By Phil Anastasia
Billy Griffin doesn't mind shooting layups, or 12-footers, or jumpers from inside the key.
The Haddonfield senior doesn't mind playing defense, scrambling for rebounds, and sharing the basketball.
But he's a smart kid. He knows his strength. He knows his role, too.
"I'm a three-point shooter," Griffin said after his long-distance deliveries sparked Haddonfield to a 55-54 victory over Willingboro in a wild South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinal on Wednesday night.
Griffin scored 20, making five three-point jumpers, and top-seeded Haddonfield (25-3) held off a late charge from eight-seeded Willingboro in a game that was disrupted by a fire alarm that emptied Haddonfield's gymnasium with three minutes, five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Nick DePersia scored 16 and junior center Abby Bah collected 12 rebounds for Haddonfield, which advanced to face Colonial Conference rival and No. 4 seed Sterling in Friday night's semifinals.
Sophomore guard Jeff Haddock scored 18, making four three-pointers, and senior guard Shaun Russell collected 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Willingboro (16-11).
"I'm so proud of these guys," said Willingboro coach Jeff Haddock, who is Jeff's father. "We were 3-8 and to win our division and to get this far and play this kind of game in this atmosphere, my guys can walk tall."
Griffin's three-point shooting broke open a close game in the third quarter. He made four deep jumpers, and sophomore guard Rob DePersia (five points, five assists) and senior forward Chris Biddle (seven points, four rebounds) added three-pointers as the Bulldogs built leads as large as 37-26 and took a 40-32 edge into the fourth quarter.
"When he (Griffin) is hitting shots, we're a very good team," Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedemann said. "The other guys feed off him."
Willingboro switched to a scrambling man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 46-43 when the fire alarm went off. Officials ordered all spectators in the near-capacity out of the gymnasium, although the players were able to stay in their locker rooms.
"It helped us," Wiedeman said of the 17-minute delay. "It calmed us down."
Griffin made a traditional three-point play off a feed from Rob DePersia at 1:09 and added a free throw after a Nick DePersia steal to give Haddonfield a 52-45 lead at the 1:03 mark.
But Willingboro fought back behind Russell and senior guard Anthony Robbins (10 points, all in the fourth). The Chimeras were down 53-51 and had possession when they called timeout at the 0:22 mark.
Russell drove the lane and dished to junior forward Awwal Reid on the right baseline. Reid's shot sailed over the rim and Nick DePersia chased down the rebound in the corner and fired a long outlet pass to Rob DePersia, who made a breakaway layup for a 55-51 lead at the 0:05 mark.
Robbins made a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer for the final points.
"I saw my brother and threw him the outlet pass," Nick DePersia said. "Once I saw him make the layup, I knew we had it."
Willingboro 8 10 14 18 -- 54
Haddonfield 10 10 20 15 -- 55
W: Anthony Robbins 10, Shaun Russell 12, Jeff Haddock 18, Tom Farrier 3, Awwal Reid 9, Aaron Briggs 2.
H: Abby Bah 5, Rob DePersia 5, Nick DePersia 16, Billy Griffin 20, Chris Biddle 7, Jake Robinson 2.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.