By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA – The Middle Township High School boys basketball team led from start to finish in defeating Lower Cape May Tuesday evening.
But the Panthers had to survive a furious Caper Tiger rally to do so.
Lower missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer as the Panthers posted a 58-56 victory, holding on for the result after leading by as many as 12 points early in the fourth quarter.
Lower’s desperation attempt ended a wild sequence that gave the ball to Lower Cape May on the baseline in its offensive zone after Middle had thrown the ball away on an in-bounds pass from the same spot without any player on the court touching the ball.
“We survived,” Middle coach Anthony Farmer said while cracking a smile. “That’s just what it was – survival.”
Middle (5-4) overcame an incredible scoring barrage by Lower Cape May senior guard Patrick Holden, who exploded for 37 points. Three-pointers by Holden and freshman Martin Anguelov brought Lower within a point twice in the final 90 seconds but the Panthers made just enough free throws to hold the lead.
“We went to Ocean City (Monday) and played against a very well-coached team and we didn’t win because we didn’t execute late and do the things we needed to do,” Farmer said. “This game presented some different challenges but we were able to hang on and do what we had to do to win. It was good to come in here in a tough environment on the road and get a ‘W.’”
Holden scored 24 of his points in the second half. He shot 14 for 22 from the floor overall, 9 for 14 in the second half. He was 6 for 10 on three-point tries.
Many of Middle’s players and coaches shook their heads in disbelief – but also in respect – after learning of Holden’s point total after the game.
“I actually thought Jalen (Freeman) did a good job on him,” Farmer said, “but Pat made a lot of really difficult shots. He’s tough.”
Middle’s Coley Holton, who was in foul trouble for much of the first half, scored 16 of his 19 points after halftime. Freshman DeSean Lopez played a critical role for Middle in the second half, going 3 for 3 on three-point tries in the third quarter. He finished with 12 points. Freeman added nine points and five assists.
Lower, which shot only 4 for 12 from the foul line, fell to 7-2. Both losses are to Middle. Middle also posted a 60-54 win over Lower in a showcase game at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.
“Middle has six or eight guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Lower coach Scott Holden said. “I felt like every time it seemed like we were getting back in it a different kid scored for them. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”