By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
OCEAN CITY — Playing on consecutive nights, the visiting Mainland Regional boys basketball team gave it everything it had on Tuesday night at rival Ocean City, but in the fourth quarter the Red Raiders wore the Mustangs down and eventually capped off a 58-48 victory, their second straight and sixth in the first eight games of the season.
The win was big for Ocean City, as it was their first Cape-Atlantic League National Conference tally and certainly keeps the Red Raiders in the conversation for a conference title and one of the eight berths in the CAL Tournament. The Raiders improved to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the CAL National, just a half-game behind Mainland (5-4, 2-1) for third place in the standings. Holy Spirit (6-3, 3-0) and Lower Cape May Regional (8-1, 3-0) came into Tuesday night tied atop the conference standings.

Donovan Graham of Ocean City puts up a jumper in front of Mainland’s Tommy Zanaras during the Red Raiders’ win over the Mustangs. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“We knew what we were going to do with them, spread the floor, and we started pressuring them in the second half. They were taking quick shots, which was what we wanted, and we were converting on the other end. I thought they were going to slow it down more, work the ball around and look for open shots, but that worked in our favor,” said Ocean City senior point guard Joey Sacco, who led all scorers with 21 points. “I definitely have to work on my free throws because I missed a bunch of those, but it’s all my teammates, I can’t do anything without them. They spread the floor and run the plays. I’m glad we got the win.”
Mainland struggled to score early, but ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run that included a buzzer-beating, 3-point heave from Luke Mazur from about 70 feet away to give the Mustangs a 14-11 lead. But Ocean City fought back, taking a 24-22 lead on a big three from Gannon Brady, who erupted for 25 points in the Red Raiders’ win over Howell on Sunday at the Seagull Classic at Holy Spirit. Brady has now scored 40 points in his last two games and become another viable scoring threat for a very balanced Ocean City offense.
“I love kicking it out to Gannon. He’s really developing his game, and we’re happy to have him,” Sacco said. “That takes some stress of Donovan, Luke and myself, and when Mike (Rhodes) can get a few that really helps us, too. I’m happy with what we’re doing right now.”
“I told the guys that the group that played more together for 32 minutes won the game tonight. I thought we did that at times, and that’s why we had a lead throughout parts of the first half, but they were able to play together for 32,” said Mainland coach Dan Williams. “And with their guard play, the experience they have and their ball-handling ability, they wore us down a little bit and exposed us a little bit. They have a bunch of kids who can shoot — they can all get to the rim pretty well, and if you leave Rhodes, he’s solid when he gets that little dump-off pass and finishes. They’re going to be a tough matchup for anybody in our conference, as you just saw with the Holy Spirit game. That could have gone either way. Anytime you can put four really solid ball handlers who can also shoot the ball, that’s tough to defend.”

Mainland’s Angelo Barron goes to the hoop as Ocean City’s Mike Rhodes defends. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


Ocean City went into halftime leading 30-24, but really couldn’t shake Mainland until the fourth quarter, when Donovan Graham nailed a 3-pointer then scored on a run-out to give the Raiders a 53-42 advantage.
“We definitely had to close out on their shooters because some of them can really shoot the ball. We knew what kind of defense they were going to play, so we just spread the floor and we were going to take what they gave us,” Sacco said. “We have to work on finishing and foul shots, and just not turning the ball over as much and taking quick shots. We have to slow it down a little and play the Ocean City way.”
Ocean City got 15 points from Brady and 11 from Ian Aungst. Mainland put two players in double figures, as Tommy Zanaras led the way with 14 points and Mazur added 11. Angelo Barron, Joe Massari and Jake Cook combined for 22 more points. Williams said he liked his team’s effort but that the Mustangs need to focus on having better possessions, particularly late in games.
“We haven’t been particularly strong playing back-to-back games, this year or in years past, it’s a tough thing to do. So to have a little bit of a lead for awhile in the first half, I thought that was a very positive sign,” he said. “We were still very much in the game at that point, and they should be proud of their effort there. We just didn’t have enough left in the second half. But there’s plenty from the first half, and even some from the second half — we got down and came back, and it wasn’t until the second time they got us down by 10 that it was really over, so we fought as hard as we could, we just need to do it more as a unit.”
Ocean City returns to action on Thursday when the Red Raiders visit Absegami at 7 p.m., while Mainland travels to Holy Spirit on Friday night, also at 7.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays