C.J. Hayes’ patience pays off as Moorestown earns sixth consecutive win over Cherry Hill West
MOORESTOWN (N.J.) - Patience is a virtue.
C.J. Hayes' trajectory as a member of the Moorestown High School boys' basketball program is evidence.
The junior spent his ninth grade year on the program's freshmen team and played junior varsity as a sophomore.
He learned about the standards and values of the Quakers' storied program, and eventually elevated to a varsity contributor in his third season.
"We have good coaching," Hayes said. "Everyone loves each other. Everyone cares about each other. We just look out for each other. We're a team."
Hayes remained patient again until his number was called on Friday night.
The junior came off the bench and swiped a steal along the left sideline before flushing a thunderous one-hand slam dunk. The play bridged a 23-2 spurt between the first and second quarters and sparked a run in the Quakers' 73-36 triumph over Cherry Hill West.
It wasn't the first dunk of his career, but it was the loudest.
"We've been practicing dunking in practice every day," Hayes said. "I was just waiting for the moment and that was the moment. I've done it before (in a game), but that was the biggest one definitely."
The junior finished with seven points off the bench.
David Gheysens powered Moorestown with a game-high 20 points. The senior scored nine out of the Quakers' first 11 points of the contest and tallied 13 in the first half.
Josh Byrd poured in 14 and Leo Hinshillwood contributed 10.
Moorestown held the Lions to only four points in the second quarter and used a 12-2 run to build a 21-point advantage at intermission.
"We just didn't let up," Gheysens said. "Came out with a lot of energy, just foot on the gas the whole game. I think a big change for us this season was taking that lead, going into halftime with the lead and just staying on the gas, not letting a team go on a run and come back."
The Quakers outscored Cherry Hill West 34-18 over the final two quarters.
"I think Moorestown played really well," Cherry Hill West coach Aaron Burt said. "They're one of the best teams in South Jersey from what it looked like tonight. They played well, they're athletic, they shot the ball really well."
The Quakers improved their record to 13-3. Sean Anstey's squad has won six games in a row and 10 out of their last 11. In the process, the Quakers have earned statement wins over Camden Catholic and Paul VI.
Moorestown's season changed for the better after stunning the Irish with a 20-point victory on the road.
"I think that Camden Catholic win was really pivotal for us," Gheysens said. "We were coming in and everyone was just hungry for it. We haven't beat Camden Catholic. I can't remember beating them in my high school seasons. We were playing true to ourselves and doing everything that we knew we could do."
Gheysens has garnered NCAA Division III interest from Gettysburg, the College of New Jersey and Immaculata, among others.
The senior wants to study business while continuing his basketball career.
"It's a great opportunity," Gheysens said. "It's something I was always dreaming about as a kid. I wasn't sure if it would ever happen."
Sophomore Quinn Gibson led Cherry Hill West with 14 points and Ben Manns added 11.
The Lions fell to 10-9 with their second straight loss after celebrating a five-game win streak.
"We have a young team," Burt said. "Day after day we have to find our identity."
The Lions reached the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals as a No. 10 seed a season ago despite entering the postseason with a losing record.
West has developed a reputation for playing its best brand of basketball towards the end of the season. Burt hopes to continue that pattern in 2023 and use those previous experiences as a learning tool for his developing players.
"We're always better in February than we are in December," Burt said. "For us going to the South Jersey (Group 3) final a few years ago, then (being) a three-pointer away from the final last season with some of these guys. We're always better in February. I just try and instill that in them and keep them positive."