Lower Moreland puts clamps on Phil-Mont Christian to win BAL title

BENSALEM — After the first half of what was shaping up as a thrilling boys final in the BAL tournament, Lower Moreland coach Seth Baron was a bit concerned by one number on the score board.

He was good with his team’s total, especially after a rough shooting half by the Lions, but Phil-Mont Christian Academy’s score was a bit too high for his liking. Like they have all tournament, the Lions locked it down in the second half.

A strong finish in the final quarter helped Lower Moreland top Phil-Mont 61-43 at Holy Ghost Prep Monday afternoon. After holding a 35-32 lead at halftime, the Lions limited the Falcons to just 11 second-half points.

“We shot poor and still put 35 on the board but the big thing for me was the 32,’ Baron said. “We gave them a firm discussion on taking pride in their defense. That was the goal and did what we came to do.’

Lower Moreland again had a strong team effort, with three players in double figures and one more reaching nine. Guard Danny Duffey had a big game with 11 points, six rebounds, 10 assists and five steals while backcourt running mate Matt Cerruti had a game-high 18 points to go with six boards and six steals.

Phil-Mont got double figures from Osaze Thornton (14 points, four rebounds) and Noah Baldez (13 points, seven rebounds) and a near double-double from Sean Griffin (eight points, 12 rebounds).

Nick Smolda had 11 points and six rebounds for the winners and Jake Fazio scored all nine of his points in the second half.

The first half was played at high speed, with plenty of shots, drives, dishes and rebounds. In the first quarter alone, the lead changed hands nine times with Cerruti and Baldez each posting eight points in the period.

While the Lions didn’t shoot it to their usual ability, they did assist all but three of their first half makes. Phil-Mont didn’t have the prodigious assist numbers, but the Falcons did use their athleticism to slash in and score close to the hoop.

As the teams continued to exchange pleasantries through the second frame, Lower Moreland clawed out a 35-26 lead with 2:01 let in the half. But Thornton came back to score the next six on a 3-pointer and a traditional three-point play to cut the lead down to three at the break.

“They’re a very experienced team, all their guys can shoot the ball and handle the ball,’ Phil-Mont coach Glenn Dolton said. “It made it a big challenge or us to be able to get out and guard in a lot of different spots. Our guys played very well tonight, I was pleased with how we sustained a couple of early runs by them.’ As high-octane as the first half was, the third quarter was a different story as the teams combined to score 14 points, eight by Lower Moreland and six from Phil-Mont. Phil-Mont closed the lead to one at 39-38 with 2:01 left in the quarter on a bucket by Baldez, but the Lions scored the next four points. Duffey assisted Fazio then Cerruti as the Lions went up 43-38 to end the third stanza.

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