Seraphs’ playoff run ends in Parochial B South final

Mater Dei falls 56-38 to St. Augustine in championship game

By tim morris

Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — After winning the opening tap, the Mater Dei Seraphs let the St. Augustine Hermits know they weren’t going to be intimidated by Hermits 6-6 bookends Jose Gonzalez and Olu Babalola.

The Seraphs Tim Lanenve, all 6-0 of him, took the ball straight to the basket challenging the Hermits’ big men. He would misfire, but along with Dave Kluck, he would battle for the offensive rebound keeping the ball alive on the Seraphs’ end of the floor for the first minute of the game. The team would grab six offensive rebounds during the stretch.

That was the good news for the Seraphs, making their first appearance in the Parochial B South championship since 1983. They were going to stand toe-to-toe with the Hermits and not back down. The bad news last Wednesday night at Lakewood High School, was their ice cold shooting. They may not have been intimidated, but the presence of Gonzalez and Babalola was certainly causing them to alter their shots. They would miss their first 13 shots from the field. By the time that Kevin Krilla hit the first basket of the game for Mater Dei, the score was already 12-2 St. Augustine (Bob Varno converted a pair of throws to start the game).

While the opening salvo fired by the Seraphs was to let the Hermits know they had come to play, Mater Dei was facing a deep, veteran team that was a three-time defending champion. The Hermits were just too big and talented along the baseline for the Seraphs, leading to their 58-36 win.

"Their size wore us down," said Mater Dei Coach Bob Klatt. "Their big guys gave us trouble all night. I thought our kids did a great job. They never gave up."

Gonzalez and Babalola, both juniors, are very athletic big men who can run the floor, pass and shoot from the outside and, oh yes, rebound. Gonzalez destroyed the Seraphs on the glass in the first half scoring 18 points, many of them on put backs.

Babalola was a huge presence inside and out. He held his ground in the paint on defense, coming up with 11 rebounds and blocking eight shots. On offense, the Hermits would use him in the high post where he showed a keen passing eye when the Seraphs would double him.

Off the bench Dave Haddix brought energy and another big body for Mater Dei to contend with. He scored eight points in the first half as the Hermits jumped out to a 28-14 lead at the intermission.

Mater Dei would hold its ground in the third quarter playing St. Augustine even. But the Seraphs couldn’t gain any ground and went to the final eight minutes still trailing by 14. A 16-8 margin in the fourth quarter by the defending champions opened up the final 22-point margin.

The trio of Gonzalez (18), Haddix (12) and Babalola (11) proved to be the difference, combining for 41 of St. Augustine’s 56 points. St. Augustine (24-2) earned its trip to the Parochial B state title against the North champion St. Patrick’s.

Mater Dei (19-7) was led by Kluck’s 10 points. Krilla and LaMorte each scored eight. LaMorte hit the Seraphs two three pointers.

Despite the loss, the Seraphs gave their fans something to shout about for the first time in nine years. It was back in 1991 that Mater Dei last won a state playoff game. This year, the second-seeded Seraphs not only laid that to rest, but won a second game to reach the Parochial B South final.

"Once we got the monkey off our backs beating St. Joseph’s (Hammonton) I was afraid that the kids might be satisfied with that, but they weren’t," Klatt said.

"They came back and beat McCorristin to get to the final," he added. "It was a great feeling for the kids. We played McCorristin at home and it was a sell-out. After the game the students rushed the floor. Our kids said they felt it was like being at Duke after they had beaten North Carolina."

When the Seraphs went out of the Shore Conference Tournament early and then lost a pick-up game to Middletown South, it didn’t look like Mater Dei fans were going to have anything to celebrate in March.

"We had a team meeting after Middletown South and we said, ‘No one is packing their bags,’ " said Klatt. "Everyone has to play 100 percent from here on. The kids did. They went up to South Amboy and won by 20 points and then did a real nice job against St. Joseph’s in the first round of the states."

One of the biggest assets for Mater Dei this winter was its balance. It showed time and again as the Seraphs were able to go with the hot hand on a given night and not rely on one go-to player.

"We had four different players score 20 points in a game," said Klatt. "Last year, we had two. That was one of our strengths. Teams had no one player to key on."

With the post season run and the Shore Conference C North Division title to go with it, the Seraphs had a memorable year. Klatt thanked his seniors which included Tim Laneve, Nick LaMorte and Kevin Krilla.

"They gave us a big lift," he pointed out. "We’ve been to a sectional final now. We know what it takes to get there."