• Dan Russoman

Blue Devils drop pair to division leaders

Hammonton girls lose to Vineland, OLMA; top Bridgeton in busy week


Hammonton's Giada Palmieri dribbles past a Vineland defender during last week's game. The Blue Devils lost the game, 47-38. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—A poor start cost Hammonton High School’s girls basketball team a chance to move up in the Cape Atlantic League West Division standings last week, as the Blue Devils struggled early in a tough 47-38 loss to undefeated, division-leading Vineland.


Hammonton rushed shots and made some bad decisions with the basketball in the first quarter, costing the Devils a chance to grab an early lead. The period ended with the game tied 8-8, but Vineland found its rhythm in the second quarter and carried an 18-13 lead into the half.


“We didn’t play well in the first half. Too many turnovers, too many bad decisions and we just didn’t protect the ball well enough. They were better at the start and we just couldn’t get back into the game,” Hammonton coach Michael Velardi said.


Hammonton’s struggle continued in the third quarter, as Vineland’s speed and outside shooting frustrated the Blue Devils and allowed the Fighting Clan to extend its advantage to 32-23. Sophomore point guard Giada Palmieri fouled out late in the third quarter, adding to Hammonton’s second-half woes.


“Giada [Palmieri] is kind of our glue out there. She handles the ball and without her, we really don’t have anyone else that distributes as well as she does. Losing her really hurt us. At that point, I knew it was going to be tough for us to come back against a good team,” Velardi said.

The Devils played better in the final period, especially at the offensive end, but were unable to fight their way back into the game.


“Vineland is in first place for a reason, they’re very good. They hustled and just outplayed us tonight. We were a little rusty because we haven’t practiced in a few days because of the snow, but that’s no excuse. We have to be more consistent,” Velardi said.


Emma Peretti scored a team-high 15 points for Hammonton, adding nine rebounds. Ava Divello added 11 points, while Sofia Purvis had six points and 10 rebounds.


“I thought Sofia Purvis had a great game tonight. She was physical inside and made some big plays,” Velardi said.


Hammonton bounced back later in the week, defeating Bridgeton 64-48.

The Blue Devils were in control from the start, jumping out to a 17-0 lead. That led to a 10-point advantage at the half before Hammonton pulled away in the third quarter.


“It was a fantastic team effort,” Velardi said.


Peretti was outstanding in the win, leading all scorers with 20 points while adding 21 rebounds. Palmieri hit three 3-pointers on her way to 16 points, while Divello added 15.


“When those three [Peretti, Palmieri and Divello], are scoring, we’re a hard team to beat. That’s what we need, those three to score and lead a complete team effort. I was really happy with how we played tonight. We were finally able to have some practices and we put it all together.” Velardi said.


The week ended at Our Lady of Mercy Academy (OLMA) last weekend, where Hammonton lost 71-45.


Turnovers hurst the Blue Devils, as they were unable to build any momentum in the first half. Baskets from Divello, Palmieri and Peretti helped Hammonton take an early 11-9 lead, but OLMA’s pressure defense forced several Hammonton miscues with the ball, allowing the host Villagers to take control in the second quarter, as they ended the half in front of the Blue Devils 27-22.


Turnovers also helped OLMA open the third quarter on a 10-0 run, as a pair of 3-pointers from Drew Coyle sparked the Villagers.


“We couldn’t break their press effectively and we turned the ball over too much,” Velardi said.


The Villagers’ depth was also an issue for the Blue Devils, as OLMA substituted several players at each stoppage of play.


“When you have 15 players and you’re changing out five at a time like they do, it’s tough for us to keep up. They wore us down in the third quarter,” Velardi said.


Divello led Hammonton with 17 points, while Peretti added 14 points and 15 rebounds.


Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted St. Joseph, but that game ended too late for this edition. On February 18, the Devils host Millville at 4 p.m. and on February 20, they travel to Bridgeton for a 9:30 a.m. start.