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HMHS Boys Basketball: Dawgs streak to impressive start

By Lauree Padgett / Exclusive to Haddonfield[dot]Today

Begin 2023–24 season 7–0

The Haddonfield Memorial High School boys varsity basketball season started at home with a Colonial Conference Liberty division game. It marked the beginning of Paul Wiedeman’s 25th season (!!!) as head coach of the Dawgs. In the previous 24 seasons, Wiedeman-led teams have won five state championships and countless Colonial Conference titles. Had it not been for a few recent COVID-shortened seasons, Wiedeman would no double be on the cusp of his 600th victory with Haddonfield, but as the year began, his record stood at 557 wins to 136 losses. (And no, that’s not a typo; Wiedeman has an amazing 80% winning record.)

While the man pacing the sidelines will not be new this season for the Dawgs, high school basketball has had some rule changes across the board, so to speak, for all teams across the country. The rules were outlined at the end of May in a press release posted on the National Federation of State High School Associations’ website. The main changes center on free throws and how fouls are administered. No more will the one-and-one scenario, in which a player steps to the foul line, usually at the end of a half, be in effect. Instead of having to make his first shot in order to get a second shot, once the opposing team has committed five fouls in a quarter, the player will automatically be awarded two shots. Previously, the bonus was reached when one team had committed seven fouls in a half. Players will also be given two shots on all “common” fouls, according to the press release. A primary reason cited for the change was the chance to cut down injuries coming off rebounds and overall “rough play” that arose from one-and-one situations. While I’m all for reducing the chances for injuries on the court, I also will miss the excitement—the stress—of having a player step up to the line in a nail-bitingly close game to see if he could hit one and then another foul shot.

I asked Coach Wiedeman how he thought this rule change would impact games. “It will change strategy for sure. You might want to emphasize getting to the rim and drawing fouls sooner. Jump-shooting teams might need to change their style,” he opined. So far, in the Dawgs’ seven games, the updated rules have seemingly not affected game outcomes, but time will tell.

Haddon Heights at Haddonfield: 12/14/23

OK, back to that first game, which was against the Garnets of Haddon Heights. To highlight all of the December games I saw (six of the seven) without turning this first article into a tome, I’m going to recap each game without, in most cases, minute-by-minute descriptions. That being said, the Heights game and the one that followed versus Camden Catholic were the two closest contests of the month.

The Dawgs looked a bit discombobulated the first 16 minutes of this game, and part of that was due to the play of the Garnets. After senior forward Patrick Ryan scored the Dawgs’ first point of the game from the foul line, fellow senior forward Sam Narducci scored 2 off a steal. Heights would get the next 7, the last bucket off a Dawgs’ turnover, and were up 7–3 with just 3 minutes gone in the quarter. Thanks to a pair of 3’s from Narducci, the Dawgs went up 9–7, but a trey by the Garnets put them back in front 10–9. Another basket off a steal made it 12–9, Heights, with about 2 minutes left in the quarter. Senior forward Nate Rohlfing’s two foul shots got the Dawgs to within 1, 11–12, but the Garnets answered with a basket, and were up by 3, 14–13, as the first quarter ended.

The second quarter started off promisingly as senior guard Phil McFillin, just into the game, stole the ball, passed it to Narducci, who went up and in for 2, getting the Dawgs to within 1, 13–14. A few plays up and down the court later, Rohlfing made two more foul shots to give the Dawgs the lead 15–14 at the 6-minute mark. That lead was brief, as Heights hit a 3 to go back in front 17–15. Neither team scored for about 90 seconds until senior guard Matt Morris poached the ball and also set up Narducci, who drove in to tie the game at 17 with 4:30 left in the half. Foul shots by McFillin were followed by a field goal by the Garnets to keep the game knotted at 19. A trey by Morris made it 22–19 Dawgs, but Heights scored the last two field goals of the half and were up by 1, 23–22, as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

In the second half, the Dawgs began handling the ball better, which helped them at both ends of the court. Rohlfing scored the first 3 points of the third on a basket and then a few plays later a foul shot, but the Garnets’ basket tied the game at 25 all with 6 and change left in the quarter. Neither team was able to score from the field the next few possessions, instead adding a foul shot to their tallies and keeping the game knotted at 26 with 4:33 on the clock. It wasn’t until the 3-minute mark that the tie was broken on a 3 by Morris, making it 29–26, Haddonfield. Morris followed his trey with a 2, and Narducci’s 2 off a steal gave the Dawgs’ their biggest edge, at 33–26, with just under 2 minutes left in the third. However, the Garnets made 4 foul shots to finish off the quarter, so that 7-point lead had dwindled down to 3, 33–30, as the fourth quarter began.

