Boys’ basketball flexes its muscles in first round victory

Max Cohen ('12)/Eastside Sports Editor

The Cougars showed today why they are the number two seed in the Group 4 South Jersey sectional and why Egg Harbor Township was the 15th seed as they crushed Egg Harbor 85-51 in front of a raucous crowd in the DiBart Gym in the opening round of the Group 4  boys’ basketball sectional.

Although the Cougars were highly favored in the game, the fans came out in droves to go crazy to support their team. The atmosphere grew somewhat tense, as Dan Melleby (’11) suffered a shoulder injury in the pre-game huddle. Melleby has suffered various different injuries as East’s football quarterback that have made him miss significant time, so this was a scary moment for all Cougar fans. Melleby did not play in the game.

The action started off slowly for the Cougars. Egg Harbor took a 3-0 lead until Jesse Gold (’12) and Sam Rose (’11) hit back-to-back three pointers to give the Cougars the lead. Keep in mind that they both would likely not have been on the court together this early in the game had it not been for Melleby’s injury. This was the beginning of an 18-2 Cougar run that contained five Marc Schlessel (’12) points as well as scoring contributions from Chris Santo (’11), Jake Gurkin (’12) and Rose. The Cougars took the 22-8 lead into the beginning of the second quarter.

The Cougars continued to pour it on in the second. After Egg Harbor hit a three-pointer, Gurkin answered with a layup followed by another Rose three. This seemed to be the tipping point, as everything seemed to be going the Cougars’ way. Santo scored four points in a row for the Cougars on a jumper and two free throws. Then, Gold had a beautiful pass inside to Gurkin for the easy layup. It got even better for the Cougars, as Schlessel drained two straight three-pointers to give the Cougars a 41-18 lead. The Cougars led 44-24 at the half with Gurkin leading the scoring with 14 points. He also had five rebounds in the half. Largely absent from the half was Santo, who had scored only five points to go along with his eight rebounds. Schlessel had 13 points at the half as well.

Egg Harbor refused to go away in the second half as they trimmed the deficit to 18 after the Cougars took a 50-26 lead early in the third. However, a Schlessel jumper and a Gurkin three widened the margin for the Cougars. The Cougars ended the quarter with a 61-34 lead with the game all but over. Gurkin already recorded his career high in points in the game with 21.

The Cougars continued to dominate early on in the fourth as Gold capitalized on a three-pointer and Gurkin scored two more baskets inside. Then, the substitutes came in and played admirably. Leading the charge was Alex Kauth (’11) who contributed six points off the bench.  The final score read 85-51 in favor of the Cougars at the end of the game.

The Cougars play Shawnee on Wednesday at 4 in the sectional quarterfinal.

Player of the Game:Gurkin. His career high of 25 points to go along with his 12 rebounds showed that he is a big-game player. He came through when the team needed him most as Santo was relatively quiet on the offensive side of the ball.

Key Stats

Santo-15 points, 15 rebounds

Gurkin-25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks

Schlessel-17 points, 4 steals

Rose-9 points, 6 assists

Gold-6 points, 8 assists

Kauth-6 points

DeJesus-5 points