Mike DePersia got clocked on a pick, fell to the floor, and got up just as quickly. To the Haddonfield junior point guard, the pop he took was worth it because he drew an offensive foul.
It was a play that typified his effort during Thursday’s 52-45 win over Haddon Heights in a South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinal.
Much is made of DePersia’s offensive ability, and rightly so. He is a point guard who can stretch a defense with serious three-point range and is also a fearless driver to the basket, not to mention an adept passer.
As he showed on that pick play, DePersia isn’t afraid of contact, even if he estimates he is 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds. That latter figure, by the way, might be generous.
As for getting knocked to the ground, DePersia couldn’t be happier.
“It was great because a foul was called,” he said.
His main job was to guard Jared Latane, who recently became the all-time leading scorer at Haddon Heights. Latane was limited to nine points on three three-pointers.
DePersia also found time to make six steals and score 16 points.
In a 66-65 Haddon Heights win on Feb. 1, Latane torched Haddonfield for 30 points.
Needless to say, there were some defensive adjustments this time.
Thursday, DePersia played the entire game, but as a way of giving him a breather, coach Paul Wiedeman moved another defensive stopper, Lewis Evans, on Latane for a few minutes.
Evans was no defensive slouch, either. The only thing that wasn’t happening was DePersia leaving the game.
He got knocked around not only on the pick but also on several drives to the basket, spending a considerable amount of time on the floor.
So he had to be bushed afterward, right?
“I could have gone a few more quarters,” he said with a straight face. “If we are going for a win, I can keep going.”
Haddonfield (25-3) will be going for the most difficult of wins Saturday when the second-seeded Bulldawgs meet third seed Camden (21-5) in a 2 p.m. semifinal at Cherry Hill West that will no doubt feel like a championship game.
Camden has won six straight sectional titles, including last year when the Panthers beat Haddonfield, 42-40, in overtime during the Group 2 final.
DePersia and his teammates have been thinking of that game virtually every day for the past year.
“We wanted another shot at Camden, but we knew we couldn’t overlook Haddon Heights,” DePersia said.
Camden has one of South Jersey’s top point guards in Corey Greer.
It would be interesting if Wiedeman, a master of switching defenses, decides to use DePersia on Greer. DePersia says he will leave his defensive assignment to his coach, but nothing asked will be too big.
It certainly wasn’t on Thursday.
“DePersia was playing defense on Jared for probably 28 of the 32 minutes and still had the energy to play on the offensive end, which was incredible,” Heights coach Mike Ricci said.
And, of course, DePersia didn’t abandon his offensive game.
While Camden will be the favorite, this is the type of challenge DePersia envisioned when he became a starter as a freshman at Haddonfield.
“Mike is a gym rat who plays all year-round, and he lives for playing in this type of environment,” Wiedeman said. “He just doesn’t stop.”
Nor will he stop on Saturday. There is too much at stake for DePersia not to go all-out for 32 minutes, or even longer if the situation requires.