Will Bond's return from injury sparks Haddonfield's drive to state final

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Haddonfield players and students celebrate SJ 2 semifinal victory over Camden.

The injury was bad.

The diagnosis was worse.

Haddonfield senior Will Bond landed hard in a Jan. 16 game against Audubon. He suffered a broken left wrist.

That night, Bond got devastating news: He would need eight to 12 weeks to heal, so his season and his career apparently were over.

“That was a bad night,” Bond said. “I felt horrible knowing I wouldn’t be able to play again for my team.”

A week later, Bond got a glimmer of hope. His doctor said the bone was healing “faster than expected” and that it was possible he could return to the court in time for the state tournament.

On Sunday, Bond will join his teammates at the Rutgers Athletic Center as Haddonfield plays Newark Central in the Group 2 state championship game.

This will be Bond’s fifth game since returning from the injury, and he has played with a little more confidence in each one.

“Day by day, I’m getting better,” Bond said.

Not coincidentally, the Bulldawgs are 5-0 since their senior guard’s return, with each victory of increasing importance in a classic postseason tournament run.

“What a confidence booster Will has given our team upon his return,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said. “You forget before his injury he was our leading scorer and best three-point shooter.”

The 6-foot Bond was Haddonfield’s leading scorer through the first nine games, averaging 15.7 points. He scored a season-high 24 points Jan. 13 against Overbrook.

Three nights later, he was injured against Audubon.

“I really thought his season was over when he injured his wrist,” Wiedeman said.

Bond was a regular at practice and sat on the bench during the 17 games he was forced to miss.

Wiedeman and Haddonfield athletic director Lefty Banos rave about Bond’s maturity and team-first attitude during his time on the sideline.

“I was so proud of how he handled being out with the injury,” Wiedeman said. “He was at every practice, helping with drills and the clock. Never felt sorry for himself and worked vigorously to come back his senior year.”

Said Banos: “It really showed his character, how he supported his teammates when he was out.”

Bond returned to the court March 1 against Haddon Heights, scoring four points in second-half action. He scored 14 in the sectional final against Lower Cape May, then added 10 in the state semifinal against  Rumson-Fair Haven.

“The first time back, against Haddon Heights, it hurt a little bit,” Bond said. “But it feels better every day.

“I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m close. I’m getting a better sense of what I can and can’t do out there.”

The best thing about Bond’s return to the court is that it has coincided with a playoff run: The season and career he thought were over have kept going, through the victory over four-time defending champion Camden in the sectional semifinal, the South Jersey title game win over Lower Cape May and the state semifinal triumph over Central Jersey champion Rumson-Fair Haven.

On Sunday, Bond will take the court with his teammates as Haddonfield seeks its first state title since the Brian Zoubek-led squads completed a run of three straight crowns in 2006.

“It just means a lot to get back out there with my teammates,” Bond said. “My senior year, I didn’t want to go out sitting on the bench. Hopefully, I can help us win a Group 2 championship.”

Boys’ basketball state finals

Sunday at Rutgers.

Group 4

Shawnee (27-4) vs. Newark East Side (29-3), noon.

Shawnee’s road to the final: Beat Southern, 68-38; Kingsway, 76-62; Eastern, 59-54; Atlantic City, 61-48 and Trenton, 51-40.

Previous state titles: Five (1992, 1995, 1996 and 2001 in Group 4 and 2007 in Group 3).

Shawnee players to watch: Senior forward Dylan Deveney (17.8 points, 72 three-pointers); senior guard Dean Noll (22 points), senior forward Daevon Robinson (the program’s all-time leading rebounder) and junior guard Connor Deveney (7.7 points, 42 three-pointers).

Newark East Side’s road to the final: Beat Columbia, 76-42; Watchung Hills, 67-44; Piscataway, 88-50; Linden, 57-52 and Hackensack, 59-48.

Previous state titles: Three (2013 and 2-14 in Group 3, 2002 in Group 4).

Newark East Side players to watch: Senior guard Shamir Johnson (15.8) and senior forward DeAndre Speight (12.1).

Pick: Shawnee, 58-57.

Group 2

Haddonfield (28-3) vs. Newark Central (23-8).

Haddonfield’s road to the final: Beat Cape May Tech, 62-44; Haddon Heights, 52-45; Camden, 54-53 (OT); Lower Cape May, 63-45; Rumson-Fair Haven, 43-39.

Previous titles: Five (2004, 2005 and 2006 in Group 2 and 1973 and 1989 in Group 1).

Haddonfield players to watch: Junior guard Mike DePersia (13.2 points); junior forward Aiden Blake (9.9 points); junior forward Dan Fleming (11.1 points); senior guard Will Bond (12.5 points).

Newark Central’s road to the final: Beat Whippany Park, 75-55; Madison, 68-48; Newark West Side, 67-54; Hackettstown, 56-39 and Ramsey, 57-47.

Previous titles:  One (2011).

Newark Central players to watch: Senior forward Dee-End McCrae (19.4) and sophomore guard Zarique Nutter (14.9).

Pick: Haddonfield, 49-48.

Group 1

Woodbury (20-11) vs. Cresskill (29-2).

Woodbury’s road to the final: Beat Audubon, 76-24; Haddon Twp., 46-45; Penns Grove, 70-65; Glassboro, 63-52; Pt. Pleasant Beach, 59-46.

Previous titles: None.

Woodbury players to watch: Junior guard Aaron Estrada (22.1 points); senior guard Marcus McGruder; junior guard Tommy Carter.

Cresskill’s road to the final: Beat Wallington, 65-53; West Caldwell Tech, 59-34; Paterson Charter, 64-52; New Milford, 58-38 and Bloomfield Tech, 67-61.

Previous titles: None.

Cresskill players to watch: Senior forward Luka Radovich (17.1) and senior center Wellington Ventura (12.2).

Pick: Cresskill, 60-58.