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Palmyra pulls away from Haddon Heights in third quarter for victory in playoff tune up

Palmyra's John Lattimore (4) celebrates after knocking down a three-point shot against Haddon Heights in the basketball game played at Haddon Heights High School in Haddon Heights, New Jersey on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Collin Conway/D2 Sports Network

HADDON HEIGHTS - Tied 25-25 at halftime, the Palmyra boys' basketball team needed an offensive spark to pull away from Haddon Heights.

John Lattimore answered the call with nine points in the third quarter that included a pair of quick layups and a long range 3-pointer to send the Palmyra faithful into a frenzy.

Lattimore, Azmir Taylor, De'Shon Edmonds, and Jaden Jennings combined for 22 of the team's 24 points in the third quarter as the Panthers toppled Haddon Heights, 59-43, on Thursday night in preparation for the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs scheduled to begin on February 22.

"I just wanted to come out and score," Lattimore said. "We didn't do much talking at halftime because we knew what we needed to do."

The senior finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists.

Palmyra knocked down eight 3-pointers. The Panthers drained four in the second half. The biggest shot of the night came as the buzzer sounded when Edmonds nailed a contested triple that banked in off of the glass at the end of the third quarter. Jennings' heave provided Palmyra with a 15-point lead after three quarters.

Haddon Heights took an early lead behind a three-point field goal from freshman Max Silvestri and a pair of made throws by Damier Outterbridge. Palmyra clawed back and took the lead into the second quarter behind a pair of triples from Taylor that generated a shift in momentum. The 6-foot-3 senior led the Panthers with a team-high 15 points, four rebounds and two assists. Both teams took turns going on runs in the second quarter and went into halftime tied at 25-25.

The third quarter was Palmyra's big break.

The Panthers outscored Haddon Heights, 24-9, in the third quarter. Palmyra only tallied 10 points in the fourth quarter but was able to maintain its lead. The Garnets made a final push, but ultimately ran out of time.

Palmyra (13-8 record) has earned back-to-back victories over LEAP Academy and the Garnets. The Panthers will host New Egypt in a Burlington County Scholastic League Independence Division matchup next Tuesday with another chance to build momentum before the start of the playoffs.

"We needed a win like this tonight where we were firing on all cylinders," Palmyra coach Chris Rodgers said. "If we can consistently do this, then we can get to where we want to be, come time for the playoffs."

Haddon Heights has struggled with youth and inexperience this season. The lack of experience was on display in the setback to Palmyra.

"We showed that we didn't have the mental toughness tonight," Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci said. "We lack leadership and experience. Tonight, we needed a leader, and we ended up folding."

The Garnets are scheduled to host Oakcrest in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.

"Hopefully these guys take this game as a lesson and come in mentally ready for the playoffs," Ricci said.

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