Slow starts have been an unfortunate trend for the Collingswood High School boys' basketball team this season.
By contrast, fast starts have been the calling card for the West Deptford Eagles this season.
So when the two teams met Thursday, it came as little surprise that it was West Deptford who came out of the gate quickly, and Collingswood who came out flat.
In this case, the Panthers started much too flat.
The Eagles jumped out to a 18-4 lead and cruised to a 64-47 win over Collingswood in Colonial Conference Liberty Division action. The Panthers clawed their way back into the game in the fourth quarter, cutting a 24-point deficit down to 13, but had dug far too deep of a hole to ever seriously threaten the Eagles.
“We have been doing that all season,” West Deptford junior guard Justin Hansen said. “During the summer league and fall league we were coming out with sluggish starts and falling behind by 10-point deficits. We know we have to come out fast against these teams or we are going to get blown out in the conference.”
West Deptford established the tone of the game right from the tipoff, forcing the Panthers into turnovers on each of their first three possessions. By the time the first eight minutes concluded, Collingswood looked seriously overmatched.
“We talk about playing with tempo,” West Deptford coach Don Clark said.
“We have nine or 10 guys (that play) and we talk about pressuring the ball, making it hard on other teams and trying to wear them down," he said. "We talked (Thursday) about going out and pressuring the ball and that’s what we did.”
The Panthers trailed 27-12 at halftime and 47-27 after three quarters. Collingswood did close the game strongly, thanks to an 11-0 run midway through the fourth.
“We did play with more energy in the second half,” Collingswood coach Patrick Dorney said. “It’s almost like these guys have to look up and see that they are down by 15 before they start playing.
"We are going to have to come out more ready to go in the future," Dorney said. "I want to attribute it to youth, but this youth is going to be with us all season. Juniors and seniors aren’t transferring in from other schools, so we need to crank it up more early in games.”
Dorney suggested that the aggressive play of the Eagles pressured his mostly underclassmen team into some early mistakes.
“They are very aggressive and they have big, strong guards,” Dorney said. “You can tell they utilize the weight room. They have a lot of juniors and upperclassmen, and a large part of our roster is sophomores.
"We turned the ball over nine times and we didn’t shoot the ball well," he said. "We were 2-for-20 in the first half. Fortunately we made our free throws just to give ourselves a chance.”
Jeffrey Valentine led the Panthers (3-4) with nine points, while Ryan Dick and Steve Copeland each had eight. The Eagles were led by Hansen, who had 18 point and T.J Harcum, who netted 12.
One of the positives Dorney took away from the game was his team’s half-court defense. Although Collingswood didn’t make enough stops to win the game, the team did force West Deptford to take some difficult shots and work for their points while in the half-court set.
“For the most part we defended well,” Dorney said. “We gave up less than 60 and they scored 20 in the first quarter. You can’t defend the run-outs where we hand the ball over to them and they run down the court and get lay-ups. If you take away the transition points from us turning the ball over I thought we defended well in the half court.
"We are still not nearly as good as I think we can be," Dorney said. "I have told the kids that I think we could be a group that holds teams to 30 if, as a group, five bought into what we want to do on the defensive end.”
Collingswood will look to get back to the .500 mark when it returns to action Saturday, hosting Gloucester Catholic at 2 p.m.