By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Jake Silpe is tired after every game.
This was different.
"This is the most exhausted I've ever been after a game," Silpe said Saturday after leading Cherry Hill East to one of the signature victories in the history of the program.
Silpe battled Atlantic City's relentless full-court pressure for 32 minutes, leading visiting Cherry Hill Rast to a 66-56 victory in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals.
"He's something special," Cherry Hill East coach Dave Allen said of Silpe.
Said Atlantic City coach Gene Allen: "We knew he was good and he lived up to his billing."
Silpe scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished five assists for third-seeded Cherry Hill East (24-5), which advanced to face fourth-seeded Cherokee in the South Jersey title game.
Cherokee beat Rancocas Valley in the other semifinal.
Junior center Tim Perry -- whose grandfather, Darnell Perry, said in a chair at courtside -- added 18 points with eight rebounds and senior guard Josh Brown added 10 points with six assists for Cherry Hill East.
Junior guard Lamar Thomas scored 15 on five three-pointers and junior swingman Leon Daniels scored all 14 of his points in the second half for second-seeded Atlantic City (21-6).
"We got beat," Allen said. "We lost to a better team."
Silpe's ball-handling and tenacious demeaner was the key to Cherry Hill East's ability to stand up to Atlantic City's pressure defense, especially when the Vikings rallied in the second half.
Silpe's driving layup gave the Cougars a 44-24 lead early in the second half. But the Vikings surged back into contention behind Daniels and a desperate defensive effort.
"No lead is every safe against Atlantic City," Allen said. "Their pressure just keeps coming at you."
Allen said his players were determined to attack Atlantic City's defense rather than try to control the tempo of the game.
"We have slowed it down a lot this season," Allen said. "But they (his players) wanted to be aggressive with their pressure."
Said Silpe: "We wanted to apply pressure, not take it."
Perry was 6-for-7 from the field in the first half, helping Cherry Hill East build a 38-34 lead.
"He was magnificent," Allen said of Perry. "That's the best I've ever seen him play. This might have been is break-out game."
Cherry Hill East also got strong work from juniors Olin McClendon (11 points, four rebounds) and Pierce Elliott (seven points with a pair of three-pointers in the first half).
But Silpe played one of the better games of his distinguished career. He was consistently strong with the basketball against a rotating cast of Atlantic City defenders.
"They wanted to guard Silpe full-court and we like the matchup of him against anybody," Brown said.
Silpe helped seal the victory from the foul line, making a pair of free throws for a 59-51 lead with two minutes, 32 seconds to play.
For the game, Silpe was 8-for-10 from the line.
When it was over, Silpe raced up to Allen and pantomime Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' championship-belt routine.
"I wore my Aaron Rodgers 'T' shirt," said Silpe, who was wearing a black shirt with "Real Men Play in The Cold" and Rodgers picture under his game jersey. "DA (Allen) said we had to play like men."
Cherry Hill East 15 23 12 16 -- 66
Atlantic City 9 15 14 18 -- 56
CHE: Jake Silpe 20, Josh Brown 10, Olin McClendon 11, Tim Perry 18, Pierce Elliott 7.
AC: Lamar Thomas 15, Laceon Redfurn 5, Kevin Allen 7, Jamir Prevard 8, Leon Daniels 14, Aishon Centino 7.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com