Springfield freshman lending Long hand to Cougars’ attack

SPRINGFIELD — Kyle Long’s assessment of his game is succinct and elegantly simple, whether he’s holding a basketball or a lacrosse stick.

“Lacrosse is very similar to basketball,’ Long said last week after his Springfield team bludgeoned Ridley, 13-4. “It’s just spacing.’

What stands out most about Long is the spacing in his stats this season. The freshman (which makes his mere elevation to a regular cog in Springfield’s attacking rotation all the more remarkable) is fifth in Delaware County with 25 assists. At 2.27 assists per game, he’s second in the county, trailing only Haverford School’s Grant Ament (42 assists in 16 games, a 2.63 average).

The unusual part about Long’s prolific passing isn’t that it’s coming from a freshman; it’s the exclusivity. Long’s 25 assists have come against just two goals, a rather unusual shoot/pass balance. For comparison, the four players with more assists in Delco this season are averaging 29 goals each, the low man being Ament with 24 markers.

While it’s common to see goalscoring specialists with large disparities between goals and assists — Springfield teammate Mike Gerzabek, for instance, has a solitary assist against 21 goals — it’s rare to find passing specialists with quite the proportions of Long’s stats.

But with the pieces surrounding him on the Cougars’ roster, Long has fit in perfectly, precisely the replacement needed as coach Tom Lemieux has had to renovate the attack after last year’s trip to the state tournament.

Long is clear that he’s not averse to shooting, and the goal tally is a little low for his liking. But when surrounded by physical finishers in hoops teammate Dan Wasson, Gerzabek and versatile two-time All-Delco Lucas Spence, he also recognizes that shooting discretion is the better part of valor.

“I wish I scored more goals, but I just take what the defense gives us,’ Long said after two assists in the Ridley contest. “If I see one of the guys open, I just feed them. The game plan was to feed the ball, but if they don’t slide, I try to get my shot, but I’ve got to play to my strengths.’

Long’s giving mood on the lacrosse field is an extension of his mentality on the basketball court. The 5-9, 140-pound point guard forced his way into the rotation for Springfield this season in a run to the second week of the District One Class AAAA tournament. When Springfield hit its stride down the stretch, winning nine of 10 including the District One opener, Long was playing a major role. He never cracked the starting lineup, but Long was often the guy coach Kevin McCormick entrusted with handling the ball in fourth-quarter crunch time. He averaged 2.2 points per game and hit just 15 field goals in 25 games, but he managed to put his imprint on many games on both sides of the ball.

What makes him such an asset in those situations, as on the lacrosse field, is his vision. He displayed that Tuesday on one of Spence’s six goals, running around a defender 20 yards from the cage and threading a bullet of a pass through a tangle of poles to Spence, waiting on the doorstep to catch, pump-fake and deposit the ball into the net.

“I know they were going to force me to my weak hand, so I went and I have enough confidence to make the pass,’ Long said. “I saw the backside defender slide to the middle, and I knew that Lucas would be open.’

The confidence aspect is noteworthy for Long, who said he no longer considers himself a freshman this deep into the season, especially as it’s his second varsity campaign. He’s found a way to have significant impact on games, made all the more vital given that injuries and illness slowed Spence, the Cougars’ creative heartbeat, in the early going.

Among Long’s biggest games this season was notching four assists in a 5-4 win over Downingtown West and three helpers in a 6-5 win over Garnet Valley. His precision passing seems a great fit not just for the finishers around him, but the particular style Lemieux’s team plays, a gritty approach predicated on prevailing in low-scoring, defensive games which puts a premium on patient offensive execution.

That role seems to just come naturally to Long.

“Through basketball and lacrosse, it’s just something I do,’ he said. “I’m just so used to it, it fits in my game.’


There have been milestones aplenty this season, with several of the county’s top scorers reaching the 200-point threshold, including Spence in the season opener, Episcopal Academy’s Curtis Zappala April 10 and Penncrest’s Drew Hanna last week.

Also earning an important accolade of 100 career points was the Marple Newtown duo of TJ Reiley and Billy Morgan. They did so in style last Thursday, with Reiley tallying five points in a 20-7 win over Upper Darby, while Morgan scored five goals to go with six assists in one of the county’s high-point games of the season.

Things haven’t quite gone to plan for the Tigers this season. They sit at 7-7 after a five-game skid midseason, with the win over the Royals representing just their second Central League triumph. Two of their main attacking pieces, Tom Higgins and Tyler Kostack, had their seasons end prematurely, Kostack’s after just two games. The milestone by Reiley and Morgan, who will continue their careers together at Cabrini, is a silver lining to some struggles.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply