It was getting late in the game and late in the careers of Rancocas Valley's seniors.
"We felt that desperation," Rancocas Valley senior forward Darius Dooley said. "We knew we had to make some plays."
Dooley and fellow seniors Ned Ogoemesim and Jordan Cole led a late surge Monday night as Rancocas Valley pulled away for a 75-68 victory over Eastern in the first round of the South Jersey Group 4 basketball tournament.
Senior swingman Shaun Bradley scored 22 points and Cole bounced off the bench to add 13 for No. 8 seed Rancocas Valley (20-6), which advanced to face top-seeded Toms River North in the second round on Wednesday.
Junior swingman Maliq Sanders scored 24 points and senior guard Logan Edwards added 21 for ninth-seeded Eastern (17-10).
"There was no shame in the game we played," Eastern coach Kevin Crawford said. "[Rancocas Valley] is a real talented team and they just made a few more plays at the end."
Sanders' deep three-pointer gave Eastern its last lead at 66-65 with 1 minute, 13 seconds to play.
But Rancocas Valley scored eight unanswered points and closed the game on a 10-2 run.
"Our pressure late was the difference," Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan said.
Flanagan said that he scouted Eastern "six or seven times" and that the Vikings played their best game in the tournament opener before a near-capacity crowd in Rancocas Valley's gymnasium.
"I feel good that we beat them when they had their 'A' game and [got] a little lucky," Flanagan said.
After Sanders' three-pointer, Cole answered with a three-pointer from the corner off a feed from Ogoemesim for a 68-66 edge.
Rancocas Valley quickly extended its lead to 70-68 as Dooley lifted a steal and fed Ogoemesim for a layup.
"We had to turn up the pressure and pressure makes diamonds," Ogoemesim said.
Ogoemesim, who was hampered by foul trouble, scored six of his nine points in the fourth quarter.
The Red Devils closed out the victory with some clutch foul shooting in the final 28 seconds as Dooley hit three free throws and Bradley hit a pair.
"This win is going to give us even more energy," Dooley said. "I think we're going to get on a run."
Eastern 10 21 21 16 - 68
Rancocas Valley 12 20 13 30 - 75
E: Logan Edwards 21, Maliq Sanders 24, Chase Finnegan 3, Justin Fendrick 11, Keith Davis 2, Darren Gibson 4, John Salicandro 1, Justin Williams 2.
RV: Brenden Ruby 9, Darius Dooley 5, Shaun Bradley 22, Ned Ogoemesim 9, Adam Perry 13, Jordan Cole 13, Aaron Little 4.