LOWER MORELAND >> There aren’t a lot of dull moments watching Lower Moreland play this season.
On defense, the Lions are a frenetic whirl of switches, double-teams and pressure. Offensively the ball seems to zap, zap, zap, hey, there’s a guy wide open and oh, he just buried a wide-open 3-pointer. When the Lions are energized, which is pretty much always, they are a sight.
Lower Moreland had it all going Tuesday as the Lions topped Delco Christian 67-45 in the quarterfinal round of the Bicentennial Athletic League boys basketball tournament.
“The kids are hungry right now,” coach Seth Baron said. “They want this tournament. They want to win districts. This team has a little fire in its belly and it’s fun to be around.”
With constant pressuring defense, the Lions know fouls are going to come with it. Baron knows this too and he can deal with them so long as his guys aren’t picking up dumb fouls. Point guard Shane Cohen is the catalyst, a 5-foot-7 bundle of gusto who comes up with steal after steal.
Cohen had five steals on Tuesday as he and the rest of the Lions barely gave the Knights enough room to breathe, racing out to a 19-7 lead after the first quarter. While LM put Delco Christian into the bonus early in the second quarter, they were doing what they wanted to do.
“It’s high-energy defense,” Dan Shimon, LM’s lone senior, said. “We’re not really a run and jump team, we’re pressuring the ball and going into that defense, we know someone’s rotating and ready to step up. Our motto is just to go at it every single play.”
At the half, five Lions players had two fouls. Only one picked up any additional fouls. Baron joked that his guys’ ability to play with fouls is a fear of having to go to the bench if they pick up a third but added his team has high IQ and recognizes when to temper back their defense.
The BAL tournament means a lot to the teams playing in it and Lower Moreland really wants to win it. Shimon and junior Forrest Keys said a tournament title would just add validation to the excellent regular season they had and send them into the District 1/11 3A regional with a lot of momentum.
LM’s offense came from all over on Tuesday. Shimon led the Lions with 15 points, while Andrew Finnegan, Keys and Jordan Zoubroulis all reached double figures and Cohen scored nine. Baron said his eight-man rotation has the green light to shoot their respective shots.
It’s also easy to play in an offense where the players know if they give the ball up, they’re going to get it back if they’re open.
“We’ve all bought into that team style of basketball, we want to get everyone involved because we all know how to play basketball,” Shimon said. “Our shots are going to come back to us.”
“We have great chemistry,” Keys said. “We’ve been playing together since second grade so we all know where we’re going to be in the back of our head.”
Baron said this group, while similar to others he’s had including the 2016 state quarterfinalist, is special because of their cohesion. The team’s crop of juniors have been teammates since they were eight and Shimon was always around playing ball with them too, so these guys know what they’re doing.
Tuesday, the Lions chalked up 18 assists on their 24 made baskets. Cohen led the way with seven dimes, but Bryce Horn, Keys and Zoubroulis each had three and Finnegan two, so the ball found the right player in the right spots more often than not.
“They’ve been waiting for this, that chemistry has always been there,” Shimon said. “We’re glad to get a chance to show what we can do as a team.”
Lower Moreland led 35-18 at the half, with Shimon leading the way with his nine first quarter points. The senior hit his first four shots and finished 6-of-10 with three made 3-pointers.
At first glance, Shimon doesn’t look like an ace sniper from behind the arc but Baron said the senior does a fantastic job of getting to his spots and his pace. He also makes teams pay for losing track of him.
“They know what shots are in their wheelhouse and when it’s not, they give it up,” Baron said. “We’re going to miss Dan. He only has two games guaranteed left in his career, you lose Thursday this is over and we lose in districts, it’s over. This team is fighting for him too and fighting for him hard.”
Basketball is serious business in Lower Moreland, but the Lions also have a lot of fun with it. As Shimon and Keys were discussing the game, a parade of teammates walked behind them, either holding up three fingers for the sharpshooting senior or mock cooling off Keys, who had 10 points and two steals.
Even the coaches got in on the act, with Baron getting the entire staff matching Under Armor quarter-zips. The catch is, they’re all red and the school colors are blue and gold, so the veteran coach feigned outrage when asked if there was a special meaning behind them, confessing it was the only color that had all the sizes he needed for his assistants.
Lower Moreland will host Valley Forge Military Academy on Thursday in the semifinals. The Lions topped VFMA in a pair of hard-fought games during the BAL season, so Shimon and Keys are expecting a team eager to even the score.
“We have to find a way to play the best we did in those earlier games and better it,” Shimon said. “They’re a good, tough team.”
While VFMA has more size at every position than Lower Moreland, expect to see the Lions right up in their face on defense and slinging the ball around on offense until someone is open. It’s just what they do.
“We make it hectic,” Keys said. “I love it. That’s how we play and it feeds into the offense. For us, defense is everything.”
LOWER MORELAND 67, DELCO CHRISTIAN 45
DELCO CHRISTIAN 5 13 12 15 – 45
LOWER MORELAND 19 16 13 19 – 67
Delco Christian: Penley 4 4-4 14, Bronkema 2 0-0 4, Piotrowski 4 6-8 14, Smith 2 2-3 6, Rossini 3 0-0 7, Harrison 0 0-1 0. Totals: 15 12-16 45.
Lower Moreland: Dan Shimon 6 0-0 15, Shane Cohen 4 0-0 9, Andrew Finnegan 4 1-4 11, Bryce Horn 2 0-2 6, Forrest Keys 3 4-4 10, Jake Himmelstein 1 0-0 3, Jordan Zoubroulis 3 3-4 10, Joey Cerruti 1 0-0 3. Totals: 24 8-14 67.
3-pointers: LM – Shimon 3, Horn 2, Finnegan 2, Cohen, Himmelstein, Zoubroulis, Cerruti; DC – Penley 2, Rossini.