In the fourth, helped by some timely 3’s, Haddon Heights would not let Haddonfield pull away. Just when the Dawgs had gone up 43–34 after two fouls by senior guard Daire Roddy, with 4:03 showing on the clock, and the Dawgs’ teenage contingency started the ever-popular “Start the buses” chant, the Garnets answered with a 3. After a 2 from Rohlfing off a feed by senior forward Zach Langan, Heights swooshed in another 3, and just that fast, it was a 5-point, two possession, 45–40 game, with 39.1 seconds left. After a 2 from Langan, Heights hit another 3 (all their threes were stunning a former Haddonfield coach in the stands, and not in a good way), and with 15.9 left, it was 47–43. Two foul shots from Roddy made it 49–43, and even though Narducci’s pickoff and basket sealed the deal, the Garnets got one last 3 in ahead of the buzzer, making the final score 51–46, Haddonfield.

Sam Narducci put in 20 for the Dawgs, and Nate Rohlfing added 11. All seven players who got int the game scored.

Camden Catholic vs. Haddonfield at Cherokee Regional High School: 12/16/23

This game was one of 13 hosted at Cherokee as part of the Jimmy V Showcase, named in honor of the great North Carolina State University men’s basketball coach and then ESPN broadcaster, Jim Valvano, who, in his final days of battling metastatic adenocarcinoma, established the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. (If you have never seen his funny yet heart-wrenching, inspirational speech when accepting the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1993, in which he tells us all, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” it’s more than worth a watch. It still gives me goosebumps.)  The V Foundation is one that Cherokee boys basketball head coach Eric Cassidy strongly supports in memory of his mother, who died in 2011 from breast cancer at the age of 48. Cassidy promised his mother he would do everything in his power to raise money for cancer research, and for the past 11 years, the tournament that Cherokee hosts has enabled Cassidy to do just that.

The Haddonfield–Camden Catholic game, the final one of the day, was considered the marquee matchup of the event, as preseason, both teams were ranked in the top 10, Haddonfield at #7 and Camden Catholic at #9. As longtime Haddonfield fans will know, these two teams also have a connection due to the coaching staff of the Fighting Irish, specifically head coach Matt Crawford, the son of Jim Crawford, who switched places on the bench with Matt in 2013. Although Jim (aka Skyman Crawford to 1970s’ LaSalle fans) did not play for Haddonfield, his younger brothers Mike and Dennis suited up for Haddonfield. Dennis in fact played for Dave Wiedeman, father of our current coach, and is a member of the HMHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Although the Dawgs never trailed at the end of any of the quarters, the game in some ways was similar to the Heights’ contest. In the first quarter, the score seesawed back and forth. The Irish hit a 3 to start the game, and Sam Narducci answered. The Irish went up by 1 off the foul line, and Patrick Ryan’s foul shot tied it at 4. After a Narducci steal and basket, Camden Catholic hit another 3 to reclaim a 1-point, 7–6 ,lead with just under 5 minutes left in the first. Narducci, who would put 12 of the Dawgs’ 16 quarter points on the board, scored 4 from the line and hit another 3 before the Irish would score again with 2 and change to go, making it 13–9. Daire Roddy closed out the scoring for the first 8 minutes, giving the Dawgs a 7-point, 16–9, advantage going into the second quarter.

The next 8 minutes, the Dawgs’ points all came from the field, off a pair of 3’s from Zach Langan, another trey from Narducci, and 2’s from Narducci and Phil McFillin. At the half, the Dawgs had increased their lead to 9, up 29–20.

However, just like the Garnets wouldn’t go away, neither would, as their name implies, the Fighting Irish. By holding the Dawgs’ to 6 points, on a pair of field goals from Ryan and one from Langan, and adding 9 to their total, Camden Catholic had closed the gap to 6 points, 35–29, going into the last quarter.

Neither team scored the first few trips up and down the court until Ryan went up and in for 2 and got fouled. His foul shot put the Dawgs up again by 9, 38–29, with 6:35 remaining in the game. The Irish were not offput, as they scored 6 straight points, with a pair of field goals and a pair of foul shots, so with 3:30 on the clock, they were within 3, 38–35. Ryan hit 1–2 from the line and after nice defense by Nate Rohlfing, Matt Morris grabbed the defensive board and scored, giving the Dawgs a 41–35 edge with 2:20 to go.

After Camden Catholic made 1–2 from the line, Morris stepped to the line and hit both, upping the lead to 7, 43–36. The Irish got 1 point back on the foul line and after what looked like a horrible foul on Morris—he was standing still and a Camden Catholic player went into him—the Irish got the ball back and scored, cutting the lead to 4, 43–39 with 39.4 left. The last 5 points scored by the Dawgs came from the foul line: Narducci and Morris hit 2 and Roddy hit 1. Although the Irish got one more basket on a 3, the Dawgs, thanks to their 9 made foul shots in the quarter, hung on to win 48–42.

Sam Narducci led the Dawgs with 19 and was the only player for Haddonfield in double digits. Eighteen of Haddonfield’s 49 points came from 3’s, and all six treys came in the first half. Fourteen more were made at the foul line.

West Deptford at Haddonfield: 12/21/23

While I was enjoying the lights and Christmas magic at Longwood Gardens for a slightly belated birthday celebration on 12/19, the Dawgs were lights out at Haddon Township, where they defeated their Liberty Division rival Hawks 67–19, and all the Dawgs’ JV players got into the game. Although the Hawks certainly got pounded, the Haddon Township players might have taken some comfort when their 48-point loss ended up not being the worst conference defeat an opponent would face at the hands of Haddonfield that week. Two days later, another Liberty division member, the West Deptford Eagles, were “bald” over by the Dawgs by 59 points.

Here are the “de-tails”: In the first 8 minutes, the Dawgs outscored the Eagles by 12. Sam Narducci got 8 on a pair of treys and a field goal; Nate Rohlfing went up and in the paint three times; Patrick Ryan hit four foul shots; and Zach Langan added a bucket off an offensive board.

The second quarter got a bit uglier for the Eagles. The Dawgs poured 26 points into the basket while holding West Deptford to 8. Rohlfing continued to pound the paint, adding four more baskets. Matt Morris and Phil McFillin each contributed 9 points, and Narducci’s basket accounted for the final 2 points. Going into the half, the Dawgs were up by 31, 46–15.    

In the third quarter, the Eagles managed to put 10 on the board and the Dawgs “only” got 23 points. Narducci dominated with a pair of treys, two field goals, and a foul shot. Rohlfing could not be stopped in the paint, scoring three more times. Ryan, Roddy, and Langan each made a bucket.

In the fourth, the nonstarters came in to keep up the offensive attack, adding on 26 points. McFillin got three more baskets, and senior guard Mike Feinstein added 5 on a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer. Sophomore guard Mike Douglas hit a 3 and a pair of foul shots; sophomore forward Chris Beane made some pretty moves under the rim to add 6 points; and sophomore forward Jack McKeever hit a 2. I will fully admit that I got the most excited in the fourth quarter when freshman forward Ryan Guveiyian got his first varsity basket as a Dawg, as I have known Ryan since he was a baby, just like I have his older bro and former basketball player Matthew, and current senior Andrew, who just finished up an outstanding season on the soccer field.

When the final horn sounded, the Dawgs had soundly defeated the Eagles 95–36. Sam Narducci led the way with 21 points, Nate Rohlfing knocked in 20, and Phil McFillin added 15. The seven nonstarters who scored contributed 42 of those 95 points. In total, 12 Dawgs at least one basket.

Atlantic City Institute of Technology at Haddonfield: 12/22/23

Teams with bird mascots have not fared too well against the Dawgs so far this season, as the  Red Hawks of ACIT will attest. While the Red Hawks got the first 2 of the game, the 6:18 mark of the first quarter was the one and only time they would have the lead. Sam Narducci answered with a 3, and after a pickoff by Zach Langan, Nate Rohlfing followed with a 2. After another turnover by the Red Hawks, Narducci hit another 3 to make it 8­–2 Dawgs with 5:10 on the clock.

ACIT got its own 3, to get back to within 3, 8–5, but Rohlfing hit a jumper after a nice boxout and defensive rebound, and Daire Roddy’s steal and pass to Narducci pushed the lead back to 7, 12–5. Patrick Ryan got in on the scoring to make it 14–5 before the Red Hawks got another basket. Rohlfing went up and in for 2, and the Red Hawks’ 3 made it 16–10 with 1:59 to go in the quarter. That would be ACIT’s last basket of the quarter, but the Dawgs would put up 7 more points on a foul shot by Narducci, an offensive board and basket by Rohlfing, and another Roddy-to-Narducci play. As the quarter ended, the Dawgs were up by 13, 23–10.

