Jared Latane leads Haddon Heights past Haddonfield

Haddon Heights’ Jared Latane hits this fadeaway jumper in the last second of the third quarter despite defense by Haddonfield’s Aiden Blake.

In practice, it was just another game.

In the locker room before tipoff, it was just another game.

But when the buzzer sounded on Haddon Heights’ 66-63 victory over rival Haddonfield in a Colonial Conference clash on Thursday night, it was clear that for the victorious Garnets, this was more than just another game.

“Waited my whole career for this,” Haddon Heights senior guard Jared Latane said after a signature performance before a near-capacity crowd in the Garnets’ gymnasium.

The 5-foot-8 Latane scored 30 points, dished four assists and inspired his team to its most emotional victory of the season.

Latane and teammates, along with Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci, joined with Garnets’ students in an impromptu celebration in front the Garnet Crazies section of the bleachers in the little gym off First Avenue.

“I’m just so proud of these kids,” Ricci said. “Jared led us, and we had some other guys pick things up and make a couple plays.”

Sophomore swingman Te’Sean Pressley scored 12 points, and senior forward Jake Campbell added eight, including a pair of three-pointers, for Haddon Heights (15-3 overall, 10-2 in the Colonial Conference), the No. 21 team in the Inquirer Top 25.

The Garnets, who won their eighth in a row, also got a lift from junior Jared Bolling, who scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of clutch free throws in the final minute.

“I said during the timeout, ‘When Jared makes both of these free throws …’ ” Ricci said. “I looked right at him and said, ‘You’re making them.’”

Senior guard Ben Schroeter, who made four three-pointers, and junior forward Dan Fleming each scored 15 points, and junior guard Miek DePersia collected 13 points, 6 assists and 3 steals for No. 7 Haddonfield (15-2, 11-1).

“They shot the ball like the Golden State Warriors,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said of Haddon Heights. “And when they missed they got the offensive rebound. They beat us to loose balls. We got in foul trouble. It was a culmination of things for us.”

Latane, who also plays football, said he never won a sporting event against Haddonfield in his career before Thursday night. The Bulldawgs’ mastery over the Garnets in basketball included some narrow victories in recent years.

“When you lose to a team as much as we lost to them and the way we lost to them, it becomes a mental thing,” Ricci said. “We said in practice, we said before the game, that this was just another game. We tried to treat it that way.

“But it was hard because it was Haddonfield.”

Latane sensed the significance of his last regular-season game against Haddonfield.

“I waited all day for this game,” Latane said. “I knew this was the last time I’ll ever play against them.”

Latane controlled the game. He scored 11 points in the first quarter, making a pair of three-point jumpers and a traditional three-point play.

“He’s so strong with the ball going to the basket,” Wiedeman said.

Latane made an acrobatic layup at the halftime buzzer. He made another buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter. He scored 28 in the first three quarters, raising the energy in the building and his teammates’ confidence.

“He finds Campbell in the corner for a three,” Ricci said of Latane. “He finds Te’Sean for a three. He trusts those guys, and that gives them so much confidence.”

Said Wiedeman: “They just fed off him.”

In the end, the buzzer sounded, and the diminutive senior guard found himself in the middle of a churning sea of celebrating schoolmates.

Just another game?

Not for Jared Latane and Haddon Heights.

Haddonfield                          15    21     14     13   –   63

Haddon Heights                  20     17     17     12    –   66

H: Mike DePersia 13, Aiden Blake 10, Dan Fleming 15, Ben Schroeter 15, Lewis Evans 4, Dylan Heine 6.

HH: Jared Latane 30, Te’Sean Pressley 12, Isaiah Turner 4, Jabari Higgs 7, Jared Bolling 5, Jake Campbell 8.