East loses heartbreaker in boys’ basketball to Bishop Eustace

This was one of those games that just makes you shake your head as East lost to Eustace Wednessday 64-62. Although Eustace is a well-respected team in the South Jersey basketball community as they entered the season 2nd in the Courier Post’s preseason poll, the manner in which the Cougars lost this game was overwhelmingly frustrating.
The Cougars started off solidly in the first quarter as Chris Santo (’11) looked much more comfortable on the perimeter than he did in the first game of the season as he hit two three-pointers in the quarter. Behind the offense of Santo along with Marc Schlessel (’12) (five points in the quarter), East took a 16-13 lead by the end of the quarter.
The Cougars dominated the second quarter, led by a scoring spurt from Justin DeJesus (’11) off the bench. DeJesus contributed ten points in the quarter behind two three-pointers, a putback after an offensive rebound and a backdoor layup. Along two Schlessel threes and scoring from Santo and Jake Gurkin (’12), the Cougars ended the half with a seemingly commanding 41-28 East lead.
It all unraveled in the third quarter. Eustace outscored the Cougars in the third 23-12. The team seemed sluggish as Eustace upped the tempo of the game. A somewhat surprising trend in the third quarter was that DeJesus did not play. Perhaps Coach Valore was still upset with his earlier intentional foul on Sho Dasilva of Eustace as he went in for another dunk in the second quarter. The Cougars still had lots of work to do for the win as they led only 53-51 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was devastating. The teams traded baskets throughout the quarter. East built a five-point lead midway through the quarter at 62-57 behind the scoring of Santo. It was around this point when Santo’s mouth began to bleed. Eustace Coach Rob Falconiero promptly pointed this out as Santo was forced to miss a play. Luckily, Ravin Patel (’13) stepped up and took the jersey off of his back so Santo could re-enter with a blood-free jersey as number 23. Eustace scored five straight points even with Santo back in the game to tie it up. Then, with the score tied at 62, Santo committed an “offensive foul” and fouled out. The reason the offensive foul is in quotation marks is that the foul clearly seemed to be on the defensive player. Santo supposedly committed four offensive fouls on the day. However, Santo fouling out spelled doom for the Cougars. The Cougars got the ball left with a minute left as they attempted to hold the ball for the last shot as there is no shot clock in high school. This strategy failed as they turned the ball over to Eustace. Eustace then sank a jumper from the side of the basket to take a 64-62 lead with 2.3 seconds left. It was not over. Jesse Gold (’12) had a beautiful hail mary pass from the Cougars’ own basket to Dan Melleby (’11) who was just in front of the foul line near the Eustace basket. Melleby caught the pass and barely missed a difficult attempt to tie the game. It was amazing that this play even made it to Melleby. 64-62, Eustace.

Player of the game: DeJesus. He kept the Cougars in the game with his scoring. Although his foul was not a smart play, he should play more (even to spell some of the stars on the team). He proved that he can score off the bench and be a positive contributer. DeJesus proved Wednesday that this team does have depth unlike teams in the past couple of years.