LINWOOD — The Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week featuring Mainland Regional and Ocean City looked less like a high school boys basketball game and more like two brothers having a fight inside a phone booth.
It was a grind-it-out affair that featured just 15 total points scored in the fourth quarter, and three players fouling out at the end. Ocean City’s leading scorer, Kori Segich, was held without a basket until late in the fourth quarter, but his teammates picked up the slack, including guard Dylan Schlatter, who scored a team-high 21 points to lead the Red Raiders to a 59-52 victory over their bitter rival.
The game didn’t mean much aside from some playoff power points, but it was still played with the passion that this rivalry has been known for throughout the years. Cohen Cook kept Mainland in it until the final minute by scoring 29 points — including 14 field goals — to go along with 10 rebounds. But Ocean City’s ability to hit free throws, including Schlatter going 5-for-6 in the final 90 seconds, was the difference down the stretch.
“Anytime you come to Mainland, you’re going to be in a battle. They come to play, we come to play. I kept telling Kori Segich that a game is going to come when somebody is going to be able to shut you down, and that’s when other guys have to step up,” said Ocean City coach John Bruno. “In the first half it was Dylan Schlatter. He hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter, including two back-to-back when we were down by a few points and that got us ahead. We also had some role players step up. Jack Porter has not played much all year and he had two big baskets and a foul shot. And that’s what the difference was — when they had to foul us at the end, we were making them. You have to make those shots.”
Ocean City (16-2, 8-2 Cape-Atlantic American) was stymied throughout much of the first half as Cook and the Mustangs’ defense put the clamps on Segich, who averages 24 points per game. But late in the second quarter Schlatter came up big, hitting a pair of 3-pointers that helped turn an 18-14 deficit into a 20-18 halftime lead.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘we’re up by two and Kori hasn’t scored yet. What’s to complain about?’ Charlie LaBarre had a great fourth quarter with three key baskets, and Ben McGonigle is that other guard who a lot of times is our unsung hero. And Pat Grimley was doing a lot of dirty work for us. He was battling against Jamie Tyson, who is a tremendous athlete, and Cook is a tremendous athlete — some of the plays he was making were unbelievable. But we do it as a team,” Bruno said. “I don’t really know how good we are, I just know we play well together, and that’s what it takes. I don’t know, individually, how good we are. Kori is obviously a marquee player, but the other guys, together, they play pretty well.”
The Red Raiders’ lead reach as many as nine points, 35-26, after a Segich jumper in the lane with 55 seconds left in the third quarter, but Mainland (15-5, 9-1 CAL National) stormed back, cutting the deficit to 35-33 early in the fourth quarter when Tim Travagline scored off a steal. Later in the fourth, the Stangs got to within 45-40, but then Schlatter drilled a 3-pointer to push Ocean City’s lead out to 48-40 with 3:15 remaining, and the Red Raiders sealed the game from the free-throw line.
“Dylan does everything — rebounds, defense, scoring, passing. He’s been lights out for us. He’s a great teammate and I couldn’t ask for a better point guard,” said Segich, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds and an assist. “We have five people on the court who can score at any time. I might lead this team in scoring, but everyone else can score. Teams can’t just focus on me. Everyone plays their own role, whether that’s getting rebounds, making passes, diving for loose balls, we all kind of play our part.”
“It’s a rivalry game and we went into it really hyped up and ready. We did everything we could to prepare and that’s why we came out with the win,” added LaBarre, who had a solid game with 11 points and four rebounds. “They are really good at on-ball defense and we weren’t moving enough on the perimeter, but once we started setting screens and going back-door, we started getting open more. Kori is a pure scorer and one of the best in the CAL and everybody highlights him, but nobody really realizes that we have other scorers. Our entire starting five can score.”
Ocean City was down 8-7 after one quarter but the Raiders outscored Mainland in the next three quarters, and for the game they went 19-for-24 from the line. Mainland was just 2-of-8 from the stripe and only Cook was in double figures in scoring.
“It’s a rivalry so you expect physical play, and we were on the road, but it was something we looked forward to,” Segich said. “This is a great win. They are one of the best teams in South Jersy Group 3, but so are we. WE got a lot of power points. We might see them in the playoffs, and the CAL playoffs, too.”
Ocean City has won nine of its last 10 games and is 16-0 against everybody not named Middle Township. Bruno credits his team’s chemistry for their resounding success so far this season.
“I’ve been fortunate in all my years to have teams with this kind of chemistry, and that’s key. They hang out together, they make fun of each other, they joke together, they hang out on the weekends. They like each other, and sometimes that goes unnoticed,” he said. “I’m biased when I say this, but I think (our chemistry) makes us as good as we are. I really do think that individually we’re not that great but as a team, we’re pretty damn good.”
Added LaBarre, “we all play ball together all summer. We really all like each other, we go to dinner and hang out on the weekends. That’s why we’re playing so well.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Ocean City hosts Millville tonight at 6. Mainland hosts Atlantic Tech tonight at 5:30.
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography.
A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.