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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Red hot Blue Devils top Gloucester Catholic

Dan Russoman/THG. Azzir Smith-Bey scored a game-high 27 points to help Hammonton defeat Gloucester Catholic on January 27.

HAMMONTON—Azzir Smith-Bey scored 27 points and Hammonton High School’s boys basketball team shot well from the perimeter as the Blue Devils stayed hot, defeating Gloucester Catholic 63-56 on January 27.

The victory was Hammonton’s fourth of the week, and 10th in 11 games.

“We’ve been playing well the last few weeks, finding ways to win,” Hammonton coach Joe Martino said.

Hosting a pesky Gloucester Catholic team to wrap up a busy week, the Blue Devils used baskets from Smith-Bey and Kenny Smith to build a 13-8 first-quarter lead.

Hammonton had trouble penetrating against Gloucester Catholic’s 2-3 zone, so the Blue Devils attacked from the perimeter, using strong ball movement to find open shooters throughout the game.

The result was 15 3-pointers, including seven from Smith-Bey, who was in a groove from start to finish.

“He [Smith-Bey] shot the ball well and he was feeling it in the zone. He knew where he was going to catch it and shoot and I think that mattered and helped him get into a rhythm,” Martino said.

Smith-Bey and Jake Edwards each sank a pair of 3-pointers in the second period as Hammonton led 32-28 at the break.

The Rams kept the game close in the third quarter, but Smith-Bey connected on a trio of 3-pointers to help the Blue Devils stay in front.

In the fourth quarter, Hammonton almost gave up the lead with some costly turnovers, but despite frustrating their coach, the Blue Devils held on for the win.

“I’m upset because we’re sloppy and don’t have a sense of urgency. We don’t take care of the ball. We played well in terms of offense, we scored. Our guys can score and we can shoot a little bit. But we got careless at times,” Martino said.

Hammonton’s coach blamed some of the sloppiness on a busy schedule last week. Hammonton was playing time in 16 hours and fourth game in six days.

“We’re coming off a back-to-back, I get it, we’re sluggish, I understand that, but at the end of the game, we just want to tighten it up,” Martino said.

“Our decision making at times could have been better, but this is the type of team that their 2-3 zone will make you handle the ball and make good passes. One, two or three possessions you don’t do that and it’s a layup at the other end and they have shooters, so they can easily go on a 10-0 run in a matter of 30 seconds,” he said.

While it was far from Hammonton’s best performance of the season, Martino was happy to earn a win.

“It was a good win overall and we have some things we have to work on but I’m happy about the win. We’re playing really well the last few weeks, finding ways to win which is good,” he said.

In addition to Smith-Bey’s game-high 27 points, Kenny Smith added 16 and Edwards finished with 11.

Hammonton’s week included wins against Holy Spirit, Cedar Creek and ACIT.

Hosting Holy Spirit on January 22, Smith-Bey scored 14 to lead a balanced offensive attack in a 66-42 win against the rebuilding Spartans.

Hammonton never trailed in the game, building an early lead and cruising to the 24-point win.

Smith had 13 points and Edwards added 10 as nine Blue Devils scored at least a point in the victory.

Two nights later, on January 24, Hammonton rolled past Cedar Creek 72-56.

Playing at ACIT on January 26, Hammonton took an early 21-13 lead and eventually won the game, 54-46.

Kenny Smith led all scorers with 25 points and Smith-Bey added 16.

Earlier this week, Hammonton played at Atlantic City, but that game ended too late for this edition. On February 1, the Blue Devils host Bridgeton at 5:30 p.m.


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