By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA — The Lower Cape May Regional High School boys basketball team suffered yet another close defeat, this time by a matter of inches.
Freshman Archie Lawler, who had already made five three-point shots in the second half, saw his right baseline three-point attempt bounce off the front of the rim at the buzzer as the Caper Tigers fell, 44-42, to Ocean City in a throwback high school basketball game Friday evening.
“We got a great look at it,” Lower coach Scott Holden said. “We basically had three options there and (Ocean City) took away the first, they took away the second but then Archie was open.”
Lower fell to 4-6 with the loss. The six defeats have come by a total of 11 points.
Lower trailed by seven to start the fourth quarter but three-pointers by Lawler and Tom Gault and a layup off a steal by Lawler accounted for an 8-0 run that gave the Tigers a 37-36 lead.
But Ocean City scored six straight points to go ahead by five at 42-37. But thanks to the Raiders missing all six of their fourth-quarter free-throw attempts, Lower was able to remain close. Another three-pointer by Lawler and a basket by Damyon Bencievengo brought the Tigers within two. Ocean City then missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity to set up the dramatic finish.
On the final play, which began with 3.7 seconds remaining, Jordan Pierce inbounded from the sideline and passed to Gault, who flipped the ball back to Pierce on the right wing. With the Raider defense running at him, Pierce slipped a pass to Lawler in the corner. Lawler raised up for his shot, which caromed off the rim just as the buzzer sounded.
“Archie might be a freshman, but he absolutely has a green light and our guys all know that,” Holden said. “They knew what he brings to the table just like they know what Jacob (Bey) brings to the table. Those are two guys getting valuable varsity experience as freshmen.”
Holden paused before adding with a laugh, “I just wish we could stop giving them the experience of them losing at the end.”
In addition to Lawler and Bey, junior Jordan Pierce and sophomore Joe Whitesell are other underclassmen who played significant roles in the contest, along with Bencievengo and Gault, both seniors.
“I’m happy with the way we’re competing,” Holden said. “But I want us to turn that corner and turn some of these close losses into wins.”
Lawler led Lower with 19 points. Gault added eight.
The Tigers made seven three-pointers in the second half, nine for the game.
Gannon Brady led all scorers with 23 points for Ocean City (6-6). Mike Rhodes added eight.