Boys’ basketball reaches South Jersey Group IV championship

Max Cohen ('12)/ Eastside Editor-in-Chief

Yesterday, the Cougars beat Shawnee 52-42 in the South Jersey Group IV semifinals. On Tuesday, East will play Atlantic City at East in the first sectional final in Cherry Hill East history. The atmosphere in the DiBart Gym was absolutely crazy. Hundreds of Countrymen coupled with Shawnee fans and many other East supporters made for an electric atmosphere.

This game was truly an all-day event. Fans started lining up to buy tickets two hours before the game and the DiBart Gym was almost completely filled by tipoff. The Countrymen were pumped and ready to go, aiming to cheer on the Cougars to reaching their first ever South Jersey Group IV championship game.
The game was close and exciting from the start. After Shawnee scored the first basket of the day, Jake Gurkin (’12) hit a jumper to tie the game. Gurkin recorded the first seven points for the Cougars and played like a beast in the paint. The Cougars took a 9-4 lead after a Schlessel bucket and took an 11-8 lead into the second quarter.
Shawnee scored the first four points of the second, until Gary Hettinger (’13) stopped the mini-run with a layup. The Cougars generated very little offense in the quarter, scoring only seven points, while being extremely shaky on free throws. The game was tied at 18 at the half with Gurkin leading the way with 11 points and five rebounds.
The Cougars allowed Shawnee to score the first points of the second half before Hettinger scored four straight points for the Cougars to give them the 22-20 lead. After Shawnee re-tied the game, Hank Davis (’13) drained a three. After a Schlessel free throw and a Jake Silpe (’15) layup, the Cougars took the 28-24 lead into the final quarter. The third quarter showed one of the reasons why the Cougars have been so great this year, in that some of the complementary players picked up the scoring in vital situations, as Davis and Hettinger came through in the clutch to help maintain the lead.
Davis started the fourth quarter right where he left off, hitting a three then making a layup to extend the lead to 33-24. Shawnee cut the lead to 34-32 a minute later before Hettinger made a huge play, hitting a difficult layup, getting fouled and making the free throw to make the lead 37-32. Gurkin and Schlessel both scored to increase the lead to 41-32. The Cougars led 43-35 before they began to make the fans truly nervous. They missed the front end of two one-and-one free throws, giving Shawnee another chance to re-enter the game with only a few minutes left. However, Schlessel hit eight free throws towards the end of the game to seal the deal for the Cougars to send them on their way to the school’s first ever South Jersey Group IV championship game as the Countrymen stormed the court.
Player of the Game: Everyone. Every single Cougar. You win a game like this and every player matters.
Key Stats
Hank Davis : 9 points
Jake Gurkin : 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Garry Hettinger : 9 points
Marc Schlessel : 17 points
Jake Silpe : 3 points
Jesse Gold: 3 assists, 3 steals