Hammonton drops close game at Millville
MILLVILLE—Frustrated by a solid Millville High School squad, Hammonton saw its chances at a high seed in the upcoming Cape Atlantic League (CAL) playoffs take a hit as the Blue Devils dropped a 53-51 decision in a game that could have a big impact on the league tournament seedings.
“We really needed a win today,” Hammonton coach Joe Martino said.
“The league has been very competitive and very tight. When they seed the tournament, they’re going to look at games like this and we need to win as many as we can,” he said.
Last week’s matchup was the second time this season the teams played a game decided in the final seconds. Earlier in the season, Millville escaped with a 69-67 win in triple overtime.
In last week’s rematch, the host Thunderbolts led 14-11 after one period, but Bryce Nicholson scored six points and Nic Johnson nailed a key 3-pointer to put the Blue Devils up 24-21 at the half.
The game stayed close in the third quarter, as Kenny Smith and Tyler Lowe connected for 3-pointers while Millville’s Donte Smith and Raquan Ford hit shots from beyond the arc with Hammonton clinging to a 36-34 advantage.
Ford added two 3-pointers in the final minutes to help Millville build a six-point lead, but Hammonton fought back with baskets from Azzir Smith-Bey and Johnson.
Millville hit free throws down the stretch, and the Thunderbolts were able to hold off a late Hammonton push for the win.
The loss was the fourth in five games for the Blue Devils, who fell to 9-7 on the season.
“I don’t know if I’d say we’re struggling, but we haven’t played our best basketball lately. I think we just need to focus a little more. We’re making sloppy mistakes and it’s hurting us,” Martino said.
The recent slump has dropped Hammonton into fourth place in the CAL American Division.
“Our division is tough, there aren’t really any easy games. We started well and picked up some nice wins and now we’re just making mistakes that are costing us,” Martino said.
Nicholson and Smith each scored 14 to lead Hammonton in the loss.
In other action last week, Hammonton lost to Atlantic City and beat Vineland.
The Blue Devils caught a surging Atlantic City team to open play last week and the Vikings came away with a 44-41 win.
Smith scored 22 points in the loss, with Smith-Bey adding nine.
“Atlantic City has their full roster and they’re playing very well right now. They’re a tough team,” Martino said.
Against Vineland, Hammonton grabbed a 25-13 lead in the first quarter and held on for a 65-61 win.
Smith scored 26 points, Smith-Bey added 12 and Joe Gillen had seven.
Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted Cumberland and also faced Bridgeton but those games ended too late for this edition. On February 2, the Blue Devils host Cedar Creek at 5:30 p.m.