South Jersey Sports Report: Baker-Toombs Leads Greyhounds with 33 points in Win Over St. Joe’s
PLEASANTVILLE — The issue all season for the Pleasantville boys basketball team has been consistency. The Greyhounds started the year with a four-game winning streak, then lost three straight, then traded wins and losses for a week in mid-January. Then came another four-game skid, and most recently a three-game winning streak heading into Wednesday night’s matchup against St. Joseph.
One thing that hasn’t been questioned, however, is the Greyhounds’ talent, and that’s probably the reason they were selected as the No. 7 seed in the upcoming Cape-Atlantic League Tournament despite an 11-11 record at the time of this afternoon’s seeding meeting.
Pleasantville showed just how dangerous it can be when it has everything rolling, as the Greyhounds held off countless comeback attempts by St. Joseph and used a hustle play by senior Marquise McLoughlin in the waning seconds to hang on for an 82-79 win over the Wildcats. The loss actually bumped St. Joe from No. 4 to No. 5 in the CAL Tournament seedings, and now the Wildcats must travel to No. 4 Atlantic City for Monday’s opening round, as those two teams flip-flopped in the rankings.
Ironically, in a game that featured 161 points, it was a defensive play that made the difference at the end. With less than 10 seconds left and Pleasantville holding an 80-79 lead after a bucket by senior Alejandro Rosado in the low post, McLoughlin stole an inbounds pass and fed Issa Baker, who was fouled and converted both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 82-79. The Wildcats’ last-gasp 3-pointer at the buzzer was well off the mark.
“It’s always good competition when we play them. I was baiting them, I had a feeling (my man) was going to try to come off the screen to get the (inbounds pass). So I just baited and got my hands on it,” McLoughlin said. “It was a good win for us to get back on our feet, now we have a four-game winning streak. We were in a slump in the middle of the season but now we’re bouncing back. We’re feeling good right now.”
“We had a lot of doubters, even in our own community, but they still came out and showed us support. For my last game here at Pleasantville, it was amazing,” said Rosado, who was one of several seniors honored prior to the game as part of the Greyhounds’ “Senior Night” festivities.
More than a Baker’s dozen: Pleasantville (12-11, 7-3 CAL United) got off to a great start against St. Joseph (17-4, 7-2), which came in riding a six-game winning streak and had won 11 of its last 12 since a loss against Wildwood Catholic on Jan. 15. A big key to going into the locker room at halftime holding a 37-36 lead was Issa Baker, an Atlantic City transfer who nailed four 3-pointers and scored 22 points in the first half. He went on to lead all scorers with 33 points that included six 3-pointers.
He hit some big-time shots, too. With 4:10 left Baker drained a three from well beyond NBA range that gave Pleasantville a 73-64 lead, and earlier in the fourth quarter his traditional 3-point play put the Greyhounds up 63-55.
Revamped lineup: Pleasantville was without the services of its top big man, 6-foot-7 forward Elijah Jones, so coach Butch Warner asked McLoughlin to switch from shooting guard to small forward. It was quite a change for a player who is used to hanging around the 3-point line looking for open shots. He had to mix it up in the low post with some big guys from St. Joe, but held his own and came up with some key rebounds while also adding 13 points.
“I’m not used to playing tight big in the paint, I’m used to being a perimeter player. It was a change,” he said. “I was getting out-rebounded so my coaches kept telling me to box out and start using my body, so that’s what I started doing.”
Rosado also played a huge role with his defense and rebounding while chipping in 13 points despite missing most of the fourth quarter because of foul trouble.
“We had a lot of time to practice, so we went over rebounding and just to play big, with your heart, basically. We were the smaller team but we fought the whole game,” Rosado said. “The whole time our coaches told us that if we got knocked down, just get yourself up and keep fighting. That was an amazing game for me, and our team fought. When we work as a team together, I feel like we can be unstoppable. The main thing is we gained respect back in the league. I feel like we were disrespected, but we got it back after this win.”
Roller coaster: This game didn’t have the ebb and flow of a tide slowly coming in, it was more like waves in a violent storm crashing into a sea wall. The pace was frenetic and each team made runs, only to be answered by the other. St. Joe went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter to take a 34-32 lead, but just as quickly the Greyhounds got the lead back when Baker nailed a three.
Pleasantville then started the third quarter on a 9-2 run that included another three from Baker, and sprinted out to a 46-38 lead, forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout. St. Joe then scored three straight buckets out of the timeout, including a three from Jordan Stafford, to cut the deficit to 46-45. The Ville then bolted ahead by 10 points, 68-58, early in the fourth quarter before St. Joe shaved it down to 68-63.
The Greyhounds enjoyed another 10-point lead, 74-64, with 3:47 left, but again the Wildcats refused to go away, getting a huge 3-pointer from Arnaldo Rodriguez to make it 74-71, then getting to within 76-75 with four straight points from Marcus Pierce.
“We tried to break away but every time we went up by 10 the lead would get cut back to five. It was a lot of ups and downs, a game of runs,” McLoughlin said. “It was a great win. It’s a good win going into the CAL playoffs to get us ready for what the environment will be like at the Prep on Monday. We’re ready for it. We’re getting our chemistry back.”
Stats: Pleasantville had four players in double figures, as Baker led the way with 33, Rosado and McLoughlin each had 13 and Jules Sanchez chipped in 12, and the Greyhounds nailed 10 threes. Pierce led St. Joe with 19 points while Rodriguez added 18, including four 3-pointers. Daniel Skillings added 17 while Stafford scored nine.
What’s next: Pleasantville travels to St. Augustine Prep while St. Joseph travels to Atlantic City for the opening round of the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament. Both games are Monday, times TBD.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays