Middle wins wild CAL semifinal in 2 OT, will face ACHS in title game

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HAMMONTON – The final scores says the Middle Township High School basketball team won by 11 points.

Those who were there know it was anything but an 11-point game.

The Panthers advanced to the Cape-Atlantic League championship game for the second straight year by topping nemesis St. Augustine Prep, 51-40, in double overtime in the league semifinal game Tuesday night at Hammonton High School.

Middle (19-5) will play Atlantic City in the league title game for the second straight year. The Vikings knocked off Holy Spirit, 47-35, in the other semifinal.

Middle led 45-40 when Darrell Shelton was fouled while gathering the rebound of a St. Augustine Prep missed shot with 25 seconds remaining in the second overtime. A technical foul was issued to a Prep player after a confrontation following the foul, with a second technical foul whistled against the Prep coaching staff shortly thereafter. Shelton made both ends of the original one-and-one before making all four technical free throws to set the final score.

Middle led by as much as six points at various stage of the game but the Prep fought back to take leads in the third and fourth quarters. Shelton made a three-point shot to give Middle a two-point lead with 25 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Prep’s Mike Greenman calmly knocked down one of his one with 13 seconds left to put the Prep ahead at 36-35. Middle’s LaMarr Greer was then fouled while attempting an off-balance shot from 19 feet away with 1.2 seconds left and made the second of the two free throws to force overtime.

Neither team scored in the first extra period until an amazing flurry in the final 20 seconds. With Middle trying to hold for the last shot, Greenman stripped Middle’s Tom Catanoso of the ball at halfcourt. He missed a layup attempt at the other end, but teammate Joe Gatto followed the miss with a dunk with 10 seconds to go. Middle pushed quickly, though, and Shelton scored over Mike Vasturia at the rim with four seconds to go, forcing the second overtime.

St. Augustine (20-5) scored the first two points of the second overtime on free throws by Dave Sullivan, but a Catanoso three-pointer, two free throws by Jacob Cowan and a basket by Tommy Feraco put Middle on top by five. That set the stage for the wild sequence of events that led two Shelton icing the game with six free throws with 25 seconds to go.

Shelton led all scorers with 18 points. Catanoso added nine and Greer had eight. Greenman scored 13 points and Gatto added 10 points on 5 for 5 shooting to go with four blocked shots.

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