By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Scott Holden, the head coach of the Lower Cape May Regional High School boys basketball team, was a bit anxious when his nephew, Patrick Holden, played his first game for the Caper Tigers as a 5-5 freshman back in December 2014.
“He went out and got 17 points against Oakcrest and I have to say, that shocked me a little bit,” Scott Holden said.
The younger Holden hasn’t slowed down since.
Pat Holden, one of the Cape-Atlantic League’s more prolific scorers over the past decade or so, goes into this week needing just 30 points to pass the program record of 1,666 career points set by 2005 graduate Charles Johnson. Holden sits at 1,637 career points ahead of Tuesday’s home game against Mainland.
Pat Holden remembers watching Johnson as a youngster.
“I remember that he was definitely a big figure in basketball around here,” Pat said. “He was the guy on the team all the kids like me wanted to talk to. We really admired the way he played. He was kind of like a superstar to us.”
These days, Pat Holden has emerged as a high school superstar in his own right. He averaged right around 13 points per game as a freshman, upped that to around 19 points per game as a sophomore and exploded to the 24.5 points per game average he posted as a junior.
With a more experienced and rounded team surrounding him this winter, the 5-8 point guard’s scoring average has actually dropped to 21.6 this season at this point. He’s also averaging 5.8 assists.
Many coaches whose teams have played Lower Cape May over the past couple of seasons marvel at how Pat Holden makes his teammates better.
“I’ve always wanted to coach my nephew and I always wanted him to be the ‘everything’ kind of guard,” Scott Holden said. “He definitely still has to do his fair share of scoring but as each year’s progressed his defense has gotten better and he’s included his teammates a lot more. I truly believe the other kids really enjoy playing with him.”
Pat Holden’s all-around game was on full display against Ocean City in a 55-40 victory in a key Cape-Atlantic National Conference game on Friday. He scored a team-high 16 points but also handed out eight assists. He was one of three players to score in double figures. Zach Cerasi (16) and Martin Anguelov (12) were the others.
“Cerasi kind of went off at a key point in the game but you saw how he got some of his points – three of (his baskets) were off passes from Pat right under the basket,” Scott Holden said.
Dishing to teammates is something Pat Holden enjoys.
“We have really good chemistry this year and when we have three or four guys that can put the ball in the basket and make plays with the ball, that just opens the floor for everyone to get involved and that makes our team that much better,” Pat Holden said. “Looking at the scoring aspect of it, it doesn’t matter to me where the points come from as long as we come out on top. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team. Whatever it takes to win.”
He can, however, score with the best of them. Pat Holden poured in 37 points, shooting a sizzling 14 for 22 from the field in the process, in a two-point loss to Middle Township last week. And he did much of that scoring while being guarded by Jalen Freeman, a player many CAL basketball observers believe is the best defensive player in the league.
“I just think that shows how much of a competitor Pat is,” Scott Holden said. “He and Freeman have kind of grown up together in basketball, so they know a lot about each other. Jalen’s the type of kid that wants to guard the best player on the other team. Pat might’ve had 37, but I think Jalen made it difficult for him. I just think Pat did a very good job meeting that challenge against a very good player.”
The Holden family is synonymous with basketball at Lower Cape May. Pat’s father, also Pat, coached the program for than a decade and a 1985 graduate of the school who scored 1,257 points of his own. Pat’s sister, Lauren, is one of only two Cape May County girls basketball players to score more than 2,000 career points. She’s now enjoying a very good career at Division I Fordham. And his grandfather, George, who sits in the front row for almost every one of his grandson’s games, was also a longtime successful coach at Lower Cape May.
Now, however, it’s Pat’s time at Lower Cape May. And he’s making the most of it.
“It’s emotional before games, because I can’t believe this ride is almost over,” said Pat Holden, who is being recruited by quite a few Division II and III colleges, most notable Widener, Stockton and the University of the Sciences. “It hits me before the game that we don’t have a lot of time left here and that we have to go make the best of it. That’s what we’ve been doing as a team. Our team is full of seniors. We’re all working together and doing our best to make the most of this year.”