By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA — The Lower Cape May Regional High School boys basketball team’s season came to an end Monday after a desperation three-point attempt fell short just prior to the buzzer in a state playoff game.
Pat Moore’s heavily contested three-point shot missed in the final seconds as 10th-seeded Audubon took out No. 7 Lower Cape May, 39-36, in a first-round South Jersey Group II game.
“We play hard all the time but we missed a few layups and foul shots hurt us,” Lower coach Scott Holden said. “For us to go 6 for 13 from the line, that’s the difference in the game right there.”
Lower Cape May fell behind 8-1 to start the game and fought uphill for most of the game. The Tigers did manage to take a one-point lead on two different occasions and a two-point lead once in the third quarter but Audubon (11-16) went on a 7-2 spurt to close the period with a 27-24 advantage.
The Green Wave then swelled their lead to as high as seven points in the fourth quarter before Lower rallied behind three baskets by Dave Durham, a three-pointer by Jordan Pierce and layup by Damyon Bencievengo that brought Lower within three in the final 15 seconds. The Tigers then forced a turnover but Moore’s off-balance three-point shot under duress was short. Lower was able to secure the rebound but time expired before the ball could be kicked out for another three-point shot.
“Usually we feel we can score 40-plus and we try to keep the other team below 40,” Holden said. “We kept them below 40, but we just couldn’t score enough. Hats off to them.”
Durham led Lower with 13 points. Bencievengo added nine.
Lower played Monday’s game without junior Ron Jackson, who was not in uniform for the contest. The Tigers also played their final 12 games without sophomore guard Martin Anguelov, who transferred to Wildwood Catholic in midseason. He had been averaging more than 21 points per game for Lower.
The Tigers finished 17-10 and were one of eight teams to qualify for the Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament.
“I think we overachieved,” Holden said. “We lost a lot from last year. I’m very proud of these kids. They fought right up until the end. You could tell how much it meant to them by how hurt they are in the locker room but I’m extremely happy with how this team did this year.”
Dustin Bellis (13) and J.T. Coleman (10) each scored in double figures for Audubon, which moves on to face second-seeded Camden in the second round on Wednesday.