The situation did not improve for the Red Hawks in the next 8 minutes. They managed to put 7 on the board to the Dawgs’ 18. Matt Morris, Phil McFillin, and Mike Douglas came into the game and accounted for 9 of those 18 points. Rohlfing and Narducci each made another field goal, and Langan got a 2 and 3. At the half, the Red Hawks were in the red by 24, down 41–17.

In the third quarter Narducci alone outshot the Red Hawks, going on a tear, knocking down five treys along with two 2’s. Langan added another 3, and Rohlfing got two more baskets in the paint. With a foul shot by Ryan, the Dawgs had poured in 27 points to ACIT’s 8 and were cruising going into the fourth, ahead by several touchdowns, 68–25.

The nonstarters came in for the last 8 minutes and once again, there was no offensive letup. Morris took over for Narducci, making a pair of 3’s, four foul shots, and a 2. McFillin got three baskets and a foul shot, and Douglas got another 2. Mike Feinstein and Chase Stadler each had a 2 and Ryan Guveiyian dropped in a 3. When the buzzer sounded, the Dawgs had won their fifth straight game, , winning by 58, 96–38.

Sam Narducci, who knocked down seven 3’s, finished with an impressive 32 points. Nate Rohlfing’s hard work in the paint got him 16 points. And coming off the bench for good minutes were Matt Morris, who knocked in 15, and Phil McFillin, who added in 11. This time, the nonstarters contributed 37 of the Dawgs’ total points, and 10 players scored at least one basket.

Haddons Invitational—Pemberton Township High School at Haddonfield: 12/27/23

Maybe any team with winged mascots, not just birds, will have a tough time against the Dawgs this year, as the Pemberton Township Hornets would feel the sting of Haddonfield’s offense next. At the onset, though, compared to the previous games, the Dawgs were not putting a lot of balls in the net. Instead, to the aggravation of the fans near me, including the coach and two members of the 1973 state championship basketball team, the Dawgs were turning the ball over more than turning on the offense. This was enabling the Hornets to stay close the first 8 minutes of the game. Even so, Nate Rohlfing’s three buckets under the basket and 2’s from Patrick Ryan and Sam Narducci had the Dawgs out in front by 2, 10–8, as the first quarter ended.

And then it was like a switch was flipped. While turnovers were still more than desired, the offense, spurred by the entry of Matt Morris and Phil McFillin onto the court, came on strong. Morris, often fed by McFillin, made five baskets. Mike Douglas was also a shot in the arm offensively and defensively, as he caused trouble for the Hornets at their end of the court and added a 2 and 3 into the quarter’s tally. McFillin and Narducci also nailed 3’s, and Rohlfing got another field goal in the paint. When the teams headed into the locker room at the half, the Dawgs’ 2-point lead had stretched into a 21-point lead, as the team held the Hornets to 4 points in the second quarter.

In the third, the Dawgs’ scoring barrage slowed a bit, as five players tallied 13 points, including treys from Narducci and Zack Langan. The biggest moment of the third came with 30.4 seconds remaining. That’s when Narducci went down hard after what I think was a pickoff attempt. He remained on the floor for a few minutes, and when he was able to rise, he had to be assisted over to the trainer’s table by two teammates, where he remained for the rest of the game. At last report from one of my inside sources, he had been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and was sporting a boot. It is unlikely at this writing that Narducci will be back in the lineup before the upcoming weekend matchup versus Moorestown.

Because the Dawgs held the Hornets to 6 third-quarter points, they were still up by 28, 46–18, going into the final 8 minutes. The fourth was McFillin’s quarter, as he scored a pair of 2’s and made three foul shots for 7 of the Dawgs’ 18 points. The Hornets finally got buzzing offensively, putting 17 on the board, but it was a case of too little too late. When the clock hit 0:00, the Dawgs had won their sixth straight by a score of 64–35. Matt Morris led all Dawg scorers with 12. Phil McFillin had 11, and Sam Narducci and Nate Rohlfing each added 10.

Haddons Invitational—Egg Harbor Township at Haddonfield: 12/29/23

This was the first game I had to stream this season. And it took some effort because I was unaware that the HMHS athletic department had switched streaming services. While archived games from past seasons can still be accessed on the Dawgs’ YouTube channel, to watch this season’s home games live or after the fact requires the use of the Hudl app. Via your computer or smartphone, you can go directly to the Dawgs’ channel:–Varsity-Basketball/video. From your smart TV, it’s a bit more complicated (at least I haven’t found a shortcut yet): After you add the channel, you have to move to the top line toolbar, where you can choose high school. Then you have to scroll (left to right) to select a state. Once you have clicked on New Jersey, you can look for current (or upcoming within the next day) games by school or go to the second row, labeled Recent, and search for Haddonfield boys or girls. (I just noticed that the game versus Pemberton Township on Friday is mislabeled as being versus Clearview, but if you click on the arrow, it is the Hornets’ game.)

