Nick Cartwright-Atkins scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Moorestown on Thursday night.
But his most memorable play was a block.
“I’ll always remember the block,” Cartwright-Atkins said after Moorestown’s 57-54 victory over Delsea in a non-league clash of Top 15 teams and Group 3 playoff contenders.
With Moorestown clinging to a one-point lead with 28 seconds on the clock, Cartwright-Atkins rose up and blocked a Delsea layup attempt with two hands.
As a bonus, Cartwright-Atkins knocked the basketball off a Delsea player’s leg, allowing the Quakers to gain possession.
“What an unbelievable play,” Moorestown coach Shawn Anstey said. “He came out of nowhere.”
Delsea coach Tom Freeman said Cartwright-Atkins’ block was the play of the game.
“I thought he was at half-court,” Freeman said. “I don’t know where he came from. If we make that layup, I think we win the game.”
Atkins-Cartwright, a 6-foot junior, also dished three assists and generated four steals for Moorestown (15-4), the No. 12 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
Senior guard Connor Dickinson scored 10 with six rebounds and junior guard Jagger Zrada scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter and made two free throws at 0:03 for Moorestown.
Junior guard Javon Gordon scored 23 with eight rebounds and two steals for No. 14 Delsea (13-5).
“He was great, he’s always great,” Freeman said of Gordon.
The game matched teams that loom as top contenders in their respective Group 3 tournaments.
Moorestown is the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group 3 field, while Delsea is No. 4 in South Jersey Group 3.
“We’d love to see them again,” Freeman said, knowing the teams could only meet in the state semifinals.
Anstey said the game was a playoff preview.
“This is what you’re going to see in the playoffs,” Anstey said. “It was an awesome game against a very good team.”
Cartwright-Atkins led the way for Moorestown through most of the game but Zrada and junior guard Vinnie Caprarola made big plays in the fourth quarter, with each hitting a three-pointer and combining for 11 points.
The Quakers’ defense stiffened in the fourth quarter as well, as Delsea scored just nine in the final eight minutes.
“That was a big thing for us, the way we were able to defend at the end without fouling,” Anstey said.
Delsea, which got 15 points from senior guard Nate Cox, missed some opportunities from the foul line. The Crusaders were just 7-for-14 from the foul line in the game, including 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
“This is a good game for us going forward,” Freeman said. “You get in the playoffs, every point, every possession, every turnover, every rebound matters. And you have to make your foul shots.”
Despite missing those free throws, the Crusaders were in position to take the lead with 0:30 on the clock.
But Cartwright-Atkins had other ideas, making the play of the game with that two-handed block.
“I was going to use one hand, but I wanted to make sure I got it,” Cartwright-Atkins said. “Two hands, I knew I would block it.”
Delsea 14 16 15 9 – 54
Moorestown 17 10 16 14 – 57
D: Javon Gordon 23, Kolby Braxton 1, Nate Cox 15, Aziz Saud 4, Kobey Evans 11.
M: Jagger Zrada 7, Nick Cartwright-Atkins 23, Brian McMonagle 4, Vinnie Caprarola 7, Connor Dickinson 10, Kevin Muhic 6.