It wasn’t so long ago that the West Deptford High School boys’ basketball team would enter a gym like the one at Sterling and hope simply to leave the gym with a somewhat respectable score.
Yet, there was junior Sean Langan with the ball in his hands as time was about to expire in regulation of a tie game between the Eagles and Knights. Langan rose up and released a shot that that, while slightly tipped, still looked like it was destined to swish through the net.
The shot didn’t go in, and the Eagles would later fall in overtime, 72-68, but the moment was none-the-less symbolic of the type of rise the program has seen in a short period of time.
West Deptford is at the point where it can now go on the road and go toe-to-toe with some of the best teams the Colonial Conference has to offer. They just haven’t quite gotten to the point of grabbing that statement win.
“Before, West Deptford could never come into someone else’s gym and compete like this,” said Langan, who had 12 points. “I still think we should have won the game. We missed a lot of foul shots and some open shots, but I still feel good about it.”
West Deptford coach Don Clark could only watch during the four minutes of overtime where junior guard Justin Hansen (17 points) came excruciatingly short on several shots that could have helped give the Eagles the win. Instead, West Deptford was outscored 6-2 in the extra session.
“If that (shot by Langan) goes in then, now that is the difference; that’s the one that propels the team,” Clark said. “We are still looking for that. We won a couple of close games against Overbrook and Woodbury, but we lost three tight ones to top teams. You just have to hope at some point that translates into a couple of wins.”
The Eagles came out shooting straight from the tip, highlighted by a trio of first-quarter 3-pointers from Tyler Leonhardt, and led 23-19 after the frame. The teams went back and forth throughout the game until Sterling looked like it was poised to put the game away late.
The Knights (7-3) built a 66-59 lead with 3:27 left in regulation, but the Eagles refused to go away. Forward Isaiah Worth converted a three-point play with a layup and a free throw and Langan followed with a trey from the wing. Hansen was fouled with 50 seconds left and made one of two free throws to tie the gamer at 66-all. Sterling missed a running jumper on its next possession and Langan saw his shot with one second left rim out to send the game into overtime.
“It looked good, but the (defender) got a finger on it,” Langan said. “I still thought it was going to go in, but that’s what happens.”
West Deptford, as it has all season, got contributions from 10 players. The depth has allowed the Eagles to stay aggressive throughout games without having to worry about wearing down.
“I think we had a total team effort, we just came up a little short on the defensive side,” Leonhardt said. “Allowing 70 points is just unacceptable. We have to pick it up on the defensive side.”
The Eagles (6-4) will look to regroup and get back on the winning track when they travel to Overbrook, on Thursday. West Deptford won the first meeting between the two teams, 70-68, so will need to be on top of its game to get the season sweep. Clark is confident that the sting of Tuesday’s loss will serve as motivation and will not bog the squad down.
“I think we have good senior leadership, good junior leadership and I don’t suspect they won’t come back from this,” Clark said. “It was just (Sterling) made plays and we didn’t at the end and that’s really the difference. We had our opportunities."
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