Phil Anastasia: Haddonfield stops archrival Heights

Haddonfield's Billy Griffin (33) goes up for a rebound against Haddon Height's Antonio Underdue in the second period. The Bulldogs won the Colonial Conference rivalry, 55-41.
Haddonfield's Billy Griffin (33) goes up for a rebound against Haddon Height's Antonio Underdue in the second period. The Bulldogs won the Colonial Conference rivalry, 55-41. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 08, 2012

Guys from Haddon Heights know Haddonfield's gym with the bleachers that rise above the floor like the seating at an indoor swimming pool.

Guys from Haddonfield know Haddon Heights' gym with its double doors at one end of the floor that open to Third Avenue.

That's the way it works with these neighbors and Colonial Conference and Group 2 rivals.

They always play twice in the regular season and often meet again in the state tournament.

So for Haddonfield seniors Jake Sikkema and Mike Lacatena, there was something special about their last regularly scheduled visit to Haddon Heights on Tuesday night. They might be back in March. In fact, they are counting on it.

But they weren't going to wait that long to take care of some unfinished business.

"This gym, it hasn't been good to us," Lacatena said after Haddonfield beat Haddon Heights, 55-41, before a near-capacity crowd in a Colonial Conference showdown and Coaches vs. Cancer event. "We've had a tough time in here."

Lacatena collected 12 rebounds and scored five points. Sikkema scored a game-high 16. Junior Chris Biddle added 15 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks as Haddonfield improved to 15-4 overall, and tightened its grip on the top spot in the Colonial's Liberty Division by jacking its conference mark to 11-1.

It was a frustrating night for Haddon Heights (16-3, 10-3), which could have seized a share of first place in the division with a win - and would have been in good position to capture its first title since 2000, as Haddonfield still must face undefeated Paulsboro.

But the Garnets couldn't overcome foul trouble that hampered junior guard Brandon Joyner (eight points) and senior guard Davon Jones (11 points). Joyner sat out the final 13 minutes, 21 seconds of the first half, and Jones was limited for much of the game and fouled out with 6:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"You keep asking yourself, 'When do you put him in? Do you put him in?' " Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci said of the dilemma facing coaches with top players in foul trouble.

Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said one of the keys to his team's victory was its ability to control Haddon Heights' guards.

"Foul trouble helped with that," Wiedeman said. "But when they were in there, I thought we defended well."

The Bulldogs also received strong games from freshman twins Nick and Rob DePersia, a pesky pair of point guards. Nick DePersia scored 10 with five assists, and Rob DePersia bounced off the bench to generate two assists, two steals, and boundless energy.

"They're like gnats," Ricci said in admiration of the DePersias.

The biggest factor for Haddonfield was the work of its three forwards.

It wouldn't be correct to call them interior players, since Sikkema, Lacatena and Biddle all spend time on the perimeter. Their ballhandling is a big help against pressure defense, and their ability to shoot from distance, post up, and pass makes for tough matchups.

"They're so versatile," Wiedeman said of his forwards. "Lacatena can stretch a defense, and he's a great passer. And Sikkema and Biddle run that high-low so well together. They all look for each other."

Lacatena and Biddle both hit three-point jumpers. Biddle had three assists, all to Sikkema on the block.

"That's a big part of our game," Sikkema said. "We worked on that all summer."

Like Lacatena, Sikkema said it was big deal for Haddonfield to win at Haddon Heights.

"The last two years when we came in here, it didn't go so well," Sikkema said. "This was important for us to show we could win in this gym."

Haddonfield could be back in Haddon Heights' gym in a month.

The Bulldogs are the likely No. 4 seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament, with the Garnets as the projected No. 1 seed.

If form holds, the teams would meet again in the sectional semifinals.

It will be a home game for the Garnets.

But now, the Bulldogs won't feel so out of place.

Haddonfield 9 16 14 16 – 55

Haddon Heights 12 5 16 8 – 41

H: Jake Sikkema 16, Mike Lacatena 5, Billy Griffin 8, Chris Biddle 15, Nick DePersia 10, Rob DePersia 1.

HH: Brandon Joyner 8, Davon Jones 11, Dante Pinckney 2, Darien Pierce 8, Willie Arthor 6, Lucien Brownlee 6.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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