High School Boys Basketball:
Thursday, February 25, 1999
By Greg Alvord
At the honorary Bob Costello Gymnasium in Evesham, the high schools of Cherokee & Highland faced each other in the final game of the regular season. In a playoff tune up, the Highlanders looked in peak form with a 61-46 victory. As Cherokee prepares to face Shawnee in the opening round of the N.J.S.I.A.A. Group IV playoff, you can bet that Highland will be in the stands scouting. Highland will face the winner of the Chief/Renegade match-up.
The opening quarter began with tight man to man defense by both teams. Two and a half minutes went by before any scoring was done. Boring play to some novices, but a treat to watch such defensive intensity to the basketball hearted. Number 3, Mike Scanzano, broke the drought with a 3 "banger" to give Cherokee the opening lead. This brought the scoring juices out of both teams as they exchanged baskets. Highland went to work inside using a variety of players. The exciting inside play of #11 Mark Groark, #40 Bob Wells, and #34 Andrew Frazier, led Highland. Cherokee kept pace with these Highland insiders with some nice drives. As smooth "Dr. J"-like one-handed, reverse lay-up by Kyle Cuneo and a spinning scoop shot by #5 Jamal Williams, led the Chiefs. The quarter ended with Cherokee holding a 13-12 advantage.
The second quarter was a mirror of he first with tremendous defense. While both teams tried to score, they found it difficult with "in-your-face" play. Fifteen points were scored, total, by both clubs. There were some nice inside moves by #43, Brian Erhart, of Cherokee. Highland started to get their running legs going. A monster block by Frazier led to the picture of fast break. Four Highland players touched the ball without it touching the floor, with Frazier getting the ball back to finish the play with a finger roll lay-up. The half ended even, 19-19.
The third quarter opened with Cherokee's Coach Powell honoring his senior players for the four years of dedicated participation. Number 20, Mike Albanese, #24 Kevin McCullough, and #34 Rob Dake, played inspirational ball for the Chiefs. Half way through the quarter saw the Cherokee starters return down 26-21. Highland went on to blitzkrieg the stunned bunch. Highland played with vigor and spirit while Cherokee's play was off. A 17-0 run by Highland saw a variety of nifty plays. Number 20 Gene Mergenthal was hitting nothing but net from the outside. The powerful inside play of Frazier was near unstoppable. Number 42 Kevin Holmes was popping from mid-range. A key to the run was a hard pick by Holmes that seemed to pump the Highland team up. A 3 pointer by Cherokee's Scanzano stopped the madness for the Chiefs. The quarter ended with Highland holding a 41-27 lead.
The fourth quarter opened with Cherokee knowing that they had to stop the momentum of Highland. They attempted this by applying full court press pressure. After swapping baskets, the press started to pay off for Cherokee. Eight unanswered points, led by two sweet driving lay-ups by Cuneo, cut the Highland lead to 48-36. A clever steal and an off the glass 3 pointer by #10 Doug Cusick of Cherokee cut the Highland lead to an even closer 48-41 advantage. This would be the closest the Chiefs would get. Highland stopped attacking the press passively and went back to work running the hardwood. Crisp ball movement and arrow sharp passes to open lanes were the key to Highland's play. Groark and Frazier paced Highland as the game ticked away. Frazier's tomahawk dump put the finishing touches on the game, as the contest finished 61-46 in Highland's favor.
Cherokee: Cusick 7; Scanzano 8; Cuneo 11; Hewitt 2; Erhart 14; Wiliams 5
Highland: Groark 13; Holmes 10; Mergenthal 5; Frazier 19; Wells 11; Mascieri 3
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