C.H. East moves to final

Celebrating their South Jersey Group 4 semifinal triumph, Cherry Hill East's Jake Silpe (3) and Austin Wetzler embrace as Eastern's Alex Barr walks off the court, his season at an end. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Celebrating their South Jersey Group 4 semifinal triumph, Cherry Hill East's Jake Silpe (3) and Austin Wetzler embrace as Eastern's Alex Barr walks off the court, his season at an end. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 10, 2014

Austin Wetzler sprinted off the floor as the Cherry Hill East and Eastern boys' basketball teams were announced over the public address for the South Jersey Group 4 semifinal.

The East senior's routine was thrown off before his biggest game because of a handshake between the Olympic American rivals that occurred before the game instead of after it, and the change of plans didn't allow him to make his usual pregame bathroom trip.

He hurried back to the gym during the national anthem, keeping loose beyond a corner of the floor near the bleachers before he rejoined his teammates.

Wetzler was ready by game time, though, and he knocked down two key shots down the stretch to help Cherry Hill East earn a 44-37 win and move one game from the first South Jersey title in school history.

Wetzler tied the game at 37 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left with his third and final three-pointer. He then hit a jumper on the ensuing possession to put the Cougars up by two and help the top seeds put the game away against Eastern, the fifth seed.

"It's literally something that you dream of, with all my friends watching," said Wetzler, who scored 14 points. "I've been playing with Jake [Silpe] and Tommy [Smierciak] since fifth grade, and for us to have an opportunity to win a sectional South Jersey Group 4 title is just unbelievable, and I'm so thankful for it."

Cherry Hill East (22-7) will host sixth-seeded Cherokee - which beat Southern Regional, 63-39, Saturday - in the South Jersey Group 4 final Tuesday.

Silpe scored three points in the final minute of the first half to help East go into break trailing Eastern (24-5) by just one. He then scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, capped by a breakaway layup at the final buzzer to kick off the celebration.

"It's the best," Silpe said. "I've never had a greater feeling than this. I'm in total shock. It's amazing. I feel on top of the world."

Wetzler encountered more issues in the second half. He took an elbow to the nose in the third quarter that caused bleeding.

He got it to stop, but he took another shot to the nose as he drained a three to provide a 28-27 lead with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, and it started to bleed again. East used a timeout so he could get it to stop and remain in the game.

"There's no way I'm coming out of this game," Wetzler said. "It wasn't painful. What hurt more was that I was holding my nose so hard so it would stop bleeding, and I guess that did the trick."

Silpe was fouled with East up by four and 14.7 seconds left. Wetzler walked in front of the crowd and started moving his arms up and down to encourage the student section, which would storm the court after the game, to get even louder.

After running out of the gym before the game, Wetzler savored the end of it.

Eastern 10 9 8 10 - 37

Cherry Hill East 9 9 12 14 - 44

E: Alex Barr 13, Logan Edwards 7, Matt Klinewski 9, Malik Sanders 5, John Scalindro 3.

CHE: Phil Cunha 7, Jake Silpe 17, Tommy Smierciak 6, Austin Wetzler 14.

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