By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — At some point late in the second half of Wednesday’s game, Cape May Tech boys basketball coach Josh Mercado had a message for his players.
The coach said, “Do you want to create a great memory or do you want this to be just another game?”
The Hawks chose the former.
Completing a stunning comeback from 15 points down entering the fourth quarter, Cape May Tech beat rival Middle Township, 60-58, when James Longstreet knocked down a right-elbow jump shot with three seconds to play in overtime in a Cape-Atlantic United Conference contest.
“We stole this one because the kids gave everything they had and they laid everything on the line at the end,” Tech coach Josh Mercado said.
Middle went to the foul line ahead by five points with 26 seconds to play in regulation with a chance to seal the victory. But the Panthers missed the front end of the one-and-one and Tech’s Drew Roach was fouled on the rebound. Roach made two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Middle’s Kyiel Flanders restored a two-possession game by making a foul shot with 23.6 seconds to go, but Longstreet canned a 23-foot three-pointer from the right wing to cut Tech’s deficit to a point. After Middle’s Charlie McNeal made another foul shot with 11 seconds to go, Tech pushed the ball ahead quickly and Orlando Torres found Devon Roach on the left block for a layup that tied the score with three seconds to play and set the stage for overtime.
Matt Marino’s jump shot gave Middle the lead on the opening possession of overtime, but baskets by Longstreet and Torres gave Tech its first lead since very early in the first quarter.
Middle’s Jeremiah Camacho and T.J. Harris each made foul shots to tie the score. Middle then had a chance to possibly take the last shot but turned the ball over to the Hawks.
Following a timeout with 10 seconds left, Tech got the ball to Longstreet, who dribbled hard to the right elbow and raised up for his winning shot.
Cape May Tech outscored Middle by 25-10 in the fourth quarter and by 7-5 in overtime.
“When you’re in a county game, there’s so much passion and emotion on both sides, but I thought we allowed Middle to get into too much of a flow,” Mercado said. “We needed to make them think a little more and by us trapping in the fourth quarter that kind of turned it for us.
“For us, it’s a rivalry game. It’s Middle Township. They played so hard and they were up 15 and they were doing everything right and we were doing everything wrong. For us to have that kind of turnaround, it was a beautiful night for us. Really, it was a beautiful night for both schools to have a game like this.”
Longstreet netted 18 points, getting 14 of them after halftime, to lead Tech (4-6). Dylan Delvecchio added 14, scoring 10 in the second half. Roach chipped in with 12 and Torres was also in double figures with 10 while also mixing eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Camacho led Middle (3-8) with 17 points off the bench. Harris, in his first action of the season after suffering a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage, scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.