LACEY TOWNSHIP — The Lacey Township High School boys basketball team treated its to next-to-last possession like one of its first Friday night.
The strategy produced one of the biggest baskets in school history.
Ryan Reitmeyer sank the winning 18-foot jump shot with 30 seconds left as the Lions beat Ocean City 47-44 in a South Jersey Group III semifinal. Top-seeded Lacey (22-4) will host seventh-seeded Camden in the South Jersey title game Monday at 6:30 p.m.
The Lions have never won a South Jersey boys basketball championship and the sectional final will be the first in team history.
“This is amazing,” Reitmeyer said. “We’ve been talking (about reaching a South Jersey final) before practice even started.”
Reitmeyer’s basket came after Ocean City had taken a 44-43 lead with 1 minute, 16 seconds left in the game.
Other teams might have panicked and tried an ill-advised one-on-one move to the basket. The senior-dominated Lions ran their offense as if it were still the first quarter. The possession lasted 46 seconds.
“I knew time was coming off the clock, but we had to run our stuff and get open looks,” Reitmeyer said. “We had to trust in ourselves. We’ve been running (the offense) from the first day of practice. We know where each other is going to be. We know who’s going to make the screen, who’s going to get the shot, who’s going to hit it.”
Reitmeyer, who had not sank a basket in the game until that point, was wide open. Lacey coach Ryan O’Rourke said there was nobody he would rather have take that shot than the 6-foot-1 senior.
“He’s a tough kid with a lot of moxie,” O’Rourke said. “There’s no kid that works harder than him.”
Reitmeyer didn’t hesitate and swished the shot.
“I just went up and shot it,” he said. “You can’t think anything about it. You just have to shoot it.”
Ocean City had two more possessions after the basket.
On the first, the Red Raiders threw an errant pass that resulted in a backcourt violation.
Ocean City then fouled Lacey point guard Tasheen Carrow (21 points, six assists). He sank two foul shots with seven seconds left to put the Lions up by three points.
The Red Raiders had one more chance. Guard Chris Turner dribbled quickly down court and shot a 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Fans nearly filled Lacey’s gym for the game. The fourth-seeded Red Raiders (16-11) were trying to reach their first South Jersey final since 2005.
Ocean City was quicker than Lacey. Turner (12 points) used his speed to create turnovers and convert them into points.
Bosch (17 points) also gave Ocean City a chance to win with clutch foul shooting. He sank all six of his fourth-quarter foul shots.
But Ocean City struggled defensively against Lacey center Tyrell Smith. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Smith scored 10 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. He was especially effective in the fourth quarter with six points and seven rebounds.
Carrow also played a superb game, penetrating Ocean City’s defense to create shots for himself and teammates.
“They played very good defense,” Carrow said of the Red Raiders. “They knew our offense. They knew our plays. I create off the dribble and try to get the ball to our shooters.”
Lacey fans waited outside the locker room for the team to emerge after the victory. Many fans took out their cell phones and snapped a picture of the scoreboard.
The Lions had wanted to reach a South Jersey final ever since losing to Manchester Township 48-32 in last year’s semifinals. The Lacey basketball program is often overlooked because the school is a perennial football power. Even though Lacey is the top seed in this year’s sectional, not many in the South Jersey basketball community gave the team a chance of getting this far. These Lions have enhanced the school’s basketball credibility with wins such as Friday’s.
Carrow had tears in his eyes after the victory.
“We had to redeem ourselves from last year,” he said. “Nobody thought we could make it this far. We had to prove everybody wrong.”
Contact Michael McGarry:
Ocean City 13 8 13 10—44
Lacey Township 13 7 15 12—47
OC—Keyser 1 0-0 2, Hart 1 0-0 2, Kimball 2 0-2 4, Turner 4 3-6 12, Bosch 3 8-8 15, Gill 3 0-0 9. Totals—14 11-16 44.
LT—Carrow 6 7-8 21, Reitmeyer 1 2-2 4, Lenkauskas 2 0-0 6, McDonald 2 0-0 4, Smith 5 0-0 10, Dalrymple 1 0-2 2. Totals—17 9-12 47.
3-pointers—Turner, Bo, Gill (3) OC; Carrow (2), Lenkauskas (2) LT.