Blue Devils shock Haddonfield at Seagull
ABSECON—If Hammonton High School’s boys basketball team is going to make a deep run in both the Cape Atlantic League (CAL) or state playoffs this season, the Blue Devils will need to play like they did last weekend at the Seagull Classic, using a fourth-quarter rally to stun favored Haddonfield 45-37.
Sophomore guard Kenny Smith led Hammonton in the fourth quarter, scoring seven-straight points to give Hammonton the lead for good in a game that saw Haddonfield fight back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit.
“Number 3 [Smith] is a player. He really stepped up for us today. Kenny’s a little different than some kids. He’s tough and he’s a leader. He does everything; he scores, he scraps, he defends, gets rebounds. He did it all for us,” Hammonton assistant coach Christian Mortellite said.
Both Mortellite and Smith called the game a “statement win,” one that improved Hammonton to 6-2 this season.
“It was definitely a statement win for us. I’d call it that. People doubt us and we wanted to make the statement that we can play with anybody,” Smith said.
“I think it’s one of the best wins ever for the program. Before the game, I was walking around the gym and all people we saying was how Haddonfield was going to blow us out. Our guys heard all that and it motivated them. We have a very tight-knit team. They want to grind out games and they are all tough. We’re starting to put it together and we’re going to be really good,” Mortellite said.
Both teams struggled offensively to start the game, which was scoreless through six minutes. Smith and Bryce Nicholson made early baskets to give Hammonton a 7-2 lead after a quarter. The shooting improved in the second period, and Hammonton took a 17-11 lead into halftime.
The third quarter began well for the Blue Devils, who stretched their lead to 27-17. That advantage disappeared, however, as the Bulldogs closed the quarter on a 10-0 run to tie the game 34-34.
“We knew they had a run in them and they hit some shots. We didn’t panic because we knew we had the best player on the floor [Smith] and he showed it in the fourth quarter.
With Haddonfield leading 28-27 , Smith drilled a 3-pointer to give Hammonton the lead, 30-28. The Devils never trailed again, as Smith scored seven-straight points, adding two transition layups as Hammonton stretched its lead to 36-30. Ta’vonne Barber then nailed a 3-pointer to put the game out of reach.
“Kenny took over and once Ta’vonne hit that shot, we knew it was over,” Mortellite said.
“They [Haddonfield] came back and made it a game. It was like the game against Ocean City last week where we hit that 3-pointer with eight seconds left and then they made the half-court shot to tie it. That game gave us confidence and when they [Haddonfield] tied it, we weren’t worried,” he said.
Mortellite praised Smith’s strong fourth quarter.
“He didn’t shoot the ball well, but when we were down by one, he hits a big shot and that just fed the rest of the guys. Once Kenny made that shot, our kids knew we would close it out,” Mortellite said.
Smith led Hammonton with 18 points and Nicholson added 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Bryce [Nicholson] had a great game. He stepped it up,” Mortellite said.
The win capped a week that also saw Hammonton win on the road at Atlantic City 55-44.
A 24-10 third-quarter run fueled that victory.
Smith scored 30 points in the win, while Tyler Lowe added 11.
Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted Millville, but that game ended too late for this edition. On January 11, the Blue Devils play at Bridgeton at 7 p.m. Hammonton also plays at Cedar Creek on January 13 at 5:30 p.m. and again against Wildwood Catholic on January 15 at Rowan University at 2 p.m.