PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP (N.J.) - Westampton Tech senior Tahijj Hunter was looking forward to getting on the bus and taking the 8.4 mile trip eastbound down County Route 630 to Pemberton on Saturday morning.
The shorthanded Panthers lost to Pemberton, 65-59, on December 21, but were granted an opportunity to earn redemption with a meeting in the inaugural county tournament.
The Panthers dominated the second half on Saturday en route to a 60-51 triumph over Pemberton in the Burlington County Tournament quarterfinals.
Hunter powered WesTech with a game-high 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
His wish for revenge was granted.
"We had the date marked on our calendar," Hunter said. "We was waiting. They came in dancing and stuff like that. We had to show them what we was really about."
Jayson Carr was among two players absent in the first meeting. The senior made up for lost time with 14 points in the victory on Saturday.
"(Carr) wasn't playing the first game so we had to show how much he made a difference," Hunter said.
"It felt great," Carr said. "It felt great to play. It felt great to win. It felt great to show them who I am."
The first quarter saw 10 lead changes with neither team able to establish leverage. The Hornets held the largest lead (five points) on three separate occasions over the first two periods.
Westampton Tech rallied to even the count at 30-30 with a free throw from Kyree Owes with less than a minute left in the second quarter, but allowed Pemberton's Adrian Lemons, Jr. to respond with a bucket to establish a two-point advantage at intermission.
Owes finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Jacob Lundy provided WesTech with a 35-34 lead and his team never trailed again. Lundy's score was part of a 9-0 run that helped the Panthers build a 39-34 advantage. Lundy scored six of his eight points in the frame.
The Panthers also held Pemberton scoreless over the first four minutes of the final period and led by as much as nine points.
"We just had to stop turning the ball over," Westampton Tech coach Cetshwayo Byrd said. "We had to pick up our defensive energy. We always preach energy.
"We were a little flat in that first half. I don't know if it's just early morning Saturday start or what, but we came out a little flat. It wasn't really too many adjustments. We just had to pick up our energy."
Lemons, Jr. led Pemberton (17-7 record) with a team-high 15 points. Jalen Clarke buried four 3-pointers as part of a 14-point effort and Kazi Fontaine added nine points and 13 rebounds.
The Panthers improved their record to 19-5 and advanced to play the winner of Moorestown and Cherokee in the Burlington County Tournament semifinals.
Westampton Tech has won 10 out of its last 11 contests and is using moments like Saturday's to prepare for the road ahead.
"It's playoff atmosphere," Byrd said. "It's like a playoff game. It just makes us better because now when we do get into the dance and we get in situations like this we have a reference point."