HADDON HEIGHTS (N.J.) - The Haddon Heights boys' basketball team was on a mission to secure its first playoff win in nearly three years.
Haddon Heights' Brendan Shannon tallied a 10-point,10-rebound double-double in a 38-35 win over Cedar Creek in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs at Haddon Heights High School on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Chris Baker/D2 Sports Network
The task presented seemed difficult as its opponent, Cedar Creek, was an unfamiliar foe.
But Haddon Heights emerged, 38-35, in a back-and-forth affair to advance to the South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinals. The Garnets will visit third-seeded Cinnaminson in the next round on Thursday.
About a half an hour after the Lady Garnets' 43-33 playoff victory over West Deptford, the boys' team entered the gymnasium with dimmed lights and Phil Collins' award-winning hit "In the Air Tonight" blaring over the speakers. Heights' student section, dubbed the "Garnet Crazies", added to the energetic environment.
The atmosphere powered Haddon Heights as they grabbed 27 rebounds and maintained a lead after each quarter. Brendan Shannon snagged 10 boards and added 10 points to notch a double-double.
Joe Wiggins led the Pirates with 12 points as Zaire Pilgrim chipped in 11.
Facing off against Cedar Creek was uncharted territory for Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci and his team. The Pirates hail from the Cape-Atlantic League and aren't a perennial opponent for the Garnets.
"We weren't too familiar with them being that they're a Cape-Atlantic team," Ricci said. "Tonight, we saw how good of a team they are, but I think we just played that much better overall."
Shannon fulfilled his nightly goal of establishing a presence down low.
"I just try to do my job," Shannon said. "I know I have a height advantage over most guys so I just make sure I take care of business when I can."
The idea of capturing a sectional title feels attainable for the Garnets in a wide-open South Jersey Group 2 bracket.
"With Camden out of the Group 2 bracket, that sectional title is ripe for the picking." Ricci said. "With how wide open the bracket is, moving forward we're going to need to focus on one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves."