"The students were a big part of it," said Gurkin, a 6-foot-6 athlete who used his speed to beat Cherry Hill West defenders down the floor and his height to score on put-backs and inside moves.
Junior forward Gary Hettinger collected 11 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard Jesse Gold had seven assists for Cherry Hill East (2-0).
Senior guard Marquis Goodman scored 21 for Cherry Hill West (1-2).
Junior forward Ryan Lee and sophomore guard Rodney Williams each added 14 for the Lions, who made 10 three-point jumpers.
That was 10 times as many as East, as the Cougars made just one jumper from distance. That was a twist, since East long has been known for its three-point shooting.
But the Cougars shot mostly layups, often in transition.
"The transition game has been a staple of the East offense," said first-year East coach Dave Allen. "We like to see these kids get out and run the floor."
East broke the game open in the second quarter, outscoring West by 20-11 to take a 37-23 halftime lead.
"The game plan was to get the ball to Jake," Schlessel said. "It's awesome to play with Jake. He can get down the floor. I was able to get free because they were so worried about him."
West battled back as Lee hit three three-point jumpers in the third quarter and Goodman added two.
"What I liked best was that our kids never quit," West coach Hamasi Tarrant said. "We knew we had a tough matchup in some spots. We see these guys all year long. But our kids got down and battled back."
Cherry Hill East 17 20 23 16 - 76
Cherry Hill West 12 11 23 16 - 62
CHE: Marc Schlessel 26, Jake Gurkin 29, Gary Hettinger 11, Jesse Gold 2, Brett Roseman 2, Jake Silpe 6.
CHW: Marcus Sumpter 2, Rodney Williams 14, Marquis Goodman 21, Ryan Lee 14, Greg Smolsky 3, Will Plenty 4, Sean Mularkey 2, John Ortramu 2.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, email@example.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports