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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Late baskets send HHS past Absegami


THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Hammonton’s Kenny Smith (3) drives to the basket as Absegami’s Isiah Aleapassa (32) tries to block the shot.

GALLOWAY—Kenny Smith’s layup and free throws in the final minutes lifted Hammonton High School’s boys basketball team to a 52-49 victory in the Blue Devils’ season-opener last weekend.


Smith, a sophomore guard, scored 18 points in the win, and none were more important than the two he notched with a driving layup that put Hammonton up by a point, 48-47, with less than a minute left in a hard-played game by both sides.


“That’s what he [Smith] can do. We try to create situations where our guards can penetrate and get to the basket, and Kenny was able to get that one late,” Hammonton coach Joe Martino said.


The score gave Hammonton the lead for good in a game that saw several momentum swings, especially in the fourth quarter.


Charles Jerkins scored seven points in the first period to help Absegami grab an early 14-11 lead.


In the second quarter, Smith hit two shots and Ta’Vonne Barber added a basket as Hammonton cut the deficit to 23-21 at halftime.


The teams played evenly in the third quarter, with both Nic Johnson and Joe Gillen hitting 3-pointers to keep the game close.


Johnson’s 3-pointer off a missed free throw midway through the fourth quarter, his second of the period, gave Hammonton a 46-42 lead, but Absegami fought back to go ahead 47-46 with less than two minutes remaining.


With 1:41 to go, Smith drove past an Absegami defender and scored to put the Blue Devils up 48-47.


After an Absegami turnover, Hammonton worked the ball around near half court, running time off the clock before Smith hit Gillen underneath for a layup that gave the Blue Devils a 50-47 lead. Baseem Taleferro’s basket with 16 seconds left cut Hammonton’s lead to one point, but with 12 seconds to go Smith converted two free throws to seal the win.


“We had to come back it came down to making some stops and we had to pressure a little bit and it worked for us. We forced a couple of turnovers and made free throws at the end. At the end of the day it was a tough-fought game, Absegami is a strong, athletic team,” Martino said.


In addition to Smith’s 18 points, Johnson added 11, Tyler Lowe had 10 and Gillen chipped in with seven.


“Nic [Johnson] down the stretch, was off to a slow start but he made some big shots when we needed them.” Martino said.


Hammonton was glad to open the season with a win and hopes to carry that momentum into this week when the Blue Devils have three tough games.


“[The win was] a tough one but we got it. Now our schedule picks up. We have some hard games coming up,” Martino said.


Hammonton opened this week against ACIT, but that game ended too late for this edition. On December 21, the Blue Devils play at Middle Twp. at 7 p.m. and on December 22, they visit Ocean City at 5:30 p.m.


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