution.”

It was that lack of practice time that Wiedeman felt was the hardest part of the season. “What has made our teams compete so well over the years was our ability to out execute other teams by knowing their schemes and personnel. We did not have that luxury this year, as our season was very truncated.

Kasko saw the lack of practices impacting the team in another way. “[B]etween the cancellation of summer practices and preseason leagues as well as the postponement of our season for 2 weeks, it was extremely challenging to build chemistry for us, as we had a lot of new guys this year. It is hard to build rapport with new teammates in general, but having extremely limited time on the court together was extremely impactful on our chemistry in our first few games.”

After those two losses to the Hawks and the Silver Knights, it was almost like a switch had been flipped. That it happened that quickly was a bit unexpected for Wiedeman. “I was surprised how well the team started to gel and play so well together to finish out the season. As stated earlier, we did not really have much time practicing and sharpening our skills and preparing for each opponent. I give all the credit to the players for being so resilient and playing so hard every single game. They were a very competitive group of players who really enjoyed playing with each other.”

One of the questions I asked Kasko had to do with what I saw as his heightened energy on the court this season, which goes hand in hand with Wiedeman’s overall assessment of the team. “I think the aggressiveness definitely came from being held off of the court for a while, but mainly because that’s the way seniors from last year’s team and 2 years ago taught me how to play. I saw how successful that was in winning games the past 2 years, and I just wanted to try and implement that type of aggression and play style to some of the new younger guys this year so that they can play like that next year.” It is worth pointing out that in addition to the stellar coaching staff Haddonfield has had since the mid-70s, this mindset of passing it on from player to player, team to team, year to year, is the reason why Haddonfield is usually the team to beat in the conference, in non-league games, and ultimately in the playoffs.

There are a few more comments from the coach and his senior starter to share, but now I want to switch to how it was for Mark Hershberger, longtime announcer for boys and girls basketball games, this season. He had a mixture of thoughts and reflections.

“Surreal season sitting three rows above my normal spot … and not next to the highly entertaining and always-on-his-game Jeff Holman! A big part of the enjoyment of doing the PA work is talking with Jeff throughout the game. With masks on and at distance … was that really Jeff on the clock? Looked a little like Pierce Brosnan. … Hmmm. Before doing the first game, I had some reservations about how strange it might be barking names and actions to cardboard faces and players only. But, after that first “Dawgs’ ball” or “Threeeeeeee Mooooooooooooney!” I settled back into the routine quite well.

“Of course, the dogs were not turnin’ and burnin’ as in years past and music on time-outs and at the half was not allowed, but, knowing that, on most games (girls and boys), there were anywhere from 100 to 150 people watching the live video stream on YouTube, I felt a sense of importance in letting the viewers know what is happening. In all honesty, as a former high school and college player myself, when you are on the floor working hard, you barely notice the crowd or announcers at all. So, did it affect the players? Probably not. I hope they were pumped up during player announcements, though. Maybe that helped to get their engines running!”

Interestingly, a former player himself in high school and college, Wiedeman did feel the empty gym, and then still minimal fan presence (players were allowed to have 2 family members at each home game starting on February 6, which is the first game I attended as press) did affect the team. “Not having spectators to begin the season … had an impact because of the energy you would get from the crowd was missing. It was easier for me to get the players’ attention on the court and call out our plays. I did miss not having the student body, my family and players family members not being able to be in person every game.”

On that point, Hershberger agrees with the coach. “I missed seeing parents, extended families, friends. …” Some other downsides to this COVID-19 season Hershberger lamented were the missing halftime super shootouts and another year of no banquet for the teams. Maybe there is still hope for that banquet …

Wiedeman expressed another difficult part of the season: “[A]lways thinking in the back of your mind, ‘Will our season be shut down at any moment because of the virus?’” He felt “the players were just so happy and enthusiastic about playing that they did not worry about the virus as much as I did.”

Overall, Hershberger saw a lot of good come out of a season that he and I both initially had some qualms about. “Fifteen games! It could have been three. It could have been zero. For the two senior boys and seven senior girls, it was a solid chance to build lifetime memories of their final year on the court at Haddonfield Memorial. As well as the fabulous Haddonfield cheerleaders” (you have to imagine Hershberger saying this in his deep, resonate, expressive voice) “making more noise this year than most years! It was so desperately needed! So, way to go Dawgs! You persevered! You rocked the Dawghouse!”

As for Wiedeman, he really did not have any specific expectations for this season because of the COVID-19 restrictions that limited the number of games and eliminated postseason games. In his mind, “It was not about winning championships, it was about participation. Our goal was playing all 15 games allowed by the NJSIAA and we miraculously accomplished it.”

From his point of view, it was definitely worth having a 15-game modified schedule even with all the COVID restrictions in place. Why? According to Wiedeman, “It was about giving our student athletes some normalcy by allowing them to have a season. They could see their friends, and I think it helped them physically, mentally, and [in their] social health.” Wiedeman believed that once the team was practicing and playing games, it enabled the players and coaches to at least temporarily forget all about the challenges that everyone’s lives have gone through with COVID.

Wiedeman’s AD, Lefty Banos echoed those sentiments. “We are so happy the boys were able to have a season regardless of how short. Memories will last a lifetime.”

Memories of games gone by was something Justin Kasko mentioned as well. “When I look back on the past two seasons, I can tell you that it went by extremely quickly, and although we’ve had some big-time games over the past couple of years, that win in the playoffs against Heights [the Group 2 South Jersey semifinal win last March that gave Paul Wiedeman his 500th win as the coach of the Dawgs] will always be a great memory, and even though we lost to Camden the next game, just the atmosphere of that game was fun to be a part of and very memorable for me. Additionally, as much as I love the game of basketball and will miss it tremendously, no doubt what I’ll miss the most is going to work and into battle with my teammates.”

Jeff Holman has been a fixture at Haddonfield Memorial High School for about as long as I have been going to basketball games. Not only is he the winningest boys and girls high school tennis coach in the country, he has been an English teacher (if you like my writing, you can thank him in large part) and is now a guidance counselor. When I have gotten feedback from him in the past for my articles, it’s usually about what makes Haddonfield teams and players excel or Paul Wiedeman’s coaching abilities so exceptional, since he’s witnessed both through the years from his vantage point as the scoreboard operator. This time, I wanted to know what he thought about winter sports such as basketball taking place during COVID-19.

Here is what he told me: “I do believe the benefits of having a basketball season clearly outweighed the risks. I make that comment as one of Paul Wiedeman’s HMHS colleagues, as the counselor for many of the players in the basketball program, as the clock operator at home games, and as a coach who was fortunate to have a fall season after COVID-19 cancelled all spring sports. Unquestionably, there is a connection between exercise and physical and mental health. The 2021 basketball season not only kept the players physically active, but also provided an antidote to the isolation of virtual learning by enabling the players to stay connected with their friends, an opportunity that the seniors and any athletes who lost the 2020 spring athletic season especially appreciated. I am certain that the players along with their coaches and parents are proud of the team’s achievements: improving substantially throughout the season, winning 12 of the last 13 games, and overcoming the challenges that the pandemic presented. These athletes will never forget the 2021 season and will proceed through life with an enhanced sense of resilience and self-efficacy because of everything they accomplished.” 

It seems fitting to let the Dawgs’ senior starter have the final words in response to my “Was it worth it?” question. “No matter how many games we had played or how many practices we had completed this year, my answer wouldn’t change, and that answer is that it wasn’t a waste of a season at all. Although we didn’t get to compete at the level we wanted to, it was still a blast being with my teammates out there every day and trying to pass off as much as I can to the young guys for the coming years.” Kasko just completed campus trips to University of Pittsburgh and University of Dayton, his two top choices, last weekend. While he will not be competing at the varsity level in college wherever he ends up, he “will 100% be playing club or intramural sports.” He will also be keeping up his skills in basketball, soccer, and baseball, the three sports he has played at HMHS.

So, it seems that no one I interviewed has any doubts that this shortened hoops season, played in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, was anything but worth it. And even though I watched 10 out of the 14 games (it would have been 15 had West Deptford had someone streaming the game Haddonfield played on their court—just sayin’) from the comfort of my own home, the four games I was able to watch live had added meaning, and not just because it kept my attendance streak alive. It brought me some much-needed normalcy in a year that has been anything but. Thanks to all those who made this possible, from Lefty Banos and Paul Wiedeman and his coaches and players, to Mark Hershberger, the multi-talented Jeff Holman (or was that really Pierce Brosnan?), and the Haddonfield cheerleaders, as well as the guys who scanned my temperature at the hallway outside of the gym, and all the parents who came out to support their boys. You were bright lights in the winter of our discontent. I can’t wait for a full season to start this December!

COVID-19 cases in schools top 150 mark

The listing on March 9 of one new confirmed case of COVID-19, in a male juvenile from Central School, took the tally of cases in the public schools to 150. The addition of two others on March 14 set the current total at 152 — 65 males and 87 females.

Of the total, 116 are students and 36 are staff.

