Of all the opening boys' basketball games on Friday, the least conventional result came in Gateway's 28-14 win over West Deptford. (That was as many points scored in the football game between the two schools this year – West Deptford 42, Gateway 0).
As the basketball score suggests, this was not an offensive spectacle, but there was a reason. West Deptford decided to hold the ball.
"They stalled for much of the game," Gateway second-year coach Tim McDonald said. "It was one of the quickest games I've ever been involved in."
Gateway led 2-0 after the first quarter and 10-5 at the half.
West Deptford only returned two players with any varsity experience while Gateway welcomes back all five starters from a team that won five games but appears improved this season.
Jon Miller, a 6-for-6 senior and all-conference choice for Gateway, was held to seven points, but McDonald said he was being double- and triple-teamed.
So Kevin Robinson, a 6-2 senior, stepped up and scored 14 points, equaling the total of West Deptford.
"In the zone, they were putting three guys on Jon so Kevin got open shots and he was hitting them," McDonald said.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Gateway refused to come out of its zone defense, allowing West Deptford to pass the ball back and forth for long stretches, especially in the first half.
"I was sitting there and wasn't sure what was going on at first, but it made it pretty easy to coach," McDonald said.
There are many things McDonald will need to discover about his team during the season but one thing he learned in the opener – Gateway has the ability to play a slow-down game.
Debut of the week. First-year Timber Creek coach Bill Fahy couldn't have asked for a better debut.
Having a team with one returning starter, Fahy saw the Chargers open with a 51-50 win over defending Olympic Patriot champion and preseason favorite Winslow Township.
That one Timber Creek returning starter, point guard Jamere Briggs scored 12 points, but really made his mark on defense.
Fahy had the 5-foot-10 Briggs guard 6-6 Shawn Valentine, one of the top juniors in South Jersey. Valentine scored 14 points.
In practice, the 6-4 Fahy posed as Valentine to get Briggs ready for the assignment.
"I think I needed an oxygen tank afterwards," Fahy said. "Jamere did a very good job."
Actually, Briggs did a good job guarding his coach in practice and Valentine in the game.
Timber Creek also received a stellar debut from guard DaVon Simmons, a senior transfer from Triton who scored 22 points.
Despite losing to Woodbury, 60-49 on Friday, Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci saw plenty of positives.
First of all, Woodbury is among the top teams in the Colonial Conference. Secondly, last season Woodbury beat Heights, 77-32 in the opener.
In this game, Heights was up by a point with under three minutes left before the Thundering Herd made a late charge.
"I told our kids how far we have come in a year," Ricci said. "You can learn more from losing than winning."
Newcomer Markeith Palmer, a transfer from Sterling, played but didn't score for Heights after getting in early foul trouble.
With Palmer, along with Drew Wilcox and Michael Pitts, Heights will have one of the better backcourts in the Colonial.
The game also showed that despite the improvement in a Heights team that went 14-13, Woodbury will also be difficult to contend with in defending its Colonial Patriot title.
Pleasing the coach. Willingboro got down by 10 points in its opener against Cinnaminson before coming back for a 69-50 win. St. Peter's recruit Chris Burke led Willingboro with 22 points.
"We got our composure and played well together and started to execute," Willingboro coach Jeff Haddock said. "I was very impressed and I am our own worst critic."