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Eastern downs Moorestown to reach tournament final

Maliq Sanders described it as a "freak accident." In early November, he broke the middle finger on his right hand during a workout. It happens.

Maliq Sanders described it as a "freak accident."

In early November, he broke the middle finger on his right hand during a workout. It happens.

But it rarely happens the way it did for Sanders. "I broke it on the rim," he said, "finishing a dunk."

The 6-foot-5 senior swingman for the Eastern boys' basketball team was forced to have surgery on the finger. It cost him four weeks of the preseason. And he missed Eastern's opener this season.

But it didn't scare him away from thunderous dunks - and in the middle of a decisive third quarter run by his team, Sanders threw one down, electrifying the packed home crowd and helping spark the Vikings to a 57-42 winner over Moorestown.

"You can't play scared," said Sanders, who led Eastern in scoring as a junior. "You just have to let the game come to you."

The matchup was the semifinals of Eastern's annual Holiday Classic. The Vikings move on the final Wednesday at 6 p.m. against Kingsway. Moorestown and Sterling play in the consolation game at 3 p.m. and Camden Catholic and Gloucester Catholic meet in a showcase game at 4:30 p.m.

"Once we get our chemistry going, we know how good we can be as a team," said Sanders, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds against Moorestown. "It's just great to get this win in our own tournament and be able to play for the championship."

Eastern (2-1) started slow Tuesday night thanks to strong defense and outside shooting by Moorestown (2-1). The Vikings trailed by six midway through the third quarter before the game completely shifted gears.

Eastern outscored Moorestown, 25-4, over the game's final 13 minutes, 18 seconds.

The winners finished the third quarter on a 13-2 run. Ten of those points were scored by guard Darren Gibson, who netted a game-high 18 points.

"It's just our intensity," Gibson said. "As soon as we start to get hyped and get the fans into it we're unstoppable."

The run was largely generated by Eastern's smothering man-to-man defense. Gibson and Sanders looked particularly strong causing turnovers and converting them into points in the second half.

"I knew it was going to be a grind-it-out game because Moorestown is very good," said Eastern coach Kevin Crawford. "We just had to be patient. Eventually we got a couple of steals and cracked them a little bit. It was nice to see our man-to-man defense come through in the clutch and give us some separation."

Moorestown 12 16 12 2 - 42

Eastern 10 18 15 14 - 57

M- Dil Alston 9, Dan Dyer 15, Jagger Zrada 9, Sean O'Sullivan 5, Ryan McCarthy 2, AJ Cruz, 2.

E- Maliq Sanders 11, Justin Williams 9, Darren Gibson 18, Onye Okoro 5, Keith Antonio Davis 8, Jesse Barbara 5, Jacob O'Connell 1.