The breakdown by ages is as follows

  • Juvenile — 29 (M 11, F 18)
  • 10s — 87 (M 50, F 37)
  • 20s — 10 (F 10)
  • 30s — 8 (M 1, F 7)
  • 40s — 9 (M 1, F 8)
  • 50s – 7 (M 1, F 6)
  • 60s – 2 (M 1, F 1)

The breakdown by school is as follows:

  • District – 2 (M 1, F 1)
  • Central – 19 (M 9, F 10)
  • Haddon — 23 (M 4, F 19)  
  • Tatem – 10 (M 5, F 5)
  • Middle — 40 (M 18, F 22)
  • High — 56 (M 27, F 29)

Active cases:

  • Central — 2 students
  • Haddon — 1 student, 1 staff
  • Middle — 2 students

Boys Basketball Weekly Wrap-Up: Mar 7

By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

I was going to start off this last weekly wrap-up (I’ll do a short season overview next week that I’m hoping will include comments by Coach Paul Wiedeman, among others) by saying I’d never seen the Haddonfield boys basketball season end on a winning note, but then I remembered I had seen that once before: on March 17, 1973, when the team won its first state championship, upsetting Orange 76­–67. Since this was in the pre-Tournament of Champions era, that last game was, indeed, a thrilling victory. In all the ensuing years—or should I cringe inwardly and type “decades”?—every game that has finished off a Dawgs’ season, even the ones that culminated in six more state titles that proceeded the inaugural one on St. Patrick’s Day, ended in defeat as the Dawgs lost in a Tournament of Champions matchup.

So, I have to tweak what is now not my lede to note that it has been 48 seasons since I last witnessed Haddonfield players walking off the court with a W and still having their season come to an end. But, the home game on Saturday, 3/6 against the Glassboro Bulldogs was the fourth game the team played in this last week of competition. So, let me back up and start with the first game on March 1 against the Red Devils of Rancocas Valley Regional High School.

The Red Devils blazed to a 4–0 lead at the outset of Monday night’s game on the Dawgs’ court before Matt Guveiyian got the offense rolling for Haddonfield with a 3, and after a Dawg steal, Justin Kasko showed nice hustle to pull down an offensive board. Matt Leming was fouled in his resulting shot attempt, and he made 1–2 from the line to tie the game at 4 all with 5:24 left in the first quarter. After few trips up and down the court with neither team able to break the tie, Leming hit his first 3 of the game to put the Dawgs up 7–4 with just over half the quarter remaining. Leming would pull down the defensive board at the other end, then with 3:19 on the clock, Kasko knocked down a 3 to make it 10–4, good buddy. (If you’re too young to get that reference, you can always Google it or ask Siri.)

Rancocas Valley got back in scoring mode with a trey to get to within 3, 10–7, with 2:01 left in the quarter, but Guveiyian swooshed in another 3 to push the Dawgs back in front by 6, 13–7 with a minute and change to go. After Haddonfield did not score in its next possession and Rancocas Valley turned over the ball, the Dawgs had one more shot to finish out the quarter. Of course, it was a 3, this time from Leming on a feed from Guveiyian 3.1 seconds ahead of the buzzer, to put the Dawgs up by 9, 16–7 going into quarter 2.

It would take more than 2 minutes for a point to go on the board in the second. This was due to a few missed shots by Haddonfield and Rancocas Valley’s difficulty in getting any shots off thanks to their opponent’s stifling defense. Finally, at the foul line with 5:44 showing on the scoreboard, Kasko got 1–2 to drop, giving his team a double-digit, 17–7 edge. That did not last long as the Red Devils finally got a shot off and into the net. At the other end Dante Del Duca hit one from behind the arc, making it 20–9 with 3:45 left in the half. The offense on both sides largely shut down for the next 3-plus minutes. The Red Devils would only get 1 more point from a foul shot, but the Dawgs only mustered 2 more points off a nice jumper by Tom Mooney a few seconds ahead of the half-time buzzer. This gave the Dawgs a 12-point, 22–10, advantage as the teams headed off the court.

As was mostly the case all season, it was quarter 3 when the Dawgs had their biggest offensive output. Thanks to Carson Wolfe, Haddonfield finally got their inside game going. Aside from the jumper by Mooney that finished off the first half, all of the Dawgs’ scoring in the first 2 quarters had come from 3’s or foul shots. Wolfe went up and in four times, including a nice cross-court maneuver that kicked off the Dawgs’ third quarter. Haddonfield did get two more baskets from behind the 3-point line from Leming as well, and he and Guveiyian also dropped in a pair of free throws. When the quarter was over, the Dawgs had double the points of the Red Devils and were in control 40–20 going into the 4th.

Mooney got hot in those last 8 minutes, knocking down a 2, a 3, and then 2 from the foul line. Matt Kouser, who as a freshman has seen quite a bit of court time, also hit a 3 and a 2, and at the end of the quarter, when Coach Wiedeman had taken all the regulars out, another freshman, Darragh Roddy, ended the Dawgs’ offense with a 3. When the final horn sounded, the Dawgs had bedeviled Rancocas Valley, beating them by 28 points, which was 1 point more than the Red Devils scored themselves. The final was Haddonfield, 55, Rancocas Valley, 27. With his four 3’s, Matt Leming led the Dawgs with 15 points. Although Leming was the only Dawg in double digits, eight players contributed to the team’s offense.

A night later, the Dawgs were at Collingswood. No matter what kind of team Collingswood has, I think longtime Haddonfield fans get an uneasy feeling when the Dawgs and Panthers meet up, especially when it’s on the Panthers’ turf. Even though the Dawgs had won their first matchup versus the Panthers by 16, I wasn’t expecting it to be that easy this go-round. And it definitely wasn’t.

The game started off well enough, with Matt Leming getting one of his trademark corner 3’s barely 15 seconds into the match. Messy passing and out-of-bounds calls resulted at both ends of the court before Collingswood got its first 2-pointer at the 4:37 mark to make it 3–2, Haddonfield. Leming pulled down an offensive board and sent the ball back up and in for 2, and it was 5–2, Dawgs. Good “D” caused a Panthers’ turnover, but the Dawgs were unable to score, and then with 3:19 left in the first, the Panthers knocked down a 3 to tie it at 5. A drive by Tom Mooney off a feed by Matthew Guveiyian pushed the Dawgs back in front 7–5 with 2:47 to go.  After a missed shot by Collingswood, Carson Wolfe got a bucket in the paint also off a pass by Guveiyian to give the Dawgs a 9–5 lead. A Dawg foul sent the Panthers to the line. One shot dropped. Mooney was fouled under the Dawg basket, and he also made 1–2, so when the quarter ended 51.9 seconds (I’m all about the details) later, the Dawgs were still up by 4, 10–6.

The second quarter did not start off as well for the Dawgs, who had possession, as the Panthers notched a steal and a bucket, and with only 14 seconds gone, they were within 2, 10–8. Second verse, same as the first: 20 seconds later, the game was tied at 10. And while Collingswood’s third straight basket did not come off a steal, nevertheless, with 6:41 on the clock, the Panthers had gone ahead 12–10. Then, after another Dawg turnover, Collingswood hit a 3 to go up by 5, 15–10, at the 5:42 mark.

A pickoff by Haddonfield got the Dawgs the ball back after a bad pass temporarily gave possession to Collingswood. An offensive board by Guveiyian gave Leming a chance to nail a 3, making it a 2-point game, with the Panthers still on top 15–13 with 4:48 left in the half.

Play resumed after a timeout by Haddonfield. Unfortunately, Collingswood would get the next 4 points of the game, 2 from the foul line and one off a basket. With 2:45 remaining in the quarter and the Dawgs down by 4, Guveiyian launched a 3, and it was now a 1-point game, with the Dawgs trailing 18–19. Again, Collingswood got a basket, and the Dawgs found themselves in the hole 18–21 with 2:27 left. A scramble for the ball resulted in an out-of-bounds call against the Dawgs after a missed Dawg shot. After a few kick-ball calls (and Dy Heine nowhere to be seen), Guveiyian stole the ball, and a 3 from Leming tied the game at 21 with 1:10 left in the half. After another pickoff by Haddonfield, the Dawgs were going for the final shot, but waited a tad too long, and when the ball finally went up, it was off. So, the teams left the court with the game still tied at 21.

The second half made me glad I was not at the Collingswood gym, because I started getting very wound up, to put it mildly, from my seat in front of the computer screen. What had been somewhat annoying attempt in the first half of the game by Collingswood to slow its tempo became beyond exasperating in the second. After Haddonfield got a basket thanks to Leming after its first possession ended in a turnover, the Dawgs were back in front 23–21 with about 5:41 on the clock. A steal from Mooney and his subsequent 2 made it 25–23, Haddonfield, about 40 seconds later. When more than a minute ticked off the clock without Collingswood even attempting to make a shot, I wrote in all caps in my notepad, “SHOOT THE BALL!!!”

Before that happened, Collingswood got charged with a foul, but the Dawgs did not score, and a rebound attempt went out of bounds off the Dawgs. The Panthers didn’t eat up too much clock before attempting to score their next possession, but the shot did not go in. Leming got the board and Mooney took a shot. The contrary ball went up, rolled on the rim, and went in the wrong direction at the 2:34 mark. Collingswood went into ball hold mode for about 20 seconds and then caught the Dawgs napping, as they got 2 on a nicely set up shot with 2:14 on the clock to get back to within 2, 25–23. The Dawgs missed a chance at the foul line to get those points back, and even after getting the offensive rebound, could not get a shot to drop.

Wolfe had an aggressive steal, Collingswood got charged with its second foul of the half, a jump ball kept possession with the Dawgs, but again, nothing came of it on the scoreboard. With about a minute left, Collingswood tried something a little different—NOT—and held the ball, going for the last shot, and luckily, did not score either. So, going into the last quarter, it was still 25–23, the same score it had been at the 2:14 mark of the third quarter.

The game and the ball went back and forth for almost 2 minutes before Collingswood’s 2 tied it up at 25 apiece with 6:04 left in the game. A nice cut going into the paint by Justin Kasko gave the Dawgs back the lead 27–25 with 5:49 on the clock. At the Collingswood end of the court, the Panthers were lurking, lurking, lurking and not doing much else. When a shot was made, it did not go in the net, and Kasko and Mooney pulled down the rebound. Collingswood got charged with its fourth foul of the quarter with 4:17 to go. Guveiyian went up and in and did not score. No foul was called, but at least he stayed upright and in the game. (That comment will be expanded upon shortly.) With just under 4 minutes to play, the Panthers scored and tied the game at 27.

A Haddonfield turnover prompted Coach Wiedeman to call for a timeout with 2:30 remaining. After Collingswood inbounded the ball to resume play, Kasko picked off the ball after good overall D by he and his teammates. Haddonfield turned the tables on Collingswood and took some time off the clock by working for an open shot. Their patience paid off as Mooney drove in for a 2 off a feed from Wolfe, and with 1:37 left in regulation, the Dawgs had gone back up 29–27.

A near pickoff by the Dawgs turned into a 3 by the Panthers, who reclaimed the lead for the first time since the first quarter, even if by the slimmest of margins, 30–29, with 1:11 to go. Mooney made a good effort to put the Dawgs in front again. Even though his shot did not go in, he was fouled. He made 1–2 from the line to tie it at 30 with 56.6 seconds to go.

Haddonfield committed its third foul of the game with 41.0 on the clock; 13 seconds later, a jump ball call kept the Panthers holding onto the ball, but their coach called a timeout. I was expecting a play that would have Collingswood whittling down the clock, but instead, there were still 17.9 seconds showing when the Panthers attempted a shot that did not go in. Kasko secured a big defensive board and Wiedeman called a timeout. Haddonfield inbounded the ball, and since Collingswood still was under the limit, committed a foul to force Haddonfield to inbound the ball again with 12.6 seconds to go. The Dawgs and the ball were in motion, and when time was almost out, Guveiyian drove in under the basket. His shot did not go in, but everyone was expecting a foul call. Instead, the buzzer sounded rather than a whistle being blown. I wrote down on my pad. “No foul?? Paul [Wiedeman] is livid. Me too.” As the live stream focus cut to Wiedeman taking the refs to task, I didn’t notice how gingerly Guveiyian got up off the floor (the collision initiated by the Panther guarding him sent both players sprawling onto the hardwood). As it turned out, Guveiyian went back to the trainer, not the huddle.

When the game went into a 4-minute OT, Guveiyian was sitting with ice on his ankle and knee area, and Dante Del Duca was on the floor in his stead. Haddonfield had possession and inbounded the ball. Wiedeman called out his instructions, and with 3:33 on the clock, Kasko executed a nice reverse layup, making it 32–30, Dawgs. The Dawgs were riled up after the last play of regulation and seemed determined to make sure the game did not need a second OT. They pressed Collingswood at the other end and the Panthers lost the ball. Del Duca went up and in for 2 and the Dawgs were now leading 34–30 with 2:52 left in OT.

Kasko pulled down a defensive board but the Dawgs turned it over. This time, Kasko got the ball back to his team by taking an offensive charge with 1:47 on the clock. With 1:08 on the clock, Weideman called a timeout. Haddonfield did not score, and with 42.5 seconds left, Haddonfield was charged with its 7th foul of the half, sending Collingswood to the line for a 1-1 opportunity. The first shot did not drop in, and the Dawgs got the board, but with 20.5 seconds left, Collingswood stole it back. There was then a scramble for the loose ball, which Haddonfield won with 12.3 seconds left. Before a second even had time to tick off the scoreboard, Del Duca was fouled. He also stepped to the line with a 1+1 opportunity. His first shot swooshed in. So did his second, putting the Dawgs up by 6, 36–30.

Even though Collingswood had basically run out of time, a timeout was taken. After Haddonfield got charged with a foul, another timeout was called for with 10 seconds to go. The Panthers’ shot did not go in, not that it would have mattered. This time when the buzzer sounded, there was a winner: Haddonfield. In the 4-minute OT, the charged up Dawgs had put 6 points on the board when in the 8-minute 4th, they had only managed 5. And equally as important, they held the Panthers scoreless.

Matt Leming finished the game with 15 points. Thanks to the low score, no one else on the Haddonfield squad reached double digits. I had been getting updates about Matt Guveiyian while the game was still in action (it pays to be close friends with a player’s Nanny, aka Debbie Vermaat), so I knew he was headed for an X-ray. The good news came back that he had suffered a sprain and nothing more serious, but it still resulted in a deep bruise that kept him in the stands watching his teammates play the last two games of the season.

As if that were not enough excitement, word came Thursday afternoon (3/4) that the away Sterling game had been canceled. In fact, the frosh, JV, and varsity games had all been canceled. It turned out that the Silver Knights were shut down for the rest of the season due to COVID exposure. The rematch (Sterling had won round one 64–55) was supposed to determine the outcome of the Colonial Conference Liberty division. If Sterling had won, they would be the sole winner. Had the Dawgs come out on top, the teams would have shared the crown. Probably back in the day when snow was more likely to upend a would-be title game, rules were established that should this kind of cancelation occur without the game able to be rescheduled, the teams would still share the crown. I’m sure this upset Sterling more than Haddonfield, since the best outcome for the Dawgs would have a split, not sole possession of first place.

So, there was no game at all on Thursday. Instead, I was nearly simultaneously getting contradictory reports about the remainder of the Dawgs’ season—if there was even one left. One source was telling me the scheduled Saturday game had been canceled and the Dawgs’ season was over. However, my other source told me the Dawgs were going to now host Winslow Township at 4 on Friday afternoon (varsity only) and the game on Saturday was still at home but the opponent was going to be Glassboro not Bordentown. Source number 2 proved to be more reliable. The funniest part of all this was the two people who were providing me with conflicting information are related!

With the schedule seeming to be in constant upheaval, I decided if I wanted to make sure I saw one more home game, I’d better go to the Friday game in case the Saturday game was nixed at the last minute. The gym was even emptier than usual, as some parents were not able to get there because of the one-two punch of it not being set up until Thursday afternoon and the early start of 4 p.m. I did not know anything about the Winslow Township Eagles (who had very green unis). In the first quarter, it seemed that the teams might be fairly well-matched. After Carson Wolfe got the first point for Haddonfield from the foul line, Winslow got a bucket to go up 2–1 with just less than 2 minutes gone. And that’s how the score would stay for the next 3-plus minutes until Tom Mooney’s feed to Wolfe resulted in a bucket, putting the Dawgs—briefly—out in front 3–2 with 3:17 to go in the quarter. But a basket and a foul shot added 3 to the Eagles’ score, putting them on top 5–3 with 2:33 on the clock.

A jumper from Matt Leming tied it at 5 with 2:16 left. Justin Kasko stripped the Eagles of the ball about 12 seconds later, and after some nice ball movement under the Haddonfield basket, Wolfe scored off a twofold feed that went Kasko to Mooney to Wolfe. With 1:44 to go, the Dawgs were ahead again by 2, 7–5. But the Eagles landed a 3 with 47 seconds left to retake the lead by 1, 8–7. About 11 seconds later, the lead swung back to Haddonfield’s favor as Mooney went up and in to make it 9–8, Haddonfield, and that would be the final basket of the quarter for either side.

In the second quarter, Wolfe continued his nice driving into the lane for baskets. His first came off a Del Duca assist and put the Dawgs up by 3, 11–8, with 6:47 on the clock. A Haddonfield steal put the ball back into Wolfe’s hands, and this time, not only did he score, he got fouled. His shot from the line when it, and with 6:30 to go, the Dawgs were now up by 6, 14–8. The Dawgs got their third 2 of the quarter as Matt Kouser got into the act to push the Dawgs’ lead to 8, 16–8, with 5:11 left in the half. After a timeout, the Eagles still were having trouble finding the net, and the Dawgs went a bit cold as well thanks to a few turnovers that resulted from some passing miscues. Winslow Township got its first—and only—basket of the second quarter with less than 2 minutes remaining in the half. It was a 3 and make it 16–11, Haddonfield.

In the final 1:53 of the half, the Dawgs went on a mini run, putting 10 points on the board. Kouser got things started with a 3. After a traveling violation was called on the Eagles, Tom Mooney glided up and in for 2, and it was 21–11, Haddonfield, with 1:02 left. This time the Eagles lost the ball out of bounds and it was Kasko who drove into the lane for 2. He was fouled as well, and his free throw increased the Dawgs’ advantage to 24–11 with 48.2 seconds left. The Eagles didn’t turn the ball over their next possession, but their shot did not drop in, and Kasko secured the rebound. The Dawgs handed the ball back to the Eagles on a 5-second call, but it was still Haddonfield who got the last basket, this one by Del Duca, just ahead of the buzzer. As the teams left the court, the Dawgs were in command of the game, up by 15, 26–11.

After putting 17 on the board in the second quarter, the Dawgs upped it to 24 in the third. This was due in large part to the cluster of 3’s Haddonfield knocked down. Leming did a hat trick while Del Duca and Kouser each added one. Mooney contributed 7 on two buckets and three foul shots. So while the Eagles offense kicked in a bit, going from 3 in the 2nd to 13 in the third, the Dawgs had twice as many (and 1) on the board—50 to 24—when the third quarter came to an end.

