PLEASANTVILLE — Bridgeton High School’s boys basketball team doesn’t pay much attention to the seedings in the state playoffs.
The 10th-seeded Bulldogs knocked off a higher-ranked opponent for the second straight season Tuesday, this time registering a 65-55 victory over seventh-seeded Pleasantville in the opening round of the South Jersey Group II tournament.
“We put the regular season behind us once we get to the playoffs,” Bridgeton senior guard Dontae Stubbs said.
“Everybody’s 0-0, and we go into every game with the mindset of staying focused and winning.”
A year ago, Bridgeton advanced to the semifinals as the 16th seed after knocking out No. 1 Lakewood in the first round.
The Bulldogs will try to make it there again this season when they take on second-seeded Willingboro on Thursday. Bridgeton is seeking its first South Jersey title since 1974.
Pleasantville (17-8) saw its hopes of winning a sectional title for the first time since 2001 come to an early end. The Greyhounds fell behind Bridgeton midway through the second quarter and never quite recovered.
“That was the first not-so-good game we’ve played in a long time,” Pleasantville coach Kenny Johnson said. “This was a hard way to end (the season) because we really had a good year. Give Bridgeton credit because they deserved to win. It was just one of those days for us.”
Bridgeton, buoyed by a loud and spirited 50-member cheering section sporting “Bulldog Nation” T-shirts, trailed 19-17 early in the second quarter before embarking on a 15-0 run that carried into the third quarter.
Forward Jeff Stevenson scored all six of his points during the rally and Stubbs added six of his game-high 20 points to help the Bulldogs grab a 34-22 edge.
Most of the points were generated by a swarming press and aggressive 2-3 zone defense that kept the Greyhounds off-balance most of the game.
“Pleasantville jumped on us early,” Bridgeton coach Osco Williams said. “But we seem to play better with our backs to the wall. We like being the underdogs.”
The Greyhounds, who beat the Bulldogs earlier this season, kept charging, but Bridgeton had an answer for every challenge.
Pleasantville scored eight straight points late in the third quarter to cut Bridgeton’s lead to 38-34, but Bridgeton countered with a 14-5 surge that put the Bulldogs up 52-39 with four minutes, 22 seconds left in regulation. Later in the fourth quarter, Pleasantville’s Mike Wilson and Mike Black swished back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Greyhounds within five points at 52-47 with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining, but Stubbs and senior forward Darrell Jackson helped keep Bridgeton in control down the stretch.
The Bulldogs received solid performances from a number of players. Senior guard Karma Segers was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter while scoring 14 points.
Senior center Sam Bell added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Jackson, also a senior, came off the bench to score five of his 13 points in the third quarter.
“My main role on the team is to play defense, but I like to throw it up there when I get the chance,” said Jackson, who is nicknamed “Shooter.” “I’m sure no one else thought that shot was going in, but I did.”
Such long shots epitomize Bridgeton’s team.
The Bulldogs have no stars but play well together and never feel like they’re out of a game.
“We’re never intimidated,” Bell said. “We feel like we can beat anybody in South Jersey or the state.”
Contact David Weinberg:
Bridgeton 13 17 12 23—65
Pleasantville 15 7 12 21—55
B—Stubbs 8 4-7 20, Segers 2 10-12 14, Stevenson 3 0-2 6, Bell 5 0-1 10, Jackson 5 1-2 13, Sudler 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 15-24 65.
P—Wilson 4 1-2 10, Ford 2 3-5 7, Evans 4 3-4 11, Hernandez 1 0-0 2, Black 7 2-6 19, Calloway 1 0-0 2, Peters 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 9-17 54.
3-point goals—Jackson (2) B; Black (3), Wilson P.
RECORDS—Bridgeton 13-14; Pleasantville 17-8.