Don Clark paused for a minute as he tried to think back to the last time the West Deptford High School boys basketball program won a home playoff game. After thinking for a brief moment, the Eagles head coach came to what he believed to be an accurate response.
“I don’t know if they ever did,” said Clark.
Yes, Monday night was a special evening for the West Deptford boys basketball program as the No. 6 Eagles took it to No. 11 Overbrook, 77-42, in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.
The Eagles, who tied a school record with their 19th win, led by just nine points at the half, but exploded on a 27-11 run in the third quarter to put the game away. Junior guard Justin Hansen led the way with 21 points, leaving him just 10 shy of reaching 1,000 for his career.
“Before our first game of the season I told everyone that this is what we have been waiting for,” Hansen said. “I brought up our first game again (Monday) in the locker room and right there we just started getting ecstatic. It felt awesome.”
“We wanted to come out early and just take it to them because we know nobody in West Deptford has seen a team win a home playoff game in a while,” said junior Sean Langan, who had 14 points. “We came out and played good man-to-man defense and executed on the offensive end.”
Hansen struggled with his shots early, but served as a distributor before finding his shot in the second half.
“As the game went on, I started to find my teammates and we started getting on a roll,” Hansen said. “The third quarter we just came on. It feels great.”
Clark said things really started to click defensively for the Eagles two weeks ago against Gloucester when they banded together to stop the Lions’ low-post game. Since then, only one team has topped 50 points against West Deptford.
“They bonded together and they really played,” said Clark. “Ever since that game we have been giving up in the 30s and low 40s every game. Earlier in the year we were scoring 70 and giving up 60. The only team that has reached 50 against us in the last eight or nine games has been Sterling.”
Next up will be a road test against No. 3 Medford Tech, on Wednesday.
Clark said he expects his team to come out loose, knowing that the Eagles are the underdog.
“It is house money now,” said Clark. “(Monday) the pressure was on us because we were the higher seed. Now we go there and the pressure really is on them. With us I thought it was important to win a playoff game with a young group. If you lose tonight then next year you are coming out and just trying to win a playoff game. Now they accomplished that. You keep taking those little steps as you go and that’s what it was important for them to win this game (Monday).”
Langan believes that if West Deptford can continue to play the type of defense it has over the last two weeks, then the sky is the limit.
“We are ready,” Langan said. “We know what we have to do. Medford Tech has two good kids that get 20 a game, but we know if we keep doing what we are doing and play good D, we have a good chance of winning.
As for Hansen, Wednesday represents a great opportunity for him to join the 1,000-point club. As great as that accomplishment would be for the junior, Hansen said he has more important things on his mind.
“I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to it, but my first priority is definitely winning, Hansen said. “If it means I score eight or six points at Medford Tech and we win, that’s fine with me. All I care about is winning and going for a South Jersey title.”
GIRLS ELIMINATED: The West Deptford girls basketball team saw its season come to a close after a 54-24 loss to No. 2 Middle Township. The Eagles finished 5-22 on the season.