Before Coach Wiedeman cleared the bench in the 4th, the Dawgs added 16 more points to their total. Mooney put up another 7, this time on a 3, a 2, and two foul shots. Kasko, Del Duca, and Jack Deegan each got a 2-point bucket, and Kouser got this third trey of the game. The final score was Haddonfield, 66, Winslow Township, 34.  Four Dawgs hit double digits: Mooney led the way with 18; Leming and Kouser each had 11; Wolfe finished with 10 points, all coming in the first half.

About 18 hours later, the Dawgs were back on their home court for their final game of the shortened season. Their record was 11–3, and they had won 11 of their last 12 contests. Hoping to keep them from making it 12 out of their last 13 games were the Bulldogs of Glassboro. Worth noting was that Dawgs’ coach Paul Wiedeman had both his senior captains, Justin Kasko and Jack Deegan, starting the game.

For the first 8 minutes of the game, the Bulldogs were outpacing the Bulldawgs. They scored the first 5 points of the contest, starting with a 3 and the following it with a 2 at the 5:17 mark. After Justin Kasko pulled down an offensive board, Matt Leming began his 3-point shooting spree to make it 5–3, Glassboro. I say “spree” because about 30 seconds later, his second trey put the Dawgs up by a point, 6–5, with 4:14 on the clock.

The Dogs made 1-2 from the foul line to tie it at 6 with 3:44 to go in the first. Although Deegan  pulled down an offensive board, the Dawgs lost the ball on a steal that resulted in a bucket for the Dogs, and with 3 and change in the quarter, Glassboro was back on top 8–6. This time Kasko pulled down an offensive rebound and then made a nice move to go up and in, tying the game again at 8 with 2:27 to go.

Kasko dove for a loose ball and got it, but the Dawgs were called for traveling. Tom (oh, heck, it’s the last game I’m writing up), Tommy Mooney got it right back on a steal. He passed it to Dante Del Duca, who had just come into the game. Dante Del Duca gave it back to Kasko, who scored, flipping the lead back to Haddonfield, 10–8, with 1:07 on the clock. The teams exchanged turnovers, then Haddonfield failed to score its next possession. A 3 by Glassboro put the Dogs in front by 1, 11–10, and Haddonfield’s shot ahead of the buzzer did not find the net.

The second quarter began with the Dawgs and the Dogs exchanging 3-pointers. Leming got his third and then Glassboro hit a bomb from way behind the arc, keeping the Dawgs behind by 1, 13–14, with a little more than a minute gone. The Dawgs got called for a moving violation and the Dogs got a shot off that did not go in. Mooney’s shots from the foul line edged Haddonfield back to a 15–14 lead with 6:30 to go in the half, but a 2 by Glassboro put the Dawgs behind the Dogs 16–15 with just under 6 to go in the half.

After a missed Dawg basket and a Dog timeout and turnover, Leming hit his fourth 3 of the half, which was the result of some nice ball movement. That made it 18–16, Haddonfield. That was followed by a nice steal by Del Duca. He was fouled en route to the basket. He made 1–2, and with 4:21 on the clock until halftime, the Dawgs were up by 3, 19–16 … but not for long. The Dogs got a field goal to cut that lead down to 1, 19–18, and then retook the lead, 20–19, off a Dawg turnover.

Haddonfield failed to score, but Mooney got the offensive board and Del Duca nailed a 3, and with 3:07 left in the half, the Dawgs had once again seesawed back in front, 22–20, with 3 and change left in the 2nd. Neither Dog nor Dawg scored for a few trips up and down the court, but thanks to a pickoff by Matt Kouser, Carson Wolfe was able to go up and in, giving the Dawgs a 4-point, 24–20, lead at the 2:04 mark. That was fleeting, as the Dogs answered with a basket to pull to within 2, 24–22 and then with 1:20 on the clock, Glassboro pivoted back on top 25–24 on a 3.

Kouser answered with a trey of his own, and with exactly 60 seconds remaining in the half, the Dawgs had regained the edge, 27–25. After Haddonfield missed two chances to score, a non-shooting foul was called on Glassboro, giving possession back to the Dawgs. Just ahead of the buzzer, Mooney let the ball fly and it sailed into the net, putting the Dawgs up 29–25 as the teams left the court.

That tight, exciting game disappeared in the third quarter, as the Dawgs put up 18 points to the Dogs’ 9. Kasko led the way with 9 points: Four came from the foul line, one from behind the arc, and one in the paint. Leming got his 5th trey of the game, Kouser got his second, and Leming also hit one from the foul line. When quarter 3 came to an end, the Dawgs had added some space between them and their opponents and were ahead by 13, 47–34.

For the first time all season, I believe, the Dawgs really went to town in the last 8 minutes. They poured 29 points into the net, 18 of them coming off 3’s. Mooney had a pair, Kouser got his third of the game, and Del Duca got his second. Leming finished his trey-fecta by hitting his 6th and also got a 2-pointer. When Mooney’s second 3 of the quarter, which was waaaay out there, made it 68–39 with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game, Wiedeman started to clear the bench, but he left his two seniors, Kasko and Deegan, on the court. Deegan got fouled with 2:35 on the clock and stepped to the line with a 1+1 change. He sent both shots into the net, making it 70–39, Dawgs.

Even the substitutions kept the scoring going. Freshman Darragh Roddy sank 1–2 from the foul line, and junior Sean Beane went in the lane for a basket, making it 73–45, Haddonfield with 1:01 left in the game. After Kasko pulled down a defensive rebound, his coach called a timeout so he and Deegan could exit the game to a standing ovation as their careers as Haddonfield basketball players came to an end. It was a shame more fans weren’t in the gym, but those who were let Kasko and Deegan know how much their Dawg days on the court had been appreciated.

The last points of the game came, like the first points did, on a 3, this time by Beane. In between Leming’s first and Beane’s, there were 13 other baskets from behind the arc. The final score of the final game was 76–45. Nine players contributed to that tally. Leming, aided by his 6 3’s, led the way with 21 points. Mooney knocked in 14, and Kasko finished with 13.

I’ll write more about this unusual and shortened season next week, but for now, I’ll close by saying after losing their first two games, the Dawgs got into a groove and ended the season 12–3. Well done, Dawgs!

Boys Basketball Weekly Wrap-Up: Feb 28

By Lauree Padgett Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

The Haddonfield boys basketball team had another busy week, playing four games, three of them against Colonial Conference opponents and one a last-minute switch. I’m not sure how the players are doing it, as I’m getting a bit tired just watching them and filling up my scorebook and notepad. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are all 40-plus years younger than I am!

This past week began with a Monday home game versus the Red Raiders of Paulsboro. Because Dawgs and the Raiders are in different Colonial Conference divisions (Haddonfield is in the Liberty and Paulsboro belongs to the Patriot), the teams only face off once a season. Since the matchup is always toward the end of conference play, it’s usually a big game as far as the standings go. In this pandemic-altered season, the game didn’t have quite the same impact, but I expect no one tuning in to the live stream or watching from the nearly empty benches in the Haddonfield gym was taking it lightly.

The action began with the Dawgs and Raiders exchanging 3’s, with Haddonfield’s coming from Matt Leming. The Raiders would take a quick lead after a Dawg turnover, but the game would be tied at 5 at the 5:15 mark on a slam by Matt Guveiyian. After a pickoff by Carson Wolfe and a jump ball that went Haddonfield’s way, Guveiyian had another dunk to put the Dawgs up 7–5, but the Raiders got 2 to knot it again, 7 all, at the halfway point of the quarter.

After Haddonfield missed two chances to score, Paulsboro hit another 3 to go back in front 10–7. I thought Leming got his second trey with the help of a friendly bounce, but the shot was called off, and I was never sure if Haddonfield was charged with a foul or a travel. But after a block shot and rebound by Guveiyian, Leming did get his second 3 to make it 10–10 with 39 seconds on the clock. No doubt Paulsboro’s coach wanted the Raiders to hold the ball and go for the last shot, but Justin Kasko’s tough “D” caused a Raiders turnover, giving the Dawgs the chance for the last basket. With 4.2 left, Guveiyian went up and in for his third bucket in 8 minutes, putting the Dawgs up by 2, 12–10, as the quarter ended.

The big story of the second quarter was that the Dawgs upped the pressure and the defense and held the Raiders to a single basket, which wasn’t scored until the 4:32 mark. That made it 17–12, Haddonfield, which had already gotten 5 from Matt Kouser: The 2 came off on a nice bounce pass from Dante Del Duca and the 3 came just ahead of the Paulsboro field goal. For the rest of the quarter, it was all Haddonfield at both ends. The rest of the 13 points the Dawgs put on the board came from a feed Tom Mooney to Kasko and then another pair of 3’s from Leming. When the teams headed off the court at the half, the Dawgs had a 13-point, 25–12, lead.

The Raiders found their offensive mojo in the third quarter and scored 14 points, more than their first half total. However, the third quarter was also the best offensively for the Dawgs, who put 19 points on the board. After Paulsboro hit 3 on its second possession to make it 25-15, Kasko got two straight baskets for Haddonfield to make it 29–17, Dawgs. A 3 by the Raiders got the Dawgs’ lead down to single digits, 29–20, but Kasko answered with a 3 to get that double-digit advantage back, making it 32–20 with 4:19 left in the quarter.

Guveiyian, who had an impressive game offensively and defensively, made an amazing save of a ball that the Dawgs almost lost, and after Kasko pulled down an offensive board, he got his third 2 of the quarter, pushing the Dawgs’ lead up to 14, 34–20. Haddonfield got the ball back after a bad pass by Paulsboro, which set in motion a nice piece of ball movement: Leming to Guveiyian to Del Duca, whose drive upped the Dawgs’ lead to 16, 36–20, with 2:23 remaining in the quarter. Kasko’s 5th and final basket of the quarter made it a 38–20 game before Paulsboro managed to get a foul shot.

A full timeout by the Paulsboro coach did not help much, as the Raiders came out of it only to throw up an air ball. Mooney grabbed the ball and dished it to Guveiyian, who went up and in. After picking off the ball, Del Duca went coast to coast and scored, and with 1:28 to go, the Dawgs had doubled the Raiders’ input and were cruising 42–21 with about 90 seconds on the clock. Neither team scored until Carson Wolfe drove in after another display of sharp, tight passing to make it 44–21, Dawgs, with about 16 seconds left, and that is how the quarter ended.

As has been the case a few times, the Dawgs were outscored, only by a point this time, though, by their opponents in the 4th quarter. The Dawgs, thanks to a pair of threes by Del Duca and one by sophomore Teddy Bond, as well as buckets by Guveiyian and Leming, plus a foul shot by Wolfe, put 14 on the board to the Red Raiders’ 15. That made the final score Haddonfield 58, Paulsboro 36. Four players finished in double digits: Leming led with 14, Kasko had 13, and Guveiyian and Del Duca each had 10. I try to keep up with other stats as I go along, such as rebounds, steals, and blocked shots, but I know I’m not as accurate with them as I am with points. I’ll defer to the Courier Post recap, which reported that in addition to his 10 points, Guveiyian pulled down 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals. I also credited him with four blocked shots.

Next up was a rematch against the Eagles of West Deptford the next night, 2/23. If it feels like these two teams just played each other, it’s because they did: On 2/19, Haddonfield won by 27 points, 64–27. Believe it or not, the outcome was almost exactly the same on the Eagles’ home court. Read on to see what I mean.

One aspect of this version of Haddonfield vs. West Deptford that deviated from the first script was that although the Dawgs jumped out to a 6–0 lead on 3’s by Tom Mooney and Matt Leming, the Eagles hung in there, scoring the next 6 points on a basket and a 1-point conversion from the foul line and then a 3 of their own, tying the game at 6 with just under 2 minutes left in the quarter. Carson Wolfe got in on the 3-point act to make it 9–6 at the 1:26 mark, and neither team scored again before the first quarter buzzer sounded.

West Deptford would get the first bucket of the second quarter, but Wolfe rattled in a nice jumper, was fouled in the process, and made his foul shot, making it a 12–8 game with just a minute gone. Wolfe was just getting warmed up, as he would score again after a pickoff by Mooney and a quick reaction by Justin Kasko to secure the ball. This basket would boost the Dawgs’ lead to 14–8. The Eagles lost the ball on a foul, the Dawgs didn’t find the net, but a backcourt violation by West Deptford returned possession to Haddonfield, who again got off a shot that didn’t drop.

This time, Mooney took matters into his own hands, stealing the ball and then swooshing in a 3, giving the Dawgs a 17–8 advantage with just under 5 minutes to go until the half. At the other end, Matt Guveiyian pulled down a board, passed it to Wolfe, who fed it to Mooney, who this time went into the paint for 2, netting the Dawgs their first double-digit lead of the game, 19–7, with 4:21 on the clock. West Deptford broke their drought with a basket, but a few plays later, the Dawgs got the double-digit lead back on a 3 by Matt Kouser, making 22–10 with 3 minutes and change remaining in the quarter.

After West Deptford was called for a travel, Kasko went up and in with a well-executed reverse layup on a feed from Dante Del Duca. Good pressure defense, which the Dawgs exhibited all game, caused another Eagle turnover, and with just under 2 minutes left in the game, Kasko delivered again, this time from behind the arc, making it 27–10, Dawgs. The Dawgs stole the ball again, but this time failed to score. At the other end, the Eagles got only their third basket of the quarter, but after Haddonfield’s shot did not go in, Wolfe got the ball back and went in for his 7th point of the quarter. When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, the Dawgs had the Eagles up a tree, ahead by 17, 29–12 after putting 19 points on the board.

In the third period, the Dawgs did even better offensively, although so did the Eagles. Led by Leming’s 3-point barrage—he knocked down a trio of them—2’s by Guveiyian, Mooney, and Kasko, and a pair of foul shots by both Mooney and Kasko, the Dawgs entered the 4th quarter up by 23, 48–25. Even though Dawgs’ coach Paul Wiedeman cleared the bench before the game was over, his subs put the ball in the basket, with sophomore Teddy Bond again showing off his 3-point range and junior Jon Bucci getting his first varsity bucket of the season.

The final score was 63–37, which was a point off from round one, which Haddonfield won 64–37. Nine players contributed to those 63 points, and four of the five starters reached double digits: Wolfe and Mooney had 14; Leming had 12, all from 3’s; and Kasko had 11. After starting off the season 0–2, the Dawgs had won 7 straight and were now 7–2, an impressive turnaround.

Before I move onto the Dawgs’ third, and toughest, game of the week, one more note about the West Deptford game: I want to give two thumbs up to the pair of high school students who did the play-by-play of the matchup. I didn’t write down their names, but the young men behind the microphones not only did a nice job overall describing the action on the court, they had a lot of good things to say about how Haddonfield played as a team and the abilities of individual Dawgs. Sometimes when you get the “home” feed, the announcers fawn over their own players and have nothing good to say about the opposition. Kudos for these two, who acknowledged the talents of Haddonfield while being supportive and encouraging of their own team.

In this odd season of ever-changing dates and teams, the Dawgs were originally set to have a 4:15 away game versus who I think was supposed to Burlington Reginal High School. Or was it Northern Burlington? I can’t say for sure, as that game was canceled, and it’s now off the schedule altogether. Instead, the Dawgs headed to Woodrow Wilson to take on the Tigers. It was a “Grrrrr-eat” game, although I would have preferred a different ending.

Unlike the West Deptford game, the two people calling the game were adults, who represented the D2 Sports Network and had not called a Woodrow Wilson, or obviously a Haddonfield, game yet. So that put them a bit in a disadvantage from not knowing the players on either squad. I actually thought the Eagles’ duo did a better job, but what was bugging me most throughout the contest was the D2 pair taking turns ever so often to say, “This is shaping up to be a good game.” OK, during the first quarter, or even the second, this was a fair assessment. But at the 2-minute mark of the last quarter, enough! Everybody watching knew how great a game this had become …

But I am getting ahead of myself. In the first two quarters, it was a close contest, but the Dawgs stayed ahead of the Tigers for most of those 16 minutes. In the initial quarter, the Dawgs did this by relying largely on the 3. Matt Leming tied the match at the 5:59 mark with a trey. Tom Mooney put the Dawgs up by 1 hitting 1–2 from the foul line, and after the Tigers went up 5–4, Carson Wolfe’s 3 made it 7–5, Haddonfield with 2:38 left in the first.

Mooney’s floater put the Dawgs back up by 2, 9–7, after the Tigers had evened it up on a basket. Then, after a pickoff by Justin Kasko, Mooney nailed a 3 (I love that he made a 1, a 2, and a 3 in that order) to make it 12–7, but Woodrow Wilson hit a 3 at the buzzer to make it a 2-point, 12–10, game.

By the end of the half, the Dawgs had increased that edge, but only by a point, and only added 8 total to their score, which came on a pair of baskets by Matt Guveiyian, a 3 by Matt Kouser, and a foul shot by Kasko. When play started in the 3rd, it was 20–17, Haddonfield, and everyone watching (except apparently the two men doing the commentating) knew the Dawgs and Tigers were in a tooth-and-nail battle that was liable to go down to the last few possessions. Or maybe even the last shot …

 In the third, Woodrow Wilson upped its offensive play, putting 19 on the board to Haddonfield’s 12. The game was going back and forth for most of the third quarter, as the teams traded buckets of the 2 and 3 variety. After a 2-pointer by Leming nudged the Dawgs back in front by 1, 26–25, with 3:15 showing on the clock, the Tigers rattled off a pair of unanswered treys, making it 31–26, Woodrow Wilson, at the 1:49 mark, which was the biggest lead either team had had all game. A big 3 by Guveiyian made it 31–29, Tigers, with 1:40 left in the quarter. Good defense on the sideline by Kasko and Guveiyian forced Woodrow Wilson to call a time-out with 1:28 left. That worked, as the Tigers nailed another 3 to go back up 34–29.

The Dawgs did not score during their next possession, but with 35 seconds to go, the Tigers lost the ball out of bounds, and Leming got his second 3 of the game to make it 34–32, Woodrow Wilson with 18 seconds showing on the clock. Right ahead of the buzzer, the Dawgs got charged with a foul, and unfortunately, it was called on a Tiger who had been shooting behind the arc, meaning he stepped up to the foul line with 3 shots to take. He made two of them, which was a bit deflating for Haddonfield, as it put Woodrow Wilson back up by 4, 36–32, going in the final 8 minutes of the game.

For most of the 4th, Woodrow Wilson kept Haddonfield at bay. Every time the Dawgs would start to rally, as when Kouser’s 3 got the Dawgs to within 3 again, 38–35, early in the 4th, the Tigers would answer with a few buckets in a row. One off a steal at the 6:00 mark gave Woodrow Wilson its biggest lead of the game, at 42–35. While a pair at the line from Kasko made it 42–37, a basket at the other end made it a 7-point, 44–37, Woodrow Wilson advantage again.

After a few possessions in which neither team scored, a scramble for a loose ball sent Woodrow Wilson to the foul line with 4 and change left in the game. Neither shot dropped, and that’s when the game started getting really intense. Leming hit a 3, cutting the deficit to 4, 44–40, with 3:35 on the clock. Another Haddonfield foul sent Woodrow Wilson to the line with a 1+1 opportunity (make the first, get a second shot), but again, the ball did not make it into the net. Haddonfield picked a bad time to turn over the ball, but Wolfe got a defensive board and Leming hit another huge 3, this time cutting the gap to 1, 44–43, with 2:11 left in the game.

Woodrow Wilson’s coach called a time-out seconds later. Thanks to pressure D by Guveiyian and Wolfe, the Tigers lost the ball with 1:57 on the clock. After a non-shooting foul was called on the Tigers, Leming made Dawg fans go nuts with his third 3 of the quarter, putting the Dawgs back on top, 46–44, for the first time since midway through the third quarter, with 1:05 left. The Tigers had an immediate response with a 3 of their own, putting them back on top by 1, 47–46. With 35.1 seconds to go, the ball went out of bounds off Woodrow Wilson. Mooney’s clutch 2 gave the lead back to Haddonfield, 48–47, and with 21.4 left in the game, Woodrow Wilson called another time-out.

To no one’s surprise (not even the commentators), the plan was for the Tigers to run the clock down before going for that last shot. The Dawgs were doing their best to keep them from having any outside or inside pathway to the basket while at the same time not committing a foul. With the clock winding down to a few seconds, a shot was finally made, and it did not go in. But it ricocheted to the right of the basket, into the hands of one of the Tigers’ best shooters. Off balance, just ahead of the buzzer, and somehow managing to eye it between the looming arms of several Dawg defenders, the shot hit the rim, paused on it, and rolled in. The Tigers had fought off the Dawgs to claim a 1-point, 49–48 thrilling victory.

I can never decide if it’s worse to lose a game by 10 or 20 or at the buzzer. And knowing that Haddonfield has hit more than its share of buzzer beaters (Mike DePersia, Camden. Need I say more?), it’s hard not to give a tip of the cap to the Tigers for almost letting the Dawgs steal a game away that it looked like they were going to win without nearly as much drama.

Leming’s 3 onslaught (he had five) made him high scorer for Haddonfield with 17. Mooney was also in double figures with 10. This game snapped the Dawgs’ seven game win streak and put them at 7–3 for the year.

Next up was an away game on Saturday, 2/26, at Lindenwold, a member of the Patriot division of the Colonial Conference. I am sure both Dawg and Lion fans were quite dismayed to tune into Lindenwold’s YouTube channel to find out no one was there streaming the game. Thanks to the High School Sports page on NJ.com, I can give you some of the particulars. The Dawgs started a new winning streak, beating the Lions 52–41. Tom Mooney and Carson Wolfe led the Dawgs’ offensively, with 17 and 11 points, respectively Matt Guveiyian pulled down 7 boards, and Justin Kasko, 5. Wolfe had three assists and Guveiyian, 3. I also heard from a reliable source that the refs called in the vicinity of 40 fouls, which made the game not a lot of fun to watch for those who were in attendance, which is a small consolation to those of us who did not get to watch it live-streamed.

Believe it or not, the Dawgs have their last four games of the season this week, beginning tomorrow, 3/1, with a home game against Rancocas Valley Regional High School at 7. Then it’s back-to-back Colonial Conference away games, both at 5:30. First up are the Collingswood Panthers on Tuesday, 3/2. Then it’s the Silver Knights of Sterling, one of the two Colonial teams to have beaten the Dawgs this season, on Thursday. Let’s hope both those games are shown live. The last game of the season is back at Haddonfield on Saturday, 3/6. It’s a 1 p.m. matchup against Bordentown Regional High School.

Go Dawgs!

Boys Basketball Weekly Wrap-Up: Feb 21

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.

My Journey: Citizen of the Year Joe Serico

Haddonfield Citizen of the Year Joe Serico was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting on February 17, 2021. He shared these prepared remarks with Haddonfield[dot]Today.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman of Rotary. Thank you very much for extending me an invitation to speak with you today.

I am exceedingly grateful to the Haddonfield Lions Club for recognizing me with this prestigious award as Haddonfield’s Citizen of the Year. This award has been bestowed on an amazing group of local citizens, many of whom I have known personally. I am humbled to be included in such exemplary company. I am not so certain that I am deserving in this pandemic year, when there are so many worthy health care workers, caregivers, and others who put their lives on the line daily. I am very appreciative nonetheless.

When [Rotarian] Cheryl [Laney] approached me about speaking today, I was flattered by the invitation but a bit perplexed as to what my focus might be. In our conversation, Cheryl asked me what people, places, and events encouraged my involvement in community activities.

As a boy growing up in the New York City borough of the Bronx, I never gave much thought to the Little League and CYO coaches who surrounded me, the volunteer ladies and men who worked alongside me at the hospital, and the many adults who gave freely of their time and treasure to support church or synagogue activities in our neighborhood. More obvious to me was the dynamic that ruled city life: local government officials were professional politicians paid for their services and aspiring to higher office. There were no local garden clubs that I could recall, as the Parks Department oversaw all the green spaces. What I knew growing up and in my first two teaching positions was nothing like what I would experience beginning in 1987.

It was in coming to work in Haddonfield that I experienced the exceptional commitment citizens can make to a community. In my first year at Haddonfield Memorial High School, it was evident that parents played a unique role supporting the schools. Sure, some schools have booster clubs and parents have some limited involvement in supporting teams that their children play on, but HMHS was different. At the High School, parents undertook major events like the Senior Fashion Show, the After-Graduation Party, Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, back-to-school breakfasts, and the hosting annual back-to-school nights. Beyond this very substantial commitment, parents were equally willing to become partners in school decision-making. They served on multiple school committees on scholarships, curriculum review, school advisory councils, teacher recruitment, and strategic planning. Equally committed were the selfless men and women who served on the Board of Education, most of whom had children in the schools. They undertook tasks like negotiating contracts, overseeing personnel decisions, and making decisions about facilities — decisions that put them squarely in the public eye. They devoted enormous amounts of time and energy assisting in overseeing the operation of the schools.

These volunteer women and men were nothing short of inspiring in their effort and commitment to support the school. I had never been exposed to anything like that. When they accepted a seat at the table, they were willing to commit many hours and do the heavy lifting that such work required. To this day I remain very grateful to PTA Presidents Jeanne Runne, Linda Giudice, Nancy Wills, and Julie Vick, who were role models for what engagement in the community could look like.

That commitment to volunteerism was everywhere you looked. HMHS students were also deeply involved in service activities. Organizations like the National Honor Society, Interact, and perhaps a dozen other clubs had a focus on community service when I arrived at HMHS. Today that number is even larger than when I left the High School nineteen years ago.

If I needed further evidence that service was a deeply ingrained in the culture of this community, I needed to look no further than the civic leaders who I deeply admired: Bill Reynolds, Gene Kain, Tish Colombi, and Jack Tarditi. The town was blessed with role models that a neophyte leader could look to. My very first encounter with our current mayor, Neal Rochford, occurred when we worked together at a children’s venue on a very frosty First Night.

Haddonfield provided both the environment and the opportunity for me to get involved in three key organizations that led to my increased engagement in the community: the Haddonfield Educational Trust, the Haddonfield Alumni Society, and the HMHS Beautification Committee.

As Assistant Superintendent and later a community member, I have been fortunate to serve for several years as one of the members of the Haddonfield Educational Trust board. The Trust has the responsibility for managing the Haddonfield Memorial High School Scholarship Fund and distributing established scholarships to graduating seniors. The Trust has supported several School District projects in the past few years, including the Turf Field project, playground renovations at both Central and Elizabeth Haddon schools, the “Lights, Camera, Action” project, and the HMHS Beautification Project in 2018 and 2019. The HET board has supported these major initiatives through individual donations and their annual Golf Tournament. In addition, the HET has annually sponsored and supported Teacher Innovation Grants to promote excellence in teaching and learning in the Haddonfield Public Schools. The HET has also tended to some short-term needs of the schools like supplying head-sets for teachers to assist with virtual learning and to support school clubs in going to national competitions. It has been a pleasure to serve alongside dedicated fellow volunteers like recent presidents Sarah Tambussi and Dave Larkin, and current president Adam Puff.

When the Haddonfield Educational Trust needed a liaison to the Alumni Society, I was happy to serve in that position. In large measure this propelled me into a much larger role working with the alumni community. The Haddonfield Alumni Society — especially Tom Baird and Wayne Hunter — allowed me to take on more responsibility in the organization.

Finally, Maureen Eyles, a BOE member at the time and an alumna, initiated a committee to improve the exterior spaces at the High School. Maureen asked me if I would serve as the chairperson of the committee. It was Maureen’s vision that saw the possibility of a collaboration among the Haddonfield Educational Trust, the Alumni Society, and the Beautification Committee.

Much of the work of the Beautification Committee has been completed. I discovered that a person with little background in development was going to find raising $200,000 quite a challenge. So, this effort became a series of projects, large and small, that evolved continuously over two years. Fortunately, there were extraordinary folks who contributed throughout the process to different phases of the project. Maureen Eyles and Joanne Connor joined with David Hunter to publicize our early efforts. Some individuals like Gwen Hotaling, who did a pop-up art show, and Jamie Grookett, who organized a fifth grade service project at Elizabeth Haddon School, made their mark. Other larger organizations stepped up, including the Haddonfield Educational Trust, which agreed to pledge up to $25,000 of the proceeds from their golf tournament for two successive years. Golf chairpersons Chrissy Nelson Del Duca and Jack Tarditi were a dynamic duo who relentlessly worked to achieve these financial targets.

Another fundraising project emerged from a conversation some months before the project started. Alumnus Brad Spence, highly acclaimed chef/partner at Amis Trattoria, expressed an interest in doing an alumni event. Brad has been no stranger to supporting the schools, serving as the driving force in the highly successful Central School Spaghetti Dinners. Brad suggested a pig roast. I could not say “yes” fast enough and proposed that we do this event in support of the Beautification Project. Brad was all in. He sourced the pig, roasted it, made all the accompaniments, and served it. Other alumni stepped forward to help make this event a success. Dan Smith, vice president of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, set up the bar and made specialty cocktails. Drew Perry and Brian Needham of Double Nickle Brewery contributed the beer; the Albericos — Carolina, Michael, and Tom — supplied the wine; Christy Bowman provided a sound system and Doug Legnola the music; and Lisa and Chris Wolschina opened their home as the venue. For two successive years, the pig roast raised some $36,000, which the HAS contributed directly to the Beautification Project.

Much of that alumni contribution can now be seen in the Legacy Walk that resides in the newly reconstructed stadium plaza. The Alumni Society purchased brick pavers for all of the 108 Lifetime Achievement Award winners and the 200 or so members of the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Legacy Walk also commemorates several other team championships achieved by boys’ and girls’ basketball, tennis, cross country and football, as well as numerous alumni and community members. This is an ongoing effort. Families, alumni, and future Hall of Fame members and Lifetime Achievement Award winners will continue to be recognized on the Legacy Walk. The beautiful designs for nearly all these outdoor spaces were rendered by landscape architect, Lynn Raus, a Haddonfield parent. She was at my side from the beginning of this project through today. I owe her the largest debt of gratitude for her exceptional vision and for giving so much of herself to this project.

The Board of Education provided the impetus for another project by giving the committee permission to honor cross-country and track coaches Nick and Maureen Baker for their exceptional achievements over forty-plus years at HMHS. A committee of track alumni — Tom Brennan, Colin Baker, Tom Herdelin, and coach Dave Stewart — worked tirelessly to reach out to track and field athletes from many decades, and they came through in a major way to support the efforts to have the HMHS track named for the Bakers. Many bought benches, trees, and pavers that expressed their appreciation for the Bakers and their dedication to the program. In the spring of 2019, we had an alumni barbecue and officially named the facility the Baker Track.

I was not surprised that the community and especially the alumni community would support the beautification efforts. In fact, alumni giving is one of our town’s best-kept secrets. On Senior Awards Night, the Alumni Society and the classes of 1953, 1956, 1963, 1971, and 1982 all offer scholarships supporting students in continuing their academic careers. In addition, numerous individual alums or their families have established trusts or make gifts that are directed to scholarships. Alums were responsible for more than $150,000 of scholarship awards for the 2020-21 academic year, and an additional $300,000 of awards to be spread over the remaining three years of college. This is an extraordinary achievement which reflects the exceptional generosity and goodwill of our alumni. The alumni and community support for the Beautification Project has been exceptional, with gifts ranging from $25 to $25,000.

As you might expect, the pandemic has put quite a crimp in the kinds of activities that the HAS has thrived on for several years. Our annual Happy Hours scheduled in spring and late fall had to be cancelled, as was the HET Golf Tournament and Pig Roast. Several reunion classes had to postpone or cancel their events in anniversary years like the 25th, 35th, 50th, etc. The trustees of the HAS began to think of some ways that we might reconnect with the alumni community despite our inability to meet safely face-to-face. We created some interactive Zoom events like beer and wine tastings. Modeled after the Master Class website, the trustees proposed and instituted an Alumni Master Class where our talented and highly successful graduates created short classes to share their expertise, demonstrate their skills, or talk about their experience in their given field. To date they have been well received. Upcoming on February 19: Dave Guggino, a New York-based dancer and choreographer will lead a session entitled, “No Judgment, Just Move”. Dave promises to show us a move or two that are certain to embarrass our children. On February 27, Ben Axler, founder and CIO of the Spruce Capital Management hedge fund will present on “The GameStop Drama and Investing in Today’s Market.”

I suppose that it would be gratifying enough just to see the sketched designs for gardens or a stadium plaza come to fruition and improve the HMHS campus spaces. I am especially grateful that I am able to give back in some small measure to the place where I enjoyed a work life that was so personally fulfilling for me. I recognized in coming to Haddonfield that I enjoyed the gifts of a wonderful student body, a talented and caring faculty, supportive parents, and a community that highly values education. What I could not appreciate when I arrived was how deep and meaningful the connections to students, parents, and faculty would become. For me, one of the great joys in working with each of the three organizations was reconnecting with these talented, accomplished, and caring adults who are so willing to support the schools.

While the work on the Beautification Project is nearly finished, we will continue to add to the Legacy Walk and accept gifts toward the Sarah Tarditi Gallagher Garden that will take shape between the A and C buildings. The BOE has decided to expand on the Gallagher Garden to more fully utilize that space and to build an outdoor classroom.

As we go forward, one project worthy of further consideration sits squarely in front of the High School. Some time ago, David Hunter met me at the flagpole and suggested that it might be a good idea to include the restoration of the base of the flagpole in the Beautification Project. Unfortunately, the base has deteriorated significantly in recent years. While I really liked David’s idea, frankly I was a bit too timid to consider adding another piece to the project. Now, I would like to get it off the back burner. So, in the next several months, you may hear a bit more about that project. Keep us in mind if it is something you feel you can support.

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today and to share this story. I appreciate your time and all that Rotary does for the community.

Boys Basketball: Know the team; watch them play

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

Without the benefit of the roster that hangs on the wall by the entrance to the gym, it’s tough to put all the new faces with the numbers and figure out who is who. Here is the current roster to help Dawg fans get familiar with the 2021 team.

  • 21 Matt Leming — Junior — 6-3 Guard               
  • 2 Carson Wolfe — Junior — 5-11 Guard               
  • 4 Matt Guveiyian — Junior — 6-4 Forward            
  • 11 Tom Mooney — Junior — 6-2 Guard                
  • 22 Justin Kasko — Senior –6-4 Forward            
  • 5 Dante Del Duca — Junior — 6-2 Guard                 
  • 15 Jack Deegan — Senior — 6-4 Forward          
  • 3 Sean Bean — Junior — 5-10 Guard                
  • 13 Teddy Bond — Sophomore — 6-4 Guard              
  • 20 Matt Ventola — Junior — 6-1 Forward          
  • 24 Jon Bucci — Junior — 6-3 Guard              
  • 25 Christian Raymond — Junior — 6-1 Guard              
  • 32 Matt Kouse — Freshman — 6-2 Guard              
  • 33 Evan Rohifin — Junior — 6-2 Forward          
  • 35 Darragh Roddy — Freshman — 5-11 Guard  

Unless you are related to a player or are a member of the press (woohoo!), current COVID-related restrictions do not permit fans to attend games in person. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch games in real time or after the fact. Happily, for all hoops fans out there, the host school is providing a live feed of each game — varsity, JV, and frosh — via its athletics’ YouTube channel.

For a list of Colonial Conference YouTube channels, go HERE. Click on the desired school to be taken to that channel.

To access the Dawgs’ schedule. go HERE. Keep in mind that it will change as the season evolves … meaning, check the day of each scheduled game to make sure it’s still on and the time is still accurate. The weather forecast for this coming week could impact one or both of the upcoming home games.

And while there is nothing quite the same as being in the gym to cheer on your team, I will admit that sitting in a comfortable chair instead of going out in the cold, dark of winter to drive to a school to watch a game isn’t a bad deal. That being said, I am also grateful that I have the opportunity to see the Dawgs play at home from my own little corner of the gym, dubbed “the press” area.            

The long road back for Haddonfield Boys Basketball

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

No one could have anticipated that when the Haddonfield Dawgs’ 2019–20 season came to an end on March 10, 2020, in a South Jersey Group 2 championship loss to Camden, it would be a few weeks short of a year before the team took to the court for an actual Colonial Conference contest. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought the New Jersey 2020 basketball state semi-finals to a screeching halt a few days later and would go on to upend sports on all levels, that spring, I doubt few people aside from maybe infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci weren’t thinking that by the fall of 2020, life, including high school sports, would be back to normal. Sigh.

The original Dawgs 2020–21 schedule had the first game happening on Friday, Dec. 18th versus Haddon Township. That schedule did not last too long before Governor Phil Murphy halted all winter (indoor) sports activities until mid-January. January 18, Dawgs’ coach Paul Wiedeman replied to an email of mine, saying in part, “So far we have successfully completed 7 days of practice uninterrupted. Our opening game against Haddon Township on January 26th has already been postponed and moved back to February because of COVID concerns on their part. …  Guys are working real hard in practice and are just excited to be in the gym playing basketball. I hope we can play all 15 games this year.”

