By Phil Anastasia
Ted Stavetski said it was a "shock."
Rob DePersia described it as a "slap in the face."
Haddonfield entered Tuesday night's showdown with Colonial Conference rival Paulsboro with a 12-0 record and the No. 3 ranking in The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10.
By the last minute of the second quarter, the Bulldogs were behind by 19.
At halftime, the deficit was 39-23.
"The problem with being 12-0 is that you think you can just walk on the court and win," DePersia said. "I told the guys at halftime, 'We're not losing this game.'"
DePersia led a furious comeback as Haddonfield rallied for a 68-63 victory over Paulsboro in a speeding bullet of a Colonial Conference inter-division game before a large crowd in the Red Raiders' gymnasium.
Rob DePersia, a junior guard, scored 14 of his 19 in the fourth quarter, and his twin Nick DePersia scored five points in the final 30 seconds for Haddonfield (13-0 overall, 8-0 in the Colonial).
Senior guard Brandon Hamilton scored 10 of his 14 in the fourth quarter and nearly carried the day with several big plays for Paulsboro (11-3, 6-1).
"We got bullied around on our own court, which doesn't happen," Paulsboro coach Sean Collins said of Haddonfield's comeback. "Give them credit. They are a really good team."
The victory was worth 40 power points for Haddonfield and likely locked up the No. 1 seed in the SJ 2 tournament, although that's unofficial.
Paulsboro was raining 'threes' and dominating the backboards behind junior forwards Theo Holloway (13 points, eight rebounds) and Saleem Little (12 points, five rebounds) in taking a 39-20 lead.
The Red Raiders hit seven 'threes' in the first half and just one in the second half.
"They didn't miss," Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said. "What are you going to do?"
Haddonfield turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, forcing numerous turnovers. The Bulldogs' depth and strength seemed to be a factor, too, as they won most of the battles on the glass and in 50/50 fights for loose balls.
"We don't quit," Stavetski said. "We just keep fighting."
The final two minutes were a fever dream, a madcap scramble that had fans from both sides rising out of their seats in celebration and burying their heads in their hands in dismay.
Hamilton scored off a steal and added another layup off a steal and dish by Cassius Carter for a 58-54 lead for Paulsboro with one minute, 29 seconds left.
Rob DePersia hit a 'three,' lifted a steal and fed senior Abby Bah for a short jumper and a 59-58 lead for Haddonfield.
Hamilton scored on a drive to push Paulsboro back in front at 60-59, but Nick DePersia made a deep 'three' to give Haddonfield a 62-60 lead at the 0:30 mark.
"We'd come out out a timeout and I'd say, 'Don't leave a DePersia open,'" Collins said.
Senior Keenan Williams made one free throw for Paulsboro to cut the lead to 62-61 at 0:18. Nick DePersia made two free throws at 0:14, but Little matched that with two free throws at 0:09 to cut Haddonfield's lead to 64-63.
Rob DePersia beat a Paulsboro defender to a long pass by a half-step. dribbled off some time and made two free throws at 0:02.6. Stavetski added two more free throws at 0:01.4.
In all, Haddonfield was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 14 seconds, made two 'threes' in the final 1:03 and scored 31 points in the final quarter.
"I knew I was going to give it everything I had in those last eight minutes," Rob Depersia said.
Haddonfield 10 13 14 31 -- 68
Paulsboro 18 21 9 15 -- 63
H: Nick DePersia 9, Rob DePersia 19, Ted Stavetski 16, Jake Robinson 10, Abby Bah 10, Tom Kadar 2, Tyler Klaus 2.
P: Theo Holloway 13, Saleem Little 12, Keenan Williams 6, Brandon Hamilton 14, Cassius Carter 13, DeShaun Burgess 5.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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