By Phil Anastasia
Hamasi Tarrant was in first grade.
None of his players were born.
That's how long it had been since Cherry Hill West won a boys' basketball game in the state tournament.
"Nineteen-eighty-eight," Tarrant, the Lions' coach, said after emerging from the visiting locker room following Cherry Hill West's 43-34 victory over Clearview in the first round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament on Tuesday night.
That was when the Lions' last won a tournament game -- in 1988.
That was 26 years ago.
"I'm so happy for us," Cherry Hill West junior forward Can Oztamur said. "We talked about it a lot before the game."
Ozatmur, a 6-foot-5 athlete with unique skills and a superior feel for the game, carried ninth-seeded Cherry Hill West past eighth-seeded Clearview with a strong performance in the fourth quarter.
Oztamur (pictured) finished with 18 points along with 11 rebounds and three assists.
He was at his best when it mattered most, scoring 10 in the fourth quarter. His traditional three-point play broke the ninth and final tie of the game and gave Cherry Hill West a 33-30 lead with two minutes, 35 seconds to play.
"That was the killer," Clearview coach Tom Gross said of Oztamur's fadeaway jumper along the baseline and free throw.
Danny Buckwalter added nine points for Cherry Hill West (15-12), which advanced to face top-seeded Cherry Hill East on Tuesday.
Chherry Hill East advanced earlier in the day with a 63-27 win over 16th-seeded Absegami. Many of the Cougars along with head coach Dave Allen were in the stands for Cherry Hill West's game against Clearview.
"It's always special when we play them," Tarrant said of the East-West rivalry. "It's like a family gathering."
Dan Brown and Sterling Sheffield scored 10 each for eighth-seeded Clearview (13-11).
Cherry Hill West's stingy defense limited Clearview to just 20 points through the first three quarters. The Pioneers, who have been one of South Jersey's most effective three-point shooting teams, didn't make a shot from beyond the arc.
"That was our focus," Tarrant said of the extended defense. "The kids bought in."
Gross said Clearview has one player with 70 three-pointers this season and another with 45.
"We're a jump shooting team and the last three games we've shot worse and worse," Gross said. "I don't know if it's tired legs at the end of the season."
At the other end, Oztamur controlled the game, especially late. He made three nifty passes to Buckwalter for layups. He was 8-for-9 from the foul line. He hit a short jumper off the move at the 0:01 mark of the second quarter to send Cherry Hill West into the locker room with an 18-16 lead.
But his best work was in the fourth quarter. His 16-foot jumper from the wing at 3:10 produced a 30-28 lead. His three-point play at 2:35 made it 33-30. He was 5-for-6 from the foul line in the last 0:45 as the Lions sealed the victory.
"He's such a rare player," Gross said. "He has something that you very rarely see in a high school player and that's a good mid-range game with a guy on him. He hits shots with people hanging on his arms.
"He's really rare. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player like him."
Cherry Hill West 12 6 6 19 -- 43
Clearview 6 10 4 14 -- 34
CHW: Can Oztamur 18, Elijah Bey 7, Dan Buckwalter 9, Adriel Bustinera 1, Jack Goan 6, Nick Krake 2.
C: Dan Brown 10, Sterling Sheffield 10, Gavin Bright 4, Mike Heim 4, Adam Herman 6.
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