LOWER MORELAND >> Lower Moreland played 32 minutes of inspired basketball and then some, going overtime to beat Valley Forge Military Academy 67-62 in a Bicentennial Athletic League thriller Wednesday night.
“We knew going in they were ranked second in the state, they had four (6-foot-8 players), their point guard was unbelievably good,” said Lions guard Shane Cohen, instrumental at both ends of the court for Lower Moreland. “I knew I was in for it that game, and I knew if I did my best on (point guard Arion Lewis), my teammates will do their best boxing out.
“We had a good game plan, we executed, and everything just worked out in the end for us.”
Cohen scored a team-high 26 points, including the two that sent the game into overtime.
“(Valley Forge) was overplaying us and (teammate) Forrest (Keys) had the ball on the wing,” Cohen said. “I knew if I cut to him, I was going back door. I knew I was going right up with it, drawing contact, and it so happened I beat the big to the basket and went up strong with it.”
Cohen’s momentum carried into overtime, as he scored the Lions’ first five points of the extra session. And then, with the game tied at 59 apiece, Lower Moreland’s hustle provided an edge, as Jordan Zoubroulis scored off a rebound and then Cohen stole the inbounds pass and put that up for two, making it 63-59. The Lions sank crucial free throws down the stretch to lock things up.
“He’s one of the best defensive players I’ve had,” Lions coach Seth Baron said of Cohen. “And Forrest is phenomenal too. Forrest and Shane, I can put them up on the two best guys on the other team, and I like our chances.”
In this battle of BAL Independence powers, Lower Moreland (10-2, 7-0) clawed its way back from a 16-point first-half deficit.
Lewis got going early for the visitors.
He shook loose for a three, putting the Trojans up 7-5 in the opening minutes. Just moments later, Lewis hit another three, pulling up at the top of the key, to extend the Trojan advantage to 10-5.
Hitting three 3-pointers in a span of just two minutes, Lewis helped Valley Forge break the game open. A three by Will Colleran and a burst to the hoop by Lewis provided an 18-7 lead.
Lewis intercepted a ball at midcourt, ultimately leading to a basket by Abraham Deng inside to make it 20-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Valley Forge (8-2, 4-1) then found some success down low, with the two big men — Deng and Marius Ntwari — working in tandem. Deng passed to Ntwari for an easy two, widening the margin to 28-12 early in the second.
But Lower Moreland cut into the lead.
Bryce Horn hit a three, Cohen scored in transition, and the Lions would trim the gap to 31-24 at the break and they would lead 41-40 going into the fourth.
Lewis scored a game-high 31 points for the Trojans but Cohen limited him to eight points in the fourth and overtime.
“Composure,” Valley Forge coach Francis Bowe said of what made the difference down the stretch. “They have a fantastic crowd, they fed off of it, and we lost our heads a little bit.
“(We got off to a hot start) but you have to maintain it. And that’s one of our weaknesses right now. We’ll get better.”