Fifteen games, for those of you who don’t keep basketball stats memorized, would be exactly half of what the Dawgs played last season when they finished 25–5. Sectional playoff games were eliminated (meaning the 2019 Dawgs are still the reigning Group 2 state champion!), although individual conferences, such as the Colonial, could have their own playoffs. The number of non-conference games allowed, normally capped at 11, was also reduced.

But alas, per COVID-19 protocols, the Haddonfield squads had to then stop practicing for 2 weeks, pushing back the opening game even further. Finally, on Feb. 6, which, by this same date in 2020, the Dawgs played game 19 in their schedule, the team took to the court at Haddon Township. No fans were in the stands. The only people in the gymnasium were the players and their coaching staffs, the refs, and the other essential personnel, such as those running the clock/scoreboard and providing the audio and video feeds.

That first game showed just how much the delays and setbacks had impacted the Dawgs, who only brought back two players with starting varsity experience: senior Justin Kasko and junior Tom Mooney. The game was tied 5 all after one quarter, and the Dawgs had a 3-point, 14–11 lead at the half that they built up to a 19–13 advantage early in the third quarter. However, the shots stopped dropping and those quick 5 points would be the only ones that went on the board for the team in the remaining minutes of the quarter. (If I could tell you the time on the clock when the Dawgs made it 19–13, I would, but the Haddon Township feed did not provide a scoreboard, nor did the announcer think to provide any time updates.) When the quarter ended, the Dawgs were behind by 2, 19–21. Mooney and junior Carson Wolfe did help boost the Dawgs’ 4th quarter points, scoring two buckets each, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Hawks had beaten the Dawgs 38–30. According to the Courier Post, Haddon Township had not accomplished this feat in 48 years!!! The Retropsect was more, uh, circumspect, and reported it had been more than 40 years since the Hawks had secured a W versus the Bulldogs.

Game two of this shortened season took place 3 days later at Haddonfield. The Silver Knights of Sterling road into town and put it to their Colonial nemesis all four quarters, leading by 5, 11–6, after the first 8, upping that lead to 8, 31–23 at the half, and taking that to a double-digit advantage of 50–35 at the finish of the third. The final score was Sterling, 64, Haddonfield, 55. And although the Dawgs were now 0–2, those last 8 minutes gave a glimpse of what the team might be capable of, as five players—Wolfe, Mooney, juniors Matt Leming and Dante Del Duca, and freshman Matt Kouser—had scored to put 20 points, to Sterling’s 14, in the net. The team had also hit 10 three-pointers during the game.

Thursday, 2/11, the Dawgs went up the highway (Kings Highway, that is) to take to the court against another longtime rival, the Garnets of Haddon Heights. Last year, the Dawgs and the Garnets split their pair of conference games and then faced off for the third time in the South Jersey Group 2 semi-finals. That nail-biting 35–33 win, secured on a nifty poach of the ball and a layup by Dawg Connor Fell, also gave Paul Wiedeman his 500th as Haddonfield’s coach.

On one hand, the stakes weren’t quite so high in this matchup as they had been the last time the teams had met. On the other hand, no one wanted to see the Dawgs start off 0–3. (Or, as Vic Wiedeman reminded me when we passed each other in our cars in our Voorhees neighborhood and rolled down the window to chat, lose 4 games in a row, counting the Camden game.) From the outset, it was clear the Dawgs were not going to let that happen. Unlike the first two games, the Dawgs scored the first 5 points of the match on a 2 by Wolfe and a 3 by Leming. Heights got 2 back from the foul line, but the Dawgs scored the next 5, in a second verse same as the first, but in reverse order: a 3 by Leming and a 2 by Wolfe. Heights got another point from the free throw line, and Wolfe closed out the scoring for the quarter with his third bucket, putting the Dawgs up by double digits 12–3.

The Dawgs never looked back. Heights did score a bit more (7 points) and Haddonfield a bit less (9 points on another 3 from Leming and two more drives by Wolfe) in the second 8 minutes, but going into the half, the Dawgs were leading by 9, 19–10.

The Dawgs really stepped on the offensive gas in the third quarter, putting up 25 points to the Garnets’ 5. Wolfe knocked in 7 on a trio of 2’s and a foul shot. Leming got his fourth and fifth 3’s of the game (he would finish with 6 of them and a total of 22 points). Justin Kasko showed that he had been honing his 3-point shot in the offseason, swooshing in 2 along with as a basket from the foul line, and Dante Del Duca got into the 3-point act as well. Going into the last 8 minutes, the Dawgs were definitely in control, ahead by almost 30 points, 43–15.

Heights finally found its shooting range in the 4th, outscoring the Dawgs 18–11, but the Dawgs still won by a decisive 26 points, 54–28 to secure their first win of the 2021 season. In addition to Leming’s 22, Wolfe finished with 13 and six other players contributed to the total.

Saturday, 2/13 was the day I had pegged to go to a home game in person. As it turned out, it was the first game family members (two per player) were also allowed in the stands. (The Dawgs’ athletic department, under AD Lefty Banos, did a great job arranging the seats, assigned by numbers marked on the benches, so that social distancing protocols were followed. While families did chat a bit during halftime and as they were exiting the stands, I think everyone felt safe.) The foe was the Collingswood Panthers, always a tough team to beat. Could the Dawgs get another win to get to the .500 mark?

Well, Collingswood got the first bucket of the day at the 7:25 mark of the quarter 1. The Dawgs got on the board to tie it off a nice feed from junior Matthew Guveiyian to Tom Mooney. Then after rebounding a board at the other end, Guveiyian hit a 3 to put the Dawgs on top 5–2. The Panthers got 2 and then the Dawgs got 2 more on a nice drive by Kasko, putting the Dawgs up 7–4 with 4 minutes and change to go in the quarter.

Collingswood got to within 1 point on a basket its next possession, then went up by 1, 8–7, on a steal and a slam at the 3:22 mark. The next score of the game would come on a 2-point bucket by Leming, who was fouled. His shot at the line went in to put the Dawgs back on top by 2, 10–8. He got another 3 in one shot to push the lead up to 13–7 with 1:44 to go in the first.

Collingswood ended their mini-scoring drought with a 2, but Leming answered with another 2 and Mooney drained a 3. The Panthers got another basket, but Mooney hit another 3, and the first quarter ended with the Dawgs up 9, 21–12.

Both teams scored a bit less in the 2nd quarter, but the Dawgs were still able to build onto their lead, putting 10 more points on the board on 3’s by Mooney and Kasko and the equivalent of one by Leming, who was fouled beyond the 3-point arc and made all of his resulting foul shots. Mooney also added a point from the foul line, and going into the half, the Dawgs were ahead 31–17, with their solid D having held the Panthers to 5 points.

The third quarter was a little more evenly matched, as the Dawgs again got 10 on the board but this time the Panthers got 7. Still, going into the last 8 minutes, the Dawgs had a comfortable 41–24 lead. Sometimes that comfortable edge can vanish, as a team starts to lose a bit of momentum. However, thanks to Matt Kouser, who played a good part of the 4th and send in a trio of treys from way out there, and Mooney, who drove in for three consecutive layups, the Dawgs put 15 more on the board. The Panthers took a bit of an advantage of Wiedeman clearing his bench and actually outscored the Dawgs by 1 point, but it did not change the outcome. The Dawgs won their second straight by a 56–40 margin.

For the third straight game, the team combined for 10 3’s. Tom Mooney knocked in 18, Matt Leming, 16, and 7 Dawgs contributed to those 56 points.

So, what happened between the first two games, when the Dawgs lost by 8 and 9 points, respectively, and the second two games, when they won by 26 and 16, respectively? In my mind, it was almost like a switch was flipped. A team that looked tentative at best versus Haddon Township and even for the first three quarters against Sterling, with no one really taking charge, was in control from end to end of their games versus Heights and Collingswood. A parent I was in touch with put this about-face into perspective after the Heights victory: “That 14-day quarantine and coming back into games with virtually no practice time was tough. They are getting their rhythm back,” he noted, adding, “Great to see that win!”

And I think that is really the right takeaway. Teams returning most of their starting lineup from the previous year probably are in somewhat better shape than teams who are bringing in players who don’t have a lot, or even any, varsity minutes under their unis. Between the long delay of the season at the outset, and then the 2-week quarantine just as the Dawgs were getting ready to play ball, the players lost valuable time interacting with each other as a unit. How can a team gel when the players and coaches are isolated from each other? The short answer is, it can’t.

By the end of the Sterling game and then the full matchups against Haddon Heights and Collingswood, the players started being more in synch with each other. Turnovers started decreasing on their end and passing and assists picked up. Balls started dropping into the net instead of clacking off the rim or the backboard. Defensively, through great double teaming, pressing, and quick hands, the Dawgs started turning the tables on their opponents, forcing them to turn the ball over before getting shots off.

I’m not predicting that the Dawgs are now going to win their remaining (if the schedule holds up) 11 games, which doesn’t count the Colonial Conference Tournament. But I think the team is finding its mojo, now that they can really be a team again and under the in-person tutelage of one of South Jersey’s greatest coaches, Paul Wiedeman. And in a season that has been like no other, that counts for a lot.

Come back on Monday night (February 15) for:

  • Getting to Know the Team
  • How to Watch the Games, Live or Later