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Lions advance to PIAA-4A 2nd round, Lower Moreland-style

NORTHAMPTON >> It would be hard to find a better 40 second stretch that summed up Lower Moreland basketball.

In the fourth quarter of their PIAA 4A boys basketball opening round game against District 12’s John Bartram, the Lions kept moving the ball, attacking and re-setting until Jake Himmelstein and Joey Cerruti met wide open under the net. Nobody would have faulted Himmelstein for taking the easy layup, but in typical LM style, he gave it up to Cerruti.

After finding themselves down 10 in the first half, the Lions closed the second quarter strong and carried it into sterling second half as they topped the Braves 75-61 at Council Rock South on Friday.

“We got back to playing our style,” Lower Moreland point guard Shane Cohen said. “I knew I was off the first quarter, but my teammates picked me up and got me back in the game and that’s when we started working. We started grinding and breaking it down one play at a time.”

Lower Moreland will face District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic, an 89-61 winner over Prep Charter, in the second round Tuesday.

Cohen did plenty of Cohen things, scoring 21 points, dishing six assists and plucking away three steals and Jordan Zoubroulis had another all-around strong effort with 16 points, six assists and two steals. The man of the night however was Cerruti, who came out shooting and never stopped.

Cerruti scored a game-high 25 points that included the team’s first seven and the layup to cap that 40-second sequence. His shooting from outside was huge, hitting four 3-pointers and the senior was the guy pulling on some of the game’s most important shots.

Even against a long and athletic Braves squad that closed out fast, Cerruti didn’t hesitate.

“Without my teammates being the way they are, I don’t get half the shots I do,” Cerruti said. “I stand in the corner and they find me. Once I get one, it’s a lot easier to keep the flow and stay poised.”

As Cerruti talked, Zoubroulis and Cohen exchanged a fist-bump on all the assists they had dimed out to their teammate.

“He doesn’t care, he’s pulling,” Cohen said with a laugh. “Shooters shoot.”

“It’s confidence,” Cerruti said. “You get one down; you just want to keep shooting.”

“Pretty sure I bricked a three in the first half, and in the second half I was still coming down and shooting with confidence,” Zoubroulis said. “Shooters shoot and that’s why we’re out there.”

After a torrid start both ways, Bartram pulled ahead with its quickness and athleticism causing some problems. Live ball turnovers really hurt Lower Moreland and the Braves seemingly couldn’t miss from the outside as they took a 22-15 lead after one.

Midway through the second quarter, Lower Moreland missed a wide-open three with Bartram getting the rebound, pushing the ball down the floor and getting Tyreek Nichols to stick a three with a hand in his face for a 27-17 lead.

Lower Moreland buckled down on defense and closed the half on a 13-4 run, with Zoubroulis hitting a touchdown pass to Cerruti for a layup that pulled the Lions within 31-30 at the break.

“Defense is our thing, we like playing defense because it starts our offense,” Zoubroulis said. “We’re all about starting the fastbreak. They were playing a fast pace which meant we had to play a fast pace and every time we got a defensive stop, we had to push it.”

Lower Moreland had a nearly two-week break between winning the District I title and Friday’s state opener, so it let them go and scout Bartram’s District 12 seeding game against Archbishop Carroll. Cohen knew the Braves weren’t done despite giving up a big run to end the second and Bartram battled to the end, pressuring inbounds and fouling players into the final 20 seconds.

“You could see the energy from that team, they really did want it and I have to give them props,” Zoubroulis said.

Himmelstein all six of his points in the third quarter, the first four putting LM back in front for good as part of a 9-0 run and the last giving the Lions a 54-40 lead. Andrew Finnegan only had three points, but he had five key rebounds off the bench and Forrest Keys again gamely battled against bigger guys in the post, contesting shots and grabbing boards.

LM’s defense had it going in the third quarter, with the Lions getting those fastbreak layups they love and assisting all but two of their 10 baskets in the frame. They opened the fourth on a 9-0 run, pushing the lead up to 20 then took their largest lead of the night at 67-46 with 2:22 left in the game.

The 40-second offensive possession happened just before that, coming when Himmelstein gave up the easy bucket to Cerruti with 2:40 to go.

“I feel like it shows we can play with anybody,” Zoubroulis said. “It’s the style of basketball we play.”

“We did the same thing against Pennsbury, we all touched the ball before Cerruti had a wide-open layup,” Cohen said. “It seems like he’s always the one open, but that’s just being poised.”

“We want to stay with each other,” Cerruti said. “We’re not done yet.”

LOWER MORELAND 15 15 24 21 – 75

JOHN BARTRAM 22 9 12 18 – 61

LM: Joey Cerruti 9 3-4 25, Shane Cohen 6 9-11 21, Jake Himmelstein 2 2-2 6, Jordan Zoubroulis 6 3-3 16, Forrest Keys 2 0-0 4, Andrew Finnegan 1 0-0 3. Totals: 26 17-20 75

JB: Davaughn 3 1-2 10, Massey 6 0-0 12, DuPriest 6 0-0 13, Nichols 5 6-7 17, Reed 1 0-0 2, Gatewood 1 0-0 2, Lanks 1 0-0 3. Totals 23 7-9 61

3-pointers: LM – Cerruti 4, Zoubroulis, Finnegan

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