The breaks finally went Gloucester Catholic's way.
In a season that has seemed to have a black cloud hanging over it, the Rams saw a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Gloucester's Rasheer Fleming rim out at the buzzer on Thursday and held on for a 44-41 win over their crosstown rival in Tri-County Conference inter-division action.
Cade Regan's two clutch free throws with 40 seconds left broke a 40-40 tie and Ryan Roney also hit two key foul shots down the stretch as Gloucester Catholic improved to 11-12. The Lions fell to 12-13 as their gutsy comeback attempt in the final period fell short.
"In these types of rivalry games, we know anything can happen and it almost did happen," Gloucester Catholic coach Todd Powers said. "We've had a streak of bad luck. We've lost four one-point games this season, I broke my foot, we've had guys with ankle injuries.
"I went to my rosary that (athletic director) Pat Murphy gave me and somebody from above made (Fleming's shot) go in and out. The kids thought it was Kobe Bryant; it might have been a patron saint, I don't know. It's just nice to get a win against your rival and get set up for the playoffs."
The game was close for most of the night, as matchups in this series usually are. But the Rams started to pull away in the fourth and led 38-30 before Gloucester responded with a 10-2 run.
That's when Regan was fouled on a drive to the basket and calmly swished two foul shots. He had previously missed three attempts from the charity stripe.
"I missed a few before that, but we really needed those so I had to focus," he said. "I was a little nervous but I knew I was going to make them."
This was Regan's first taste of a rivalry he grew up watching, as his older brothers Austin and Conor starred for Gloucester Catholic.
"I came to every single one of their games and they were always like this," he said. "It was fun and a great atmosphere. Before the game they told me good luck and everything. I don't think they ever (hit the game-winning shot against Gloucester), so I can hold this over their heads."
Roney led the Rams with 12 points as they bounced back from a devastating loss to Wildwood on Tuesday, a defeat that cost them a share of the Tri-County Classic Division title.
"We went down there and it was a tough atmosphere," Roney said. "We didn't have Ryan Pierman, who's our best rebounder but was out with a sprained ankle. It was hard but we knew we had to bounce back and get this W.
"This is our biggest rival. It's all love out there, but both teams go out there and compete and the crowd is into it."
Pierman stepped up in his return to the lineup, as he finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He also had the task of guarding Fleming, who has at least three inches on him.
"He's originally from Brooklawn, and his father and grandfather are Gloucester people, so I knew he wasn't going to miss this game," Powers said of Pierman. "He was the difference. He plays tough and rebounds."
Fleming had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Lions. He also nearly made the play of the game, as his steal around midcourt with three seconds left and 3-point attempt almost sent the game to overtime.
Steven Light added 10 points for Gloucester, while Henry Cannon played excellent defense on Roney.
"They battled too," Powers said of the Lions. "They're a young team and they're going to be a force to be reckoned with.
"We went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final minute and that's the trademark of a Gloucester Catholic team. It wasn't a work of art, but any win you can get with a young team in that atmosphere, you can't quantify it."