Basketball Seasons End for Southern, Barnegat

By DAVID BIGGY | Feb 27, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern's Vinnie Deck goes to the basket on a fast break during the Rams' 74-67 loss to Vineland on Feb. 22.

Unless your high school basketball team is still competing in the Shore Conference Tournament, the third week of February typically is a tuneup week prior to the state tournament. Such was the case for all the locals as sectionals week drew closer.

For the Southern Regional boys hoops squad, head coach Eric Fierro’s crew was staring at a first-round matchup with the top seed in NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV on Monday, and so the Rams took on an athletic Vineland team as their last tuneup contest on Feb. 22. Unfortunately, The Fighting Clan scored seven points during the final 57 seconds to knock off Southern, 74-67.

“Our team has shown the ability to stick together even though the wins-losses part of our season hasn’t played out the way we had hoped,” Fierro said afterward. “That last minute summarized our season. Our guys play hard enough and well enough to stay in the game, but then we’re not able to make the winning plays to finish.”

Led by seniors Vinnie Deck, Joe Infurna, Alex Manno and Cole Markley, the Rams took a 56-54 lead into the fourth quarter. By the midway point of the fourth, Vineland pulled ahead, 64-61. Manno drilled a three-pointer to tie the game with 3:09 to go; and it was still knotted, 67-67, with 1:40 left.

As the clock ticked down to 57 seconds, Fierro called a timeout to discuss the Rams’ next offensive set. It didn’t matter. On the next possession, Vineland’s D.J. Campbell, who finished with 40 points, stole the ball near half court and went the opposite way for an easy layup with 48 seconds left. Another steal and layup on Southern’s next possession ended as a three-point play and gave The Clan a five-point advantage with 22 seconds to go. A pair of Vineland free throws sealed the outcome.

Deck finished with 24 points, while Infurna tallied 16, which included four three-pointers. Manno tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Markley ended with 11 points and seven boards.

“We controlled a lot of the dead-ball situations toward the end of the game, and it’s just a matter of finishing the live-ball opportunities,” Fierro said. “Tonight was an example of a team that does a lot of things to win throughout the course of a game, and then we have some deficiencies that stick out and hurt us at critical times.”

Against Eastern in the first-round of the sectional tourney on Monday, the Rams simply couldn’t keep up with the Vikings, as they built a 12-point lead by halftime and went on to win, 64-40. Markley scored 14 points and Infurna added 11, while Deck was held to five points. Southern finished with an 8-19 record.

More Seasons Come to an End

The Southern boys weren’t the only ones to see their season end in the first round of the state tourney. The Southern girls, along with the Barnegat boys and girls, all played their final games of the season Monday.

Against second-seeded Cherokee, the 15th-seeded Southern girls fell behind 29-5 by halftime and never recovered, falling 55-21. Junior Kaela Curtin led the Rams (12-15) with 11 points, while senior Jacqueline Ward and junior Sam Del Rio each scored four points.

Facing sixth-seeded Collingswood, the 11th-seeded Barnegat girls fell short of advancing to the South Jersey Group II quarterfinals for a second straight year, following a 38-35 loss. The Bengals (12-14) took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter. Senior Jada Baker led the way with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds, while freshman Kya Joseph hit for 10 points, and senior Sydney Boyer snatched nine boards.

Meanwhile, the 16th-seeded Barnegat boys went up against top-seeded Haddonfield in South Group II and were scorched, 70-33. After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 13-2, first-quarter lead, they poured on 22 points in the second and took a 35-2 lead into halftime. Brendan Revello scored nine points to lead the Bengals (11-15), while Jaxon Baker added seven, and Brian Finucan, Jared Krey and Sean Morris each dropped in five points.

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