OK, now that those important instructions have been shared, remember what I said about teams with winged mascots?? This second game for the Dawgs in the Haddons Invitational (which consisted of two days of games, not just featuring the Haddonfield girls and boys varsity but teams from the area) was against the Eagles of Egg Harbor Township. The winged mascot “curse” did not come into play early on, as the Eagles got off to a 4–0 start before Phil McFillin, who made an earlier than usual entrance into the game, got the Dawgs on the board at the 3:23 mark. The Eagles landed another basket to go back up by 4, 6–2, before Patrick Ryan grabbed an offensive rebound and went up and in. McFillin would tie it at 6 with 1:46 left in the quarter, and then a few plays later, put the Dawgs up by 2, 8–6, from the foul line. The Eagles got the last shot off, a 3, and the quarter ended with Egg Harbor on top by 1, 9–8.

In the second, Matt Morris, who started in place of Sam Narducci, notched a 3 to give the Dawgs a 2-point, 11–9, lead with less than 30 seconds gone. After a 2 by Egg Harbor tied it with 7:01 on the clock, Mike Douglas nailed a 3 to make it 14–11, Dawgs, in Haddonfield’s next possession. McFillin stretched that advantage to 6 with a 3, but the Eagles responded with their own trey, making it 17–14, Dawgs, with 5:41 to go until the half.

About 30 seconds ticked off the clock before Nate Rohlfing went 1–2 from the line to make it 18–14, Haddonfield. Neither team could get a ball in the net for the next 2 minutes. Ryan broke the mini-scoring drought with a basket, but seconds later, the Eagles got a 2, getting back to within 4, 20–16, with 3:10 showing on the scoreboard. Douglas swooshed in his second 3 of the quarter to give the Dawgs their largest lead of the game, 23–16, with 2:39 left in the half. That would be the last basket of the quarter for Haddonfield, but Egg Harbor got 2 from the floor and 1 from the foul line to close the deficit to 4, 20–16, as the half came to a close.

That 4-point gap was reduced to 2 when Egg Harbor got the first basket of the third quarter at the 7:13 mark. Ryan was fouled after rebounding his own missed shot and made 1–2 from the line. Aftre traveling was called on Egg Harbor, Rohlfing scored on a feed from Ryan, and the Dawgs had edged their lead up to 5, 26–21, with 5:50 left in the quarter. After securing a defensive board, Ryan scored off a pass from Rohlfing to re-establish the Dawgs’ 7-point, putting them up 28–21.

The Eagles got 2 back from the foul line and 2 back from the floor and were back to within 3, 28–25, with just under 5 minutes left in the quarter. Another Rohlfing-to-Ryan play made it 30–23, Haddonfield, with 4 minutes and change left. The Eagles scored, then Morris scored, keeping it a 5-point, 32–27 Dawgs’ edge with 2:34 on the clock. A defensive board by Rohlfing led to another 2 by Morris, pushing the Dawgs back to a 7-point, 34–27, lead with 2:03 to go. A 3 by the Eagles followed McFillin’s 1–2 from the line would be the last point of the quarter, so going into the last 8 minutes of the game, the Dawgs had a lead, but not necessarily a comfortable one, at 35–30.

Although the Eagles would not go quietly, putting 13 more points on the board in the fourth, Morris and McFillin kept the Dawgs out in front. Morris knocked down a 3 and scored two other baskets. McFillin hit a 3 and a 2. Douglas added 3 on a bucket and a foul shot, and Langan also had 2. When the game was over, the Dawgs remained undefeated in the first month of the season, defeating the Egg Harbor Eagles by 11, 54–43. Phil McFillin finished with 15, Matt Morris was right behind him with 14, and Patrick Ryan added 11.

Looking Ahead

The boys start off the New Year with a 7 p.m. Wednesday away game at Paulsboro on 1/3, then host the Sterling at home on Friday, 1/5, at home. Saturday, they play Moorestown at 10:30 at Moorestown. (The original schedule said the game was versus Moorestown but at Holy Spirit, but that has been adjusted to indicate the game is at Moorestown High School.) Let’s hope the Dawgs keep up their winning ways against teams with and without winged mascots!