Adam Dashevsky ('19)
The Cherry Hill East Cougars entered the playoffs as the seven seed facing off against the Vineland Fighting Clan, who are ranked as the tenth seed in the South Jersey Group IV tournament. The players were familiar with Vineland, as they played them earlier in the season.
“It was going to be a tough game,” said Jacob Stein (‘19)
The Cougars had to limit the number one leading scorer in the state, DJ Campbell (‘19) of Vineland, who averages 30.1 points per game this season. The Cougars came out aggressively in the first quarter, with Sam Serata (‘19) leading the Cougars with ten points in the first quarter. The first quarter included a three from Carl Gibson (‘19) and was topped off with a beautifully executed buzzer beater three from Zach Frye (‘20), making the score 16-12 at the end of the first. The buzzer beater three by Frye (‘20) was his second three pointer made this season.
During the second quarter Carl Gibson (‘19) began to take over with a big and-one, which started his huge day. The Countrymen erupted at the sight. Gibson continued to have his way in the second quarter, hitting two threes. Not to mention Ryan Greene (‘20) and Gibson’s chemistry on the floor, as Greene made two great assists to Gibson to extend their lead to 31-18. Gibson closed the half with a stepback three leading, the Cougars with 18 points. At the half East led 34-22 and came into the second half with the same mentality: play aggressively and contain DJ Campbell.
The third quarter started off with a 10-0 run by Vineland, tying the game at 34, which forced the Cougars to take a timeout. With 4:48 left in the third quarter, the Fighting Clan took their first lead of the game 35-34. The Cougars responded an and-one from Serata. Stein rejuvenated the energy in the DiBart Gym with a big three, his first of the game, as the Cougars took back the lead 40-37. Stein came in knowing his role was to shoot the big shot. When he made it, the result was a huge burst of momentum for the Cougars. It was seen clear on Stein’s face after he showboated to the crowd.
As the game headed into the fourth quarter, the Fighting Clan had reached the foul limit making, Campbell sit out for a significant portion of the fourth quarter. Serata and Gibson did their thing in the fourth quarter which lead to a 16-2 run to finish the game at the free throw line. The Cougars had excellent defense in the games final minutes. Greene had a great steal with a minute left in the fourth to make it a four point game. The Fighting Clan had to foul in hope to make a comeback, but ultimately came up short as the Cougars won the first round 72-59. The Cougars play the second seeded Cherokee at Cherokee this Wednesday as they look to win their second game in this years South Jersey tournament.