Boys’ basketball falls to Atlantic City in sectional final

On Tuesday, the Cougars lost 52-41 to Atlantic City in the South Jersey Group IV sectional final.  This was truly a day to remember for all, whether the Cougars won or lost.  The DiBart Gym was a sea of red, with hundreds of Countrymen filling the stands.  The lines wrapped around the front of the school more than an hour before tipoff.  Cherry Hill East surely put its best foot forward before the game as it hoped for a Cougars victory.  However, the game itself was a struggle for the Cougars as the team ended a great season on a disappointing note.

From the outset it appeared as though Atlantic City was simply too quick and athletic for the Cougars.  The game was very low-scoring in the first quarter as both teams played tight defense.  The Countrymen were extremely loud on defensive possessions for the Cougars as Atlantic City struggled on offense.  The Cougars ended the first down 9-4, scoring only on a Jake Gurkin (’12) jumper and two Marc Schlessel (’12) free throws.
In the second quarter, the dominance of Atlantic City down low was evident.  After the Cougars went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 11-9, Atlantic City scored ten points in a row, many off of second chance opportunities.  The Cougars were down 14 as the time dwindled in the half until Schlessel hit a three and was fouled to cut the deficit to 25-15 at the half.
At the half, Schlessel and Gurkin had six points apiece to lead the Cougars.  It was clear that the Cougars would need to take better shots in order to win, cut down on their turnovers (they had 17 in the first half) and limit second-chance possessions of Atlantic City.  Unfortunately, this would not happen in the second half although the Cougars continued to fight until the finish.
Jake Silpe (’15) began the half with a layup for the Cougars.  Then, Gurkin cut the lead to six by tipping the ball in off of an inbounds pass.  Atlantic City scored five in a row before Silpe hit another layup for the Cougars followed by a Gary Hettinger (’13) layup plus a foul and free throw to cut the lead to six once again.  Atlantic City hit a free throw before Silpe made an unbelievable play for the Cougars, doing a spin move and laying the ball in to cut the lead to 31-26.  However, turnover problems persisted for the Cougars as Atlantic City scored four in a row.  The quarter ended as Atlantic City held a 37-27 lead.
Schlessel started off the fourth with a bang by draining a deep three.  However, Atlantic City answered right back, bringing the lead back to ten.  Hettinger hit one of two free throws and Schlessel then hit free throws to cut the lead back to seven.  However, things soon turned ominous once again for the Cougars.  Gurkin fouled out with 4:43 left with the Cougars down 42-33.  Then, Atlantic City extended the lead to 45-33.  From then on, the Cougars were never really able to get back into the game completely, as the game ended with a score of 52-41.
Although it was a sour ending to the season, the legacy of this Cougars team will be a great one.  This team took the school the farthest it had ever been and provided various unforgettable memories for everyone involved.
Key Stats
Jake Silpe : 9 points
Marc Schlessel : 12 points
Garry Hettinger : 6 points
Jake Gurkin : 8 points
Jesse Gold : 2 points
Andrew Brown : 4 points