FRANCONIA >> Some will say that the competition in the PIAA state tournament gets more challenging, but the games also get more exciting.
That was the case for the Lower Moreland boys basketball team as it won a thrilling 4A state quarterfinal game with a 69-57 final score against District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic.
Leading the way for Lower Moreland was Forrest Keys with 22 points and going 5-for-6 from the free throw line.
“We just had to execute the game plan and attack,” said Keys. “We just had to score right away and we kept doing that against a very high scoring team.”
The game was back-and-forth for the entire first half of the game as the Lions and Hawks had 11 lead changes with eight of them in the first quarter.
Bethlehem Catholic had a narrow 19-18 lead after the first quarter before Lower Moreland got the lead back quickly in the first minute of the second quarter.
Lower Moreland also earned a three-point shot from three different players while Jake Himmelstein went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the second quarter.
The offensive explosion from the Lions eventually gave them a 41-35 lead at halftime.
The Lions continued their ways on offense and also did better on defense outscoring the Hawks 17-10 in the third quarter.
Bethlehem Catholic got the offense going early in the fourth quarter to decrease the Lion lead down to single digits.
Despite Lower Moreland not making a single field goal in the fourth quarter, Bethlehem Catholic got into foul trouble giving the Lions 11 points from the free throw line.
As a team, the Lower Moreland Lions went 20-for-22 on free throws, shooting 91 percent.
Five Lower Moreland players scored double-digit points to secure the win and a spot in the state quarterfinals.
Shane Conen also had a big performance in the state second-round game finishing with 18 points.
“I knew going into this game that it was going to be a tough one to win,” said Cohen. “Bethlehem Catholic had a really good guard in the center but a bunch of great plays from our guys got the win for us.”
Both Himmelstein and Jordan Zoubroulis finished the game with 12 points in the victory while Himmelstein went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“We just had to keep pushing and make good shots to get the win,” said Himmelstein. “We just brought our A plus game and got the big win.”
“Heading into the game, I thought we were a big underdog because we were the smaller school,” said Zoudroulis. “So coming into this game with an underdog mindset, we wanted to show people what we can do against bigger schools and that’s how we got the job done.”
Joey Cerruti finished the game with 11 points for Lower Moreland rounding out the offense.
“It felt great getting this win tonight,” said Cerruti. “I didn’t have my best shooting game tonight, but we got teammates to pick us up and that’s what we need as a team.”
Lower Moreland head coach Seth Baron was thrilled for his team to get the big win against a tough Bethlehem Catholic squad.
“It’s such a great honor to make it this far into the state tournament,” said Baron. “This team fears nobody and we have 11 seniors on this team, so this team has the experience and they just won a great game tonight.”
With the loss, the Bethlehem Catholic Hawks finish the season with a District 11 championship and a 26-4 overall record.
Lower Moreland now focusES on the PIAA quarterfinals on Friday when it takes on District 2 champion Scranton Prep at a time and location yet to be determined.
Lower Moreland 69, Bethlehem Catholic 57
LM 18 23 17 11 -69
BC 19 16 10 12 -57
Lower Moreland: Keys 22; Conen 18; Himmelstein 12; Zoudroulis 12; Cerruti 11.
Bethlehem Catholic: Paz 22; R. Santana 11; Young 8; Brake 6; Thomas 4; B. Santana 2; Giordano 2; Stianche 2.
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