Craig Turner powers Cinnaminson past Cherry Hill East

Craig Turner of Cinnaminson drives past Jared Ohnona of Cherry Hill East in the third quarter during the Coney Classic basketball tournament Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, at Rancocas Valley. Cinnaminson went on to win, 56-49.

With a little more than six minutes remaining in the game, Craig Turner rose up for a deep three-point attempt.

His shot hit nothing but net.

Turner’s three-pointer gave Cinnaminson its first lead since early in the second quarter, and the Pirates pulled way for a 56-49 victory over Cherry Hill East on Saturday in the 11th annual Jeff Coney Classic at Rancocas Valley High School.

“We just had to keep our composure and keep playing,” said Turner, a senior guard who scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

Junior guard Chad Howard scored 14 and senior forward Gunner Peterson added 10 with six rebounds for Cinnaminson (10-6), which likely secured a top seed in the upcoming South Jersey Group 2 tournament with the victory.

Junior guard Carl Gibson scored 19 and junior forward Sam Serata added 14 for Cherry Hill East (8-10).

“We played well in the first half,” Cherry Hill East coach Dave Allen said. “But in the fourth quarter, we stopped defending. We reverted back to trying to outshoot people.

“We weren’t doing what it takes to win high school basketball games.”

Camera icon LOU RABITO / Staff
Ahmad Gantt of Cinnaminson drives to the basket against Sam Serata (33) of Cherry Hill East in the fourth quarter during the Coney Classic basketball tournament  at Rancocas Valley. Cinnaminson went on to win, 56-49, on Saturday.

The victory in the 16th game, which marks the cutoff for playoff seeding, could land Cinnaminson in the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the sectional tournament, although Camden and Haddonfield still have games to play and could contend for those top spots, as well.

Beyond playoff positioning, the victory over a prominent Group 4 program in a showcase setting should work wonders for the Pirates’ confidence and raise their profile, as well.

“That’s a well-coached Group 4 school,” Turner said of Cherry Hill East. “We’re a Group 2 team, and it’s an honor to come in here and play against them in this event and show what Cinnaminson basketball is all about.”

The Pirates were behind, 29-17, midway in the third quarter when Cherry Hill East senior Jake Bernstein scored off a nice feed from junior Ryan Greene.

But the rest of the game belonged to Cinnaminson.

Behind a trapping 1-3-1 half-court zone defense, the Pirates were able to pick up the game’s tempo, get out in transition and seize command.

“Our defense led to our offense,” Peterson said. “That’s the reason we won the game.”

Cinnaminson also got a huge lift in the fourth quarter from junior forward Ahmad Gantt, who bounced off the bench to score all eight of his points and grab six of his seven rebounds.

“He was taking it to the rim big-time,” Cinnaminson coach Mike Fries said of Gantt.

Turner’s deep jumper from the right side, in front of the Cinnaminson bench, snapped a 41-41 tie. The Pirates pulled away behind Gannt, Howard and junior John Meekins, who scored four in the fourth quarter.

“This is a huge win for us,” Peterson said. “People are going to sleep on us. Let ’em. We’ll wake them up.”

Cherry Hill East 10 13 16 10 – 49

Cinnaminson 13 4 17 22 – 56

CHE: Carl Gibson 19, Sam Serata 14, Ryan Greene 5, Colin Prendergast 5, Jake Bernstein 2, Jared Ohnona 4.

Cinn: JP Rickus 8, Chad Howard 14, John Meekins 6, Gunner Peterson 10, Craig Turner 10, Ahmad Gantt 8.