OCEAN CITY — Trey Jones watched his friend Christian Mortellite dominate for three quarters Sunday.
The fourth quarter belonged to Jones, though.
The Egg Harbor Township High School senior scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth as the Eagles rallied for a 63-58 win over Mortellite and Hammonton in a Cape-Atlantic League interconference boys basketball game at the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Classic at Ocean City High School.
“I just wanted to lead my team. I didn’t want to lose,” said Jones, who also had four of his seven rebounds and two of his four steals in the final quarter.
Mortellite, who has been a club teammate of Jones and EHT’s Khari Harley for four years, finished with 30 points for Hammonton (1-1). The 6-foot-4 forward scored from the outside — including two 3-pointers — and from under the basket. He was 14-of-15 from the free-throw line.
“Christian’s a great scorer,” Jones said. “We knew he was going to come out firing.”
But Mortellite scored just two in the fourth quarter, due in part to foul trouble and the aggressive defense of EHT’s Marcus Bynum, who is five inches shorter.
“We could’ve gone with a bigger kid on him, but I thought we’d try to beat him with quickness as opposed to size,” EHT coach George McNally said.
EHT (1-1) trailed 53-46 with 4 minutes, 21 seconds remaining but closed the game with a 17-5 run, taking the lead with 41 seconds left. The Eagles made a similar run in the first half, using a 14-2 stretch to turn a nine-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead.
Jones said the Eagles knew Mortellite would get his points and that the key was to keep playing their game.
“(Jones and Harley) know what I do and we knew what they do,” Mortellite said. “But at the beginning of the game they made a run and then we made a bigger run, and at the end of the game they got the final push.”
The 6-foot-7 Harley finished with 15 points for EHT despite a twisted ankle. Kevin Caban, whom McNally said had never played organized basketball before this season, added seven points and four rebounds.
McNally said his team will be “very good” once it gets more experience. But Jones and Harley are the only returning varsity players from last season, so there is work to be done.
“We got lucky. We got lucky,” McNally said. “We’re still not executing in the half court; same thing against Atlantic City (in a 54-38 loss Friday). We were able to make enough plays in the full court that we were able to come back. Hammonton probably should’ve won the game, but we’ll take it any way we can.”
Mortellite said Hammonton has plenty of room for improvement, too. The Blue Devils have just one other returning starter, guard Isaiah Pugh.
“It’s early in the season,” Mortellite said. “We have a lot of guys who are new. We’re all really sort of melting together. So we were a little frustrated here today, but bottom line, we’ve got to learn, we’ve got to start finishing our layups. We’ve got to start catching passes.
“Just doing the little things, we’d have won that game by 10 points. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have won that game.”
But his friend Jones was determined not to let that happen. After the season-opening loss to Atlantic City, which is ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, Jones said the Eagles had to win Sunday.
“It was very important,” Jones said. “Atlantic City’s the defending (state Group IV) champ, so we knew that was going to be a tough game. But we were just like, ‘We can’t go 0-2, so we’ve got to come out and get the W today.’ “
Contact Jason Mazda:
Egg Harbor Township 11 16 12 24—63
Hammonton 11 13 20 14—58
EHT—Allen 3 1-1 7, Jones 5 12-14 22, Harley 4 6-8 15, Steele 1 1-2 3, Surman 0 1-2 1, Caban 2 3-4 7, Tran 0 1-2 1, Bynum 1 2-5 4, Normil 0 3-6 3. Totals—16 30-45 63.
H—Pugh 2 3-4 7, Hughey 2 0-0 4, Porteons 2 0-2 4, Mortellite 7 14-15 30, Harris 4 0-1 8, Rivera 2 0-0 5. Totals—19 13-17 58.
3-pointers—Harley EHT; Mortellite (2), Rivera H.
Records—EHT 1-1, Hammonton 1-1.
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