By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — Tom Jamison led the Ocean City boys basketball team with 12 points in the Red Raiders’ 66-45 victory over visiting Absegami on Friday night in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference game. Not a lot of points for a game’s leading scorer, but that’s the thing about this year’s Red Raiders — they don’t care who scores the points, as long as Ocean City has more points than its opponent when the clock hits triple zeroes.
And that’s been happening a lot lately.
The win over the Braves was their eighth straight — and a team that was an afterthought in the conference when the season began is suddenly in first place, and in position to secure an automatic berth to the CAL Tournament.
“We’re just playing together and having fun out there. We really trust each other to swing the ball around, and we’re never too selfish or anything like that. You don’t need a lot of big scorers on your team to do well, you just have to play together. If one player is not doing so well, you just give it to another guy. Like, at Vineland, I wasn’t shooting very well, but Luke (Varallo) was hitting everything, so every time I got the ball, I gave it to him,” said junior swingman Donovan Graham, who finished with 11 points and was one of six Red Raiders who scored at least eight points. “It just comes naturally. If I’m off, maybe it’s Luke, or if Luke is off, maybe it’s Joey (Sacco). Joey had 18 against Vineland. We all just pick each other up, it doesn’t really matter who is scoring.”
“We’re doing great right now. We’ve been playing hard at practice and working well as a team, and it’s paying off,” added Sacco, who chipped in with eight points. “We’re a well-balanced team, we look for each other, nobody is selfish, and we always look to get everyone involved.”
Varallo nailed a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to give Ocean City (14-3, 8-1) an 18-16 lead, and the Red Raiders — who moved a half-game in front of Lower Cape May in the CAL National standings for the moment — never trailed again. Following that shot, Ocean City went on a 19-3 run to take a commanding 37-19 lead. The run featured several blocked shots by Eric Greenling, a 6-foot-8 center who became eligible in mid-January after transferring from Holy Spirit. He also added nine points, and his ability to patrol the paint has been a big key during Ocean City’s winning streak.
“Donovan’s not a center, but he’s been playing center all season, but now we can stretch him out more and he can shoot more, and play more as a guard, so that’s big for us,” Sacco said of the effect Greenling has had on the lineup.
Absegami (3-14, 1-8) came out energized in the second half and went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 39-30, but a three-point play from Graham gave the Red Raiders a 12-point cushion with 4:18 left in the third quarter, and Ocean City was able to hold a double-digit lead the rest of the way. Julian Hunter led Absegami with 10 points, while Devon Perry, Manny Martinez and Jonte Jones combined for 24 points.
The schedule gets significantly tougher for the Red Raiders quickly, however, as they face a resurgent Mainland team on Saturday before taking on Cumberland Regional, Lower Cape May, Holy Spirit and Wildwood all before Feb. 12. And competition in the CAL Tournament, should the Red Raiders make it, will be extremely difficult with teams such as Atlantic City, St. Augustine Prep and Wildwood Catholic expected to be high seeds.
“Right now, we’re playing the best we’ve played, and we have to keep this up,” Sacco said. “We have to keep moving the ball well and shooting it well. We have a tough week next week with Lower and Spirit, so we have to keep playing how we’re playing.”
“Coach (John Bruno) works us really hard in practice. He’ll tell us we are taking too many dribbles and we need to pass the ball, or we have to be quicker, stuff like that,” Graham added. “If we just play like we have been playing — we may need to work a little bit harder against teams like Atlantic City, but I think we can handle it.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays