February 1, 2023
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Zamloot produces career game to steer unbeaten Caldwell past Irvington for 13th win

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Ray Zamloot followed the most prolific scoring exhibition of his career by mostly talking about all the good things done by the other four Caldwell players with whom he shared the court.

Well, the senior guard made the shots during the game, so earned every right to also call the shots come interview time.

And the impulse was there to speak with those teammates about what they thought of Zamloot’s statistical value to Caldwell’s growing fortunes, but that testimonial may have taken longer than the game they’d all just played.

Zamloot not only struck for a career-best 31 points, but also created a personal highlight clip of timely plays – and not just baskets – that interrupted hopeful runs or buckets by Irvington and kept steering the undefeated Chiefs toward the correct path en route to a 75-51 victory in a Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division clash Tuesday in West Caldwell.

“Ray will do that. If we need a big basket or something, he kind of takes it upon himself to make that play,” Caldwell head coach Mike Fess said after his club improved to 13-0. “He’s experienced enough to say, I’ll get to the rim or I’ll make the right pass. When the situation needs it, he’ll step in and take the bull by the horns, so to speak.”

The final score may not suggest a lot of critical plays, but that 24-point margin is quite deceiving. Irvington (9-4) pulled to within 34-32 with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter, and used a 10-3 spurt at the start of the fourth quarter to cut a fast-widening deficit to 52-44 with 5:29 to play. The Blue Knights presented danger with their quickness and rebounding ability.

But Irvington’s intensified pressure in that fourth quarter resulted in increased fouls, and Caldwell capitalized royally by sinking 17 of 18 from the line in that final period, and 25 of 30 for the game while Irvington was 9 of 16.

Senior guard Sean Agard scored 16 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and junior guard Kordell Philemon scored 13 points and took down five rebounds for Irvington.

Senior guard Rocco Checchetto was 6 of 6 from the line and netted 11 of his 23 points, and Zamloot was 9 of 10 and also pumped in 11 points in that final period to help the Chiefs pull away. Checchetto was 11 for 11 from the line on the night, and Zamloot 11 of 15.

“The game is gonna come down to the little things like that sometimes. We know how to execute,” Zamloot said. “We do that kind of thing all the time in practice. So when the game comes, we’re just doing the same thing we’ve already worked on a lot.”

Providing support for Zamloot’s heavily targeted back as the Chiefs’ top scorer may not be a formal component of Caldwell’s practices. But gradually raising the skill levels and confidence of all the players not named Ray Zamloot his certainly been a priority for Fess and his staff. Job well done.

Checchetto averaged 7.1 ppg. last winter for the 24-4 Chiefs, and is at 15.6 this season. Senior forward Ryan Lawrence was at 6.5 ppg. and senior guard Lorenzo Sozio at 4.6 a game last season. They are now at 8.6 and 8.4, respectively, though Lawrence’s availability in the coming days or even weeks is in question after he sustained a should injury at the start of the fourth quarter that sent him out of the game.

“My teammates found me today and did a lot of other good things to help us. My teammates had my back all game, and I’m grateful for that,” Zamloot said.

After Zamloot connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing and two crafty dribble-drives to the rim to guide his Chiefs to a 17-7 lead in the first 6:12, only a sworn enemy would not have been seeking him out for shots.

Checchetto and Sozio each scored four points in that strong first quarter to move Caldwell out to a 19-9 lead, and Checchetto and Zamloot each netted five the following quarter as the Chiefs ended the half in front, 31-22.

Philemon went coast-to-coast for a layup early in the third quarter to cut Irvington’s deficit to 32-26, but Zamloot answered with a baseline drive that built the lead back to eight. Irvington then spun off six consecutive points, five by Philemon, to close to within 34-32 with 4:05 remaining in the period.

(Check back soon for more details)

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Mike Kinney can be reached at mkinney@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeKinneyHS





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