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Bicentennial League

Strong 1st half sends Lower Moreland past Calvary Christian in BAL quarters

LOWER MORELAND >> Playing a frenetic pace on back-to-back nights finally caught up to the Lower Moreland girls basketball team in the third quarter Tuesday.

“At the (end of the) quarter I said for as poorly as we played, we still only lost three points that quarter, but we lost a little bit of steam there,” Lions coach Rich Becker said. “I know our girls where tired in the first half, so we tried to go with our zone and I think they just kind of lost a little bit of focus.”

But a sluggish period of offense only meant Lower Moreland’s lead in its Bicentennial Athletic League quarterfinal with visiting Calvary Christian dipped down to 17 points entering the fourth.

The Lions did most of the heavy lifting in the opening 16 minutes, its up-tempo pace building a 36-16 advantage at halftime, a big enough cushion to get through the later loss of energy and advanced with a 60-42 victory.

“The last two games we’ve been playing really fast, up-and-back,” Lower Moreland’s Nicole Castor said. “It was good, actually, it will be good for better teams cause we move the ball faster then we catch them off (guard), if they’re not set up yet.”

Rachel Millan scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the first half while Castor chipped in eight points for the Lions (16-7), who reached the BAL semifinals for the second straight season.

Lower Moreland visits Jenkintown 7 p.m. Thursday – the Drakes beat Morrisville 59-46 in their quarterfinal contest – with the winner advances to face either New Hope-Solebury or The Christian Academy in the BAL final 3 p.m. Saturday at Morrisville.

“Jenkintown will be a nice test for us,” Becker said. “With really two seniors (Millan and Jordan Cohen) and everybody else is first-year players, sometimes we play like a varsity team, sometimes we play like two seniors and a bunch of 15-year-olds. So, it depends on which team shows up.”

The Lions’ 52-38 home loss to Jenkintown on Feb. 8 was their fourth defeat in a five-game stretch, but ended the regular season beating Faith Christian and picking up two BAL tournament wins over MaST Charter and Calvary Christian.

“I think during the season you hit those highs and lows and we happen to have that stretch,” Becker said. “I mean, Jenkintown played fantastic and Rachel Millan threw up before the game, Ceili (Corduff) left during the game to throw up so we had a few girls sick and then when followed Jenkintown up with Faith, our best game of the year. So, it’s nice to see them respond that way.”

Amelia Johnson scored all 14 of her points in the second half to lead Calvary Christian, who got as close as 11 in the fourth quarter before the Lions collected five straight points to regain control. Alainis Jean-Baptiste added 12 points for the Cougars, who are the third seed in the District 1-2A tournament and face No. 2 Bristol in the semifinal on Friday, Feb. 24

Lower Moreland also plays that day in the District 1-4A playoffs, the second-seeded Lions taking on No. 3 Villa Joseph Marie.

Tuesday night, the Lions score the first eight points with a basket by Riley Malone giving the host a 13-2 lead. Millan found Jima Davis for a corner 3-pointer for a 16-4 advantage and from there the margin never went below double-digits. Millan’s pull-up jumper in the lane after a steal made it 18-6 after a quarter.

“In the first half, we knew we could get out and run on this team a little bit,” Becker said. “We took way too many outside shots and that’s something we talked about, let’s work the ball inside instead of settling from threes. We really didn’t shoot well tonight but we were able to get after them defensively and we can pressure them. When we played them before (a 66-23 win Dec. 20) that worked.”

A Millan bucket had Lower Moreland up 30-12 in the second quarter before a Karey Stauffer jumper and two Jean-Baptiste free throw cut Calvary Christian’s deficit to 15 with 1:51 left. The Lions, however, posted the half’s last six points – the first four from Kerri Kennedy, the last two courtesy a Malone jumper – to lead 36-16 at the break.

Cohen’s free throw at 7:21 in the third gave Lower Moreland its biggest lead at 37-16 but missed shots inside and turnovers hampered the Lions and Calvary outscored them 12-9.

“We lost our focus a little bit you could tell we were out there and you give (Calvary Christian coach) Jen (Logan) a lot of credit for keeping her team focused,” Becker said.

Johnson had  all of Calvary’s points during a 7-2 run that made it 43-28 before Millan converted two free throws with 30 seconds remaining to send the Lions into the last quarter ahead 45-28.

Malone’s jumper put the Lions up 19 but the Cougars scored 12 of the next 16 points, Stauffer knocking down a three from the top of the arc cutting the Lions’ advantage to 51-40.

Castor, however, had a breakaway layup after a missed CCA jumper with a Allison Asman free throw at 2:06 pushing Lower Moreland’s lead to 14. Millan drove down the lane to cap a six-point spurt to extend the lead to 56-40.

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