High School Boys Basketball:
Saturday, March 6, 1999
By Greg Alvord
Before a packed gymnasium at Cherry Hill East, the standing room only fans were treated to an afternoon of exciting basketball that those South Jersey Group 4 playoffs have become famous for. On this afternoon, the Rancocas Valley Red Devils topped the Cherry Hill East Cougars by 1 point, 35-34, in an entertaining South Jersey Group 4 semi-final contest.
The game began with high intensity from both teams. The Red Devils pressured with tight man to man defense, while the Cougars countered with a 2-3 zone. The defending Group 4 Champion Red Devils started the action by racing to a 10-2 advantage. Marcel Grant started the run with a smooth 3-pointer. Tim Ferguson picked the pocket of East's point guard, then converted with an electrifying, one-handed tomahawk jam. A steal by Ken Greb set up another bucket by the racing Grant. Mike Vankline popped a 3-pointer to finish the run. Cherry Hill East then called a time out to readjust. The Cougars came out with a 1-3-1 trapping "D" which settled them down. East's Jeff Pela pumped in two buckets to help his team. The quarter ended with RV holding a 13-8 advantage.
The second quarter opened with Jeremy Joseph hitting Van Kline on a nice backdoor play to extend the Red Devils lead to 15-8. Pela's put back off of a missed shot and a roll around the rim 3-pointer by Ed Santes pulled the Cougars within two. Aggressive play by both clubs led to a number of free throws. As the half neared its conclusion, Van Kline was racing down the court for an apparent easy two when his slam banged off the rim into the hands of East's Marcus Bullock. He converted for two. The next time down, a huge snuffleupagus block by Matt Minoff led to a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Bullock to end the high energy first half. RV held a 23-22 lead.
The second half opened with a change of strategy by Cherry Hill East. The Cougars used a deliberate, disciplined half court offense. With players cutting and screening, the Cougars ate away huge chunks of time off the clock. This was evident by the 12 total points scored in the quarter. The Red Devils' Van Kline was asked how this style effected his team. "We didn't let it into our minds. We knew what kind of ball we had to play so we concentrated our effort into playing our style." Both teams traded baskets throughout the quarter. A couple of silky drives by RV's Ferguson paced the Red Devils as Bullock was East's stabilizing force. The foul-less third quarter ended with RV holding the lead to 29-28.
The defensive intensity continued for both teams as the final period opened. The tall 6'6" or bigger Red Devils front line sparked RV's play. Another player of the game, Bullock converted two hard driving moves to keep the Cougar's close. A big block by RV's Ja Williams led to a Joseph to Williams alley-oop that brought the packed house to its feet. The never say die Cougars switched to a full court pressing defense that saw them run off six straight points. The Red Devils were up 35-32 with thirty-eight seconds left. A sly steal by Pela with twenty seconds left gave East a chance to tie the ball game. With the crowd standing and the noise level deafening, East's Bullock let go of the game tying 3-point attempt. The ball spun around the rim then popped out into the opportunistic hands of Santos, who banked the rebound in to cut the lead to 35-34 with five seconds left. The diving body Cougars couldn't get their hands on the inbound, and the time ticked off giving the Red Devils an exciting 35-34 victory and a chance to face Shawnee in the South Jersey Finals on Tuesday.
Photos by Greg Alvord
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