Audubon's Kaleb Eller dribbles past a defender in the basketball game played against Gloucester at Audubon High School in Audubon, New Jersey on Wednesday, January 3, 2024. Kiersten Cowgill/D2 Sports Network
AUDUBON - The Audubon High School boys' basketball team rode the momentum of a bounce back win against rival Haddon Township in its holiday tournament into 2024.
The Green Wave fended off a late surge by Gloucester for a 36-33 victory in a Colonial Conference Patriot Division matchup on Wednesday night. Audubon has three wins in its last four games and improved its record to 5-2.
The Green Wave jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Gloucester narrowed the gap. The back-and-forth cat and mouse game continued for the length of the contest. Just when Audubon thought it pulled away, the Lions responded with a run of their own to bring the score within a possession or even the count.
The Green Wave's final run ultimately put them ahead for good. A four-point swing in the middle of the fourth quarter provided the cushion. Gloucester added seven points in the final period, but it wasn't enough as Audubon's defense forced a contested, unsuccessful three-point field goal attempt before the buzzer sounded.
A'zon Young scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds for the Green Wave.
"I take a lot of pride in knowing my team can count on me to grab a rebound when we need one," Young said. "I never scored a lot growing up because rebounding was my specialty so I'm not the type to get down if I don't score that much because that means my teammates will pick me up in that area."
Ryan Johnston tallied a team-high 15 points in the victory for Audubon. Johnston credited the halftime adjustments and choice of second half offensive sets that created a wider shot selection for each player on the floor.
Audubon's Ryan Johnston (3) shoots a three-pointer over Gloucester's Ryan James (0) and Keegan Cohan (10) in the basketball game played at Audubon High School in Audubon, New Jersey on Wednesday, January 3, 2024. Kiersten Cowgill/D2 Sports Network
"I think after we went over our halftime adjustments, things started to really get going for us," Johnston said.
Audubon coach Brian O'Donnell has prepared his players for physical, low scoring affairs with the prioritization of toughness, stamina and execution.
"A game like this where it's low scoring and the defenses are executing," O'Donnell said, "that's exactly what I teach my kids. We may not have the most athletic players, but we will be tougher and more conditioned, and it showed in this win for us tonight."
Gloucester suffered its third consecutive loss and dropped its record to 3-3. Lions coach Liam James sees the current three-game skid as a learning point for his young team. Gloucester's starting lineup features two sophomores, two juniors and senior Michael Light.
"Not many seniors start or play in the rotation, so this is a learning moment for the younger guys." James said. "We have a few first-year varsity starters and varsity players who may not have seen much, if any time last year so we're still figuring things out."