Shortly after signing her letter of intent to attend La Salle University on
a basketball scholarship, Triton Regional High School senior Deja Bullock
spoke about her what she wanted to accomplish during her senior season.
There were personal goals, such as getting her 1,000th rebound and 1,000th point, and there were team goals, including having a winning season and making a deep run in the playoffs.
Bullock was able to accomplish her personal goals, grabbing rebound No. 1,000 early in the season, and scoring point No. 1,000 two weeks ago. The team goals didn’t look like they had much of a chance after the Mustangs opened the season 3-7, but things have turned around of late, and suddenly the Mustangs are playing like a team that belongs in the postseason.
“They are starting to use each other and work with each other,” Triton coach Rich Cooper said. “I think in the beginning of the year we were trying to find our way, so everybody was more individual. Now we are starting to play as a team.”
The word "team" was used a lot Thursday night after Triton defeated Gloucester County Institute of Technology, 64-50, to improve to 7-9.
“When we share the ball we get results and when we get results we actually win,” said Bullock, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds. “(Thursday), we played like a team and the past couple of games we have played like a team, so we have definitely grown.”
Dominique Budd led the Mustangs with a game-high 22 points.
“We came a long way,” Budd said. “We started the season rough but we are doing it now. We are getting there.”
Bullock joined the 1,000-point club on Jan. 17 when she scored 24 against Camden Academy Charter in front of the home crowd.
“That was a nice moment,” said Bullock, who entered the game needing 19 points. “At that game I didn’t think I was going to get it because it was such a big gap. They gave me the ball because they knew I wanted to get it that night so I think they kind of forced me the ball. It worked because I got my 1,000 points that night. The girls really had my back that night.”
Cooper said Bullock’s accomplishments have meant even more to him and the rest of the Mustangs because of the type of attitude she carries.
“She’s a good person and that’s the first thing,” Cooper said. “If she wasn’t a good kid it would be harder to root for her. For her to get that 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds makes us all feel good. We all feel good about it because we all know we had a part of it and the girls love her.”
With her scoring goal out of the way, Bullock has been able to focus squarely on team accomplishments as the Mustangs attempt to crawl back to .500.
“I think once she got her 1,000 points, she was able to relax,” Cooper said. “When she plays like that she makes us a better team.”
Bullock has also worked with Budd to help her develop into a quality point guard. The offense runs through Bullock and Budd the majority of the time and once the two players learned to trust each other, the offense was able to run more efficiently.
“I pass the ball to her and she can score and when players double team her she passes out to me and I can score,” Budd said. “We learn from each other.”
When the playoff power points were released on Monday Triton found itself positioned as the 16th and final seed in Group 4. The Mustangs were in the same spot last year and suffered through a quick elimination. Bullock is hopeful that things turn out differently this time around.
“Last year we were the last seed and had to play Shawnee and that didn’t go so well,” Bullock said. “I’m hopeful we can have a higher seed but if not then we have to just play our game and hope for the best. If we play our game we have potential to go far in the playoffs in my opinion.”