March 9, 2005
Raiders have had some tournament thrillers
By TOM WILLIAMS
John Bruno lost the snowball fight last week but his team came up a winner on the court.
Bruno traveled to Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden last week to watch the first round Group 3
game between Wilson and Timber Creek. His Raiders would play the winner. As he was leaving, in his
Ocean City High School jacket, he was nailed by a snowball.
But the trip was still worthwhile. Two nights later, Bruno’s team completed one of the great NJSIAA
tournament victories in OCHS history, beating favored Wilson in two overtimes.
It was one of those momentous games that brings back memories of some of the thrillers that had come
before in the state tournament.
The first one that comes to mind is the win over Middle Township in the 1999 South Jersey final when
Ryan Reich drilled a 35-footer at the buzzer that sent the game into overtime. Then, Mike Rowell took over
in the overtime to supply the upset win.
Many remember the 1992 first round game at the Intermediate School when Wilson beat the Raiders,
85-76. But the excitement came from Wilson’s Reggie Welch (46 points) and OC’s J.D. Asselta (36
points). Both went on to successful college careers and played some professional basketball. On that
night, they were the show.
In 1980, Jack Boyd’s team was just 13-8 when it played Mainland, one of South Jersey’s Top 10 teams,
late in the season. The Raiders upset the Mustangs, 78-77, on a tip-in by Bob Warrington at the buzzer.
When Ocean City lined up with Mainland in the Group 3 Tournament, many thought OC was in for trouble
as the Mustangs were loaded with revenge.
Mainland ran out to a 20-point lead in the first half of that tournament game but Boyd’s team rallied, taking
the game into three overtimes before succumbing, 85-81. Randy Julian scored 26 and Warrington 23.
Mainland went on to win the South Jersey championship.
In 1978, Ocean City lost to Mainland twice during the regular season – by 18 and by 31 – but in the
tournament the Raiders took the Mustangs to the wire, losing by a 62-61 scored. Ed Paone had 19 to lead
The 1972 season produced Ocean City’s last state boys basketball finalist. Boyd’s team beat Haddon
Township by one point in the South Jersey final and Metuchen by five in the state semifinal. But those
Raiders got their biggest win in the first round, upsetting Pleasantville, 51-46, at Atlantic Community
College when Brad Bryant led a remarkable fourth quarter rally.
In 1969, Boyd’s first year, the Raiders had lost to Washington Township, 66-62, in the regular season
finale. That team, led by John Huff, Tom Bowen and Glenn Darby, then drew the Minutemen again in the
tournament semifinals and dropped a 66-64 decision in overtime.
Dixie Howell’s 1964 team, led by John Cranston, cruised to the state Group 2 title, winning their five
tourney games by an average of 18 points. The next year, back in Group 1, the team led by John
Laudenslager, Randy Fox and Barry Banks, reached the South Jersey final only to lose a 63-58 overtime
thriller to Wildwood.
The 1958 team, led by Mike Fadden, Larry Harrison and Steve Libro, entered the South Jersey final with a
21-0 record but lost to Riverside, 71-69. The year before, Dixie’s team, paced by Tom Adams and Wayne
Hudson, won 23 straight, including a 55-54 win over Palmyra in the tournament, before losing its first game,
43-40, to Verona in the state final at Rutgers.
Ocean City’s first state championship came in 1955 and was filled with excitement. Those Raiders, led by
Frank Wickes and Joe Kennedy, beat Wildwood in overtime in the South Jersey semifinal; edged Riverside,
34-33, in the South Jersey final; and then won the state title over North Arlington, 58-56, in overtime.
There were many others, lots of them with Wildwood back in the 1940s and 1930s when the two schools
seemed to be a step above many of the other small schools in the area.
But, whichever of these exciting OCHS tournament games you remember, if you missed last week’s
thriller with Woodrow Wilson, you missed one of the great ones.
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Tom Williams' columns