By Phil Anastasia
It was Group 4 against Group 2.
That's not always an advantage in size and strength for the larger school. But it was when Eastern played Haddonfield in the Cherry Hill East Invitational on Saturday.
"That was the game plan," Eastern coach Joe Murphy of his team's physical play in a 52-41 victory over Haddonfield in the second game of the two-day, 12-game showcase of most of South Jersey's top teams.
Eastern (18-5), the No. 7 team in The Inquirer Top 10, dominated the backboards and flexed its muscle on defense, holding Haddonfield to its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
Matt Klinewski, a 6-7 junior center, led the way for Eastern with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Vikings also got great work on the boards from senior forward Avery Walker, senior guard Devon Bell and junior guard Alex Barr, each of whom grabbed 10 rebounds.
"When we pound the glass like that, I couldn't ask for more," Klinewski said after Eastern generated a 48-18 edge in rebounds.
Senior forward Chris Biddle scored 15 for No. 9 Haddonfield (22-2), which had won 15 in a row.
"They got every rebound," Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said. "We miss, they get the rebound. They miss, they corral the rebound and get a put-back."
Walker, who scored 12 points, said the victory was special to Eastern's big men because of the Vikings' dominance on the glass.
"When we win because of what the big men are doing inside, that makes us proud," Walker said. "Coach kept saying, 'You have finish inside,' and that's what we did."
Eastern's defense also was key to the victory. The Vikings held the Haddons to just two points in the third quarter and consistently disrupted their offensive sets.
"They run so well that we didn't want to let them run their stuff," Murphy said. "We wanted to bump them, play as physical as possible."
Despite Eastern's size and strength advantage, No. 9 Haddonfield was in position to wint he game, thanks to strong work by Biddle and junior center Abby Bah (nine points,eight rebounds, three steals).
"With two-and-a-half minutes left, it was anybody's game," Murphy said.
Said Wiedeman: "This game will help us. Eastern's size, Paulsboro's size (on Thursday). We play Cherokee (Tuesday) and they'll play physical. So that will help us prepare for the playoffs."
Eastern closed the game on an 8-0 run, clamping down defensively after Haddonfield's Jake Robinson cut the deficit to 44-41 on a basket off a nice feed from Nick DePersia.
"Our energy was out of this world," Klinewski said.
Eastern 10 12 9 21 -- 51
Haddonfield 12 12 2 15 -- 41
E: Devon Bell 14, Alex Barr 6, Avery Walker 12, Matt Klinewski 20, Tom Flacco 0.
H: Rob DePersia 2, Nick DePersia 5, Jake Robinson 7, Billy Griffin 3, Abby Bah 9, Chris Biddle 15.