HAMMONTON — Middle Township High School boys basketball coach Anthony Farmer was hoping Tuesday’s game would be a stepping stone for his team.
The Panthers landed on it with both feet.
Led by junior Coley Holton’s double-double, the Panthers went to St. Joseph and defeated the Wildcats 82-67.
Middle improved to 4-2, while the Wildcats lost their first game of the season and fell to 5-1 following the Cape-Atlantic League United Division contest.
“It was a pretty good win. We came in 3-2 and needed a ‘W’ and we got it done,” said Holton, 16.
Holton led the Panthers with 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“I couldn’t have done this without my team, though,” he said.
Jalen Freeman added 22 points, including 16 in the second half to help the Panthers pull away.
Freshman guard DaSean Lopez proved a nice spark off the bench in the second half, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 12 points. Sophomore Romaine Rhett Jr. also played some key minutes, scoring six of his eight points in the second half.
“It’s huge when you can go eight or nine deep,” Farmer said. “It’s a pleasure to have. It’s a stepping stone to our season.”
Sloppy play marred this game in the first half as both teams were in the bonus as early as the second quarter.
Middle used strong ends to the first and second quarters to build a 30-23 halftime lead — an 8-2 run to end the first quarter and a 9-2 run to end the second.
“That was real big,” Holton said.
St. Joseph trailed a majority of the game. The Wildcats tied the game in the second quarter, and again at the halfway point of the third. But each time, Middle responded with a quick basket to jump back on top.
With 3:24 left in the third, St. Joseph took its first lead since early in the first on Marcellus Ross’ 3-pointer. He led the Wildcats with 18.
But shortly after, Middle’s Holton completed a three-point play to give the Panthers the lead for good. They went on a 9-2 run midway through the fourth to pull away.
“We had been preaching with guys and we had been talking about executing down the stretch and just staying together longer and harder than other teams and that’s what it really came down to,” Farmer said.
“Tonight we stayed together and played harder. Give St. Joseph credit. They played tough as well. But we stuck together and played harder.”
Contact: 609-272-7210 JRusso@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_Russo
Middle Twp 15 15 27 25–82
St. Joseph 9 14 29 17–67
MT–Holton 25, Freeman 22, Lopez 12, Selby 11, Rhett Jr. 8, Tehira 4, Hamer 2.
SJ–Ross 18, Parrish 12, Blackwell 12, Brown 7, Blount 5, Morris 4, Gonzalez 3, Benson 3, Enewerhi 1.
3-pointers–Lopez (2) MT. Ross, Blackwell, Brown, Gonzalez SJ
Records–MT 4-2, SJ 5-1.