GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP (N.J.) - Three and a half minutes.
That's how long it took the Ocean City High School boys basketball team to overcome the element of chaos and establish a sense of control.
As a result, the Red Raiders rallied to upset Timber Creek, ranked 14th in the latest South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15 high school boys basketball rankings, 68-63, in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs on Monday afternoon.
The Chargers used a 13-4 run to establish a 17-9 advantage to open the contest. In the process, the Red Raiders struggled to figure out their opponent's method of employing defensive pressure.
A quick adjustment led to a 9-2 run and cut the deficit to a possession at halftime.
The Red Raiders never trailed again.
"It's hard to strategize against chaos," Ocean City coach John Bruno said. "You got to figure it out. I thought after that first three and a half minutes we got a good feel for where they were and we attacked it really well."
Omero Chevere and Kori Segich each tallied 21 points for Ocean City. Dylan Schlatter contributed 12 and Sakers finished with 10.
The Red Raiders improved their record to 14-12 and have now won eight out of their last 10 contests after battling injuries earlier in the campaign.
"It's a really big deal to this team because of the injuries and sicknesses we have dealt with," Chevere said. "It's just a really good win for the team.
"Our stars combined missed a lot of games, but it was definitely worth it to get this win today. Now we get a home game. It's a big deal because we're the 10th seed."
Bruno's group discovered success in the form of high percentage offensive opportunities in and around the lane. The team's ability to maintain composure and beat the Chargers' traps translated to efficient offense.
"I couldn't get over how many passes we got for layups," Bruno said. "That was key against the pressure. We shot the ball real well from that eight to 10 foot area late."
The Red Raiders went on a 30-16 run in the second half to create their largest advantage, a 10-point lead, with 3:48 left to play.
Timber Creek didn't lay down. The Chargers responded with back-to-back three-point field goals via Ryan Nasuti and Mahdee McNair to narrow their deficit to four points with 3:03 remaining in regulation.
"They hit some tough shots, but we kept our head up and got it done," Chevere said.
Schlatter drained six free throws in the closing minutes to eliminate the hope of a comeback and cement the upset victory.
The senior floor general has been the common denominator in the Raiders finding success. His ability to handle the ball and involve his teammates helps the team avoid errors in crucial moments.
"Dylan Schlatter's really the key to our team," Bruno said. "When he handles the ball well, he's the guy we want to have the ball. He's a point guard. When you're in trouble you give it to him and he finds open people.
"If Dylan Schlatter plays under control, we all seem to play under control."
Bryan Warren paced Timber Creek with a team-high 15 points. Marcus Upton and Asa Wharton tallied 12 each. The Chargers concluded their season with an 18-8 record.
Ocean City will host 15th-seeded Clearview on Wednesday. The Pioneers advanced to the sectional quarterfinals as a result of a forfeit by Camden Eastside.
"I'm more proud of these guys for this win," Bruno said. "We have a bigger one on Wednesday, but you had to get their by winning today. They really showed the moxie these kids have. You never saw them flustered. You never saw them panic even when (the lead) got to one. I thought we all did what we can do."