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Basketball: Haddonfield’s Mike DePersia is South Jersey Player of Decade

The crafty left-handed point guard led the Bulldogs to back-to-back state titles, playing his best in tournament games vs. Camden and teams from Newark.

Haddonfield's Mike DePersia (3) scored 20-plus points in back-to-back victories in state finals vs. teams from Newark at Rutgers.
Haddonfield's Mike DePersia (3) scored 20-plus points in back-to-back victories in state finals vs. teams from Newark at Rutgers.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Maybe it was the put-back in overtime against Camden as a junior.

Or the 22 points in the state final eight days later against Newark Central.

Maybe it was the 16 points, the key three-pointer, the poise under pressure in another overtime classic against Camden as a senior.

Or the 10 points in the fourth quarter in the state final six days later against Newark West Side.

In truth, it was all that – plus a couple dozen more clutch performances in the course of his four-year career – that stamped Mike DePersia of Haddonfield as South Jersey’s basketball player of the decade from 2010-19.

“No moment is too big for him,” Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said after DePersia led the Bulldogs to their second straight state title in March of 2019 at Rutgers.

DePersia’s ball-handling, floor sense, passing, scoring and unflappable presence helped Haddonfield win 102 games in his four seasons. As a junior and senior, he led the Bulldogs to a 60-6 record and a pair of Group 2 state titles, both times sealing the deal with big-time performances at Rutgers in championship games against powerhouse teams from Newark.

DePersia played with indefatigable energy and steely competitiveness. He made big shot after big shot but also was a master of the extra pass and a sneaky-good defender and rebounder.

He was a perpetual thorn in Camden’s side in the state tournament. It started his sophomore year in 2017, when he made a 60-footer at the third-quarter buzzer and nearly led the Bulldogs to an upset of the Panthers in the last game in Clarence Turner Gymnasium.

That was prelude. As a junior, he snuck to the rim and made a put-back at the 0:03 mark of overtime for a 54-53 victory over Camden in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals before a roaring capacity crowd at Cherry Hill West.

A year later, it was across town at Cherry Hill East and another overtime battle with Camden in front of another capacity-plus crowd. This time, DePersia and senior forward Dan Fleming rallied the Bulldogs from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a pulse-pounding, 69-67 triumph.

A lithe left-hander, DePersia led Haddonfield to victory after victory over Colonial Conference rivals from Haddon Heights, Collingswood, Woodbury and Paulsboro as well as triumphs over non-league foes Camden Catholic, Bishop Eustace, St. Augustine and Lenape during the course of his career.

But it was his play in state tournament games against Camden and two North Jersey champions from Newark that cemented his legacy.