• Dan Russoman

Injuries impact Blue Devils


Hammonton’s Sofia Purvis takes a shot during last week’s game at Buena. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

MILLVILLE—Injuries to a pair of starters proved costly for Hammonton High School’s girls basketball team last week, as the Blue Devils dropped a pair of games to see their record fall to 5-5.


Sophomores Giada Palmieri and Ava Divello both missed all three games last week with injuries, taking two of Hammonton’s top three scoring threats off the court.


“We’re not sure when or if either of them [Palmieri and Divello] will play again this season. It definitely hurts us because they were our two best ball-handlers and they provided a lot of scoring. We’re down to just eight players on the roster, so we’ll have to make some adjustments and girls will have to step into different roles for us the rest of the way,” Hammonton coach Mike Velardi said.


Playing three times last week, Hammonton defeated Buena before dropping close games against both Vineland and Millville.


Slow starts have plagued the Blue Devils all season, and they were sluggish in the first quarter at Buena before eventually pulling away for a 45-9 win.


Emma Peretti scored 10 points in each half and grabbed 13 rebounds in the win, while Sofia Purvis added 14 points and 11 boards as Hammonton dominated inside throughout the matchup.


Guards Caitlyn Salita and Luca Berenato handled the point guard duties and played well at both ends of the court.


“Luca [Berenato] is a senior. She knows how to move with the ball and distribute. Caitlyn [Salita], we call her ‘the tornado’ because she plays with a lot of intensity. She hasn’t had to handle the ball much, but I thought she stepped in and did a great job today,” Velardi said.


Both guards were able to move the ball inside to Purvis and Peretti, who were too strong for Buena to handle.


“Thankfully, those two are playing very well,” Velardi said.


“Emma [Peretti] has been awesome all year, scoring and rebounding. And Sofia Purvis has really stepped it up the last few games. She’s playing very, very well,” Velardi said.


Two days after the win at Buena, Hammonton lost at Vineland 54-42.


After falling behind by five points in the first quarter, Hammonton fought back to tie the game, 20-20, at the half.


The Devils kept it close in the third, but Vineland was able to pull away in the fourth quarter to earn the win.


“We ran out of gas. We’re young and down two players, we made too many turnovers and it cost us. But those are just excuses. We have to step up and play better. This team has a ton of fight and to hang with Vineland, one of the top teams in our division, without two starters, I’m proud of the girls,” Velardi said.


Peretti posted another double-double, scoring 17 points with 19 rebounds in the loss. Purvis added 10 points and eight rebounds and Alexa Panagopoylos had seven points.


The week ended with a tough 47-40 overtime loss to Millville. A 17-3 second quarter run saw Hammonton lead 19-11 at halftime, but the Blue Devils were unable to hold on and Millville fought back in the second half, hitting a pair of free throws with less than five second remaining in the game to force overtime. In the extra period, the visiting Thunderbolts outscored Hammonton 14-7 to earn the win.


Peretti led Hammonton with 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Berenato added 10 points.


Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted St. Joseph Academy, but that game ended too late for this edition. On March 3, the Blue Devils visit Egg Harbor Twp. at 4 p.m. and the season ends at home on March 5, when HHS hosts Our Lady of Mercy Academy at 4 p.m.