By Phil Anastasia
Austin Wetzler knew the whole town of Cherry Hill wasn't behind him when he rose up for the pivotal three-pointer of the game.
Just the East side.
"Games like this, you appreciate living in this town," Wetzler said after leading Cherry Hill East to a 50-49 victory over Cherry Hill West in a pulse-pounding battle of cross-town rivals before a near-capacity crowd in the Cougars' cavernous gymnasium.
Wetzler, a senior guard, scored 16 and gave Cherry Hill East the lead for good at 46-44 with a three-pointer from the wing with one minute, 33 seconds to play in the game at the Cherry Hill East Invitational showcase.
Sophomore center Tim Perry scored 10 with four blocks and junior guard Jake Silpe was 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final 15 seconds for Cherry Hill East (16-5), which snapped a four-game losing streak.
"We needed this one," Cherry Hill East coach Dave Allen said.
Junior forward Can Oztamur led all scorers with 25 for Cherry Hill West (10-10).
"It was entertaining, if anything," Cherry Hill West coach Hamasi Tarrant said. "It came down to making plays. They made plays and we needed to make a couple more."
Cherry Hill East's victory evened the season series at 1-1 as Cherry Hill West had scored a 65-58 victory on Dec. 29 in a game tied to an annual alumni event for both programs.
The teams could meet for a third time in the second round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, as Cherry Hill East is the No. 1 seed and Cherry Hill West is the No. 8.
"I hope we see them again," Tarrant said.
Wetzler played the final minute of the game with swath of tape on his chin. He said he would need stitches.
"He's the toughest player I've ever coached," Allen said.
Wetzler said the Cougars, who had started the season with a 15-1 record before hitting a two-week skid, needed the victory in the worst way.
"I told the guys that this was the most important game we would play," Wetzler said. "We couldn't let what was going on define our season."
Cherry Hill West 10 13 12 14 -- 49
Cherry Hill East 15 8 10 17 -- 50
CHW: Can Oztamur 25, Jack Goan 11, Dan Buckwalter 6, Joe Ajike 2, Chris Reeves 2, Nick Krake 3.
CHE: Jake Silpe 8, Austin Wetzler 16, Tim Perry 10, Phil Cunha 11, Tom Smierciak 2, Azlan Cobb 3.
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