South Jersey Sports Report: Brady, Finnegan Lead OC Over Middle
OCEAN CITY — An undersized Middle Township team came into Dixie Howell Gymnasium on Friday night for its season opener against host Ocean City, and the Panthers — with longtime coach Tom Feraco back on the bench after Anthony Farmer had coached the squad the past couple of seasons — put up a good fight and rallied to take a 38-37 lead in the third quarter.
But in the end it was too much Gannon Brady and Tom Finnegan.
Brady and Finnegan — both stars on the Ocean City baseball team — proved they are pretty good at roundball, too, as each scored 23 points to lead the Red Raiders to a 65-48 victory.
Ocean City held a 30-24 lead at halftime but Middle stormed back to tie the game, 31-31, on a 3-pointer from Matt Marino, then took a 38-37 lead on another three by Jerry Camacho. But Ocean City rallied back to tie the game at 41 when Brady fed Finnegan on the break with 2:38 left in the third quarter, then Brady hit a short jumper and scored in transition to give the Red Raiders a 45-41 lead. From there, Ocean City opened up a 59-45 lead early in the fourth quarter during a run that featured a whole lot of Brady, one of only two returning starters along with Mike Rhodes.
“We just had to keep our composure,” said Brady, a senior who is taking over the point guard position from Joey Sacco, who now plays at Vassar College in New York. “They were making all their shots, but they weren’t going to shoot like that the whole game, they were just on a hot streak. We knew we had to stay composed, and we closed it out and did a good job.”
Raining threes: Middle Township stayed in the game because of its ability to shoot the three over Ocean City’s 2-3 zone defense. The Panthers made six 3-pointers in the first half and 10 for the game, getting 30 of their 48 points from beyond the arc. Camacho led the way with four while Marino added three. Ocean City shot the ball well from long range as well, connecting on five 3-pointers.
Matchup problems: With guys such as Finnegan, Rhodes, Brady, Will Drain and Brad Jamison, Ocean City had a noticeable size advantage and Middle couldn’t get much done on the inside, particularly when Miles Sapp went to the bench in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He had been hobbled by it somewhat in the first half but tried to play through it, but came down hard attempting to grab a rebound with five minutes left in the third and didn’t return.
When he left, the score was tied at 31, but without Sapp in the lineup Ocean City was able to outscore Middle 34-17 in the final 13 minutes.
Multi-sport athletes: This year’s version of the Red Raiders seems like a mash-up of different sports, as nearly all the players who garner a lot of minutes are impact players in either football or baseball. Quarterback Joe Repetti plays at the second guard position, Drain, Rhodes, Brad Jamison and Brady Rauner are all standout defensive players on the football team, and Brady and Finnegan are starters on the baseball team.
“I just like to keep loose in the offseason, put the (baseball) bat down for a little bit. It’s just awesome to play with my friends out here and I don’t want to lose the high school experience of playing basketball,” Brady said. “This is probably the closest team I’ve ever played on. We’re all really close friends. We’re just a tight-knit group and we communicate really well, and that helps on the court with back-door plays and everything like that.”
“It’s good to just take a break (from baseball) and play (basketball) with your friends. It gets boring being in the cage for 12 months a year. It’s fun to come out here and compete. This shows I’m athletic and stuff like that,” Finnegan added. “It’s good coming out here and playing with a new group. People are adapting; I’m still adapting. It was just fun to go out there and play hard.”
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Pleasantville on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend. Middle Township travels to Mater Dei on Jan. 3 at 8 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays