Smolda’s perfect night pushes Lower Moreland past Dock

LOWER MORELAND >> Pressure and pace.

That’s what Lower Moreland’s boys basketball team does and they do it very well. Saturday night, the Lions showed what they can do firing on all cylinders.

Lower Moreland sprinted past visiting Christopher Dock, 70-43, in game that saw Lower Moreland assist a lot of buckets and hit plenty of 3-pointers.

“That score is not indicative of how good I think Dock is,” Lions coach Seth Baron said. “We played well. They had trouble with us. We had to be in help position, make other guys beat us and push the ball and it worked.”

Nick Smolda led the Lions with 25 points on a perfect shooting night, going 8-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the foul line.

“All season long, I’ve been kind of struggling,” Smolda said. “Tonight, coming out, I just cleared my mind and my players found me. I’m more catch-and-shoot, but I can go off the dribble.”

The Lions (11-1, 5-1 BAL Independence Division) came out fast, pressuring Dock (2-9, 0-7 BAL Presidents) all over the floor and attacking the bucket to set up the outside shot of offense. Lower Moreland scored the game’s first eight points before Jared Exler finally broke the Dock drought. Of course, Lower Moreland followed that with a 12-0 run and in a bit more than four minutes, it was 20-2.

After deferring to start the game, Lower Moreland senior point guard Danny Duffey turned things up a notch on the 12-0 spurt, scoring six points and assisting a Nick Smolda 3-pointer. Smolda was on fire in the first half, dropping in 17 points with a perfect 4-of-4 showing from downtown and going 5-of-5 overall.

“He knows he’s been up and down a little bit this year, but he’s a great shooter,” Baron said of Smolda. “We never once thought about not doing what we’ve been doing with Nick. He has a green light from wherever he is. He finally got a little Vinny Jackson, a little “Microwave” action going.”

Just as Dock looked to be building a little momentum on the back of a 5-0 spurt, a timeout by Lower Moreland and a whistle changed everything. In the timeout, Baron got into his team, making sure they weren’t going to let up and more importantly to not let Dock get any more second chance points.

The whistle, which came with 2:12 left in the first quarter, tagged Exler with his third foul in the frame, the first two coming on offensive fouls. With their senior leader in serious foul trouble, Dock had to play without him for the next 10:12 until halftime. It showed in their offense, which had eight points in his five-plus minutes on the floor and just eight the rest of the half.

“We haven’t put four quarters together consistently all year,” Dock coach Mike Fergus said. “The first half, we turned it over way too much. The second half, we took care of the ball, got some shots and played pretty well. If we didn’t spot them that big lead, it’s a different situation.”

Lower Moreland thrives off the energy it creates, whether it’s the 3s, guys like Dicky Rhoads diving all over the floor three-quarters of the way down the court for a loose ball or a defense-forced turnover. So Dock giving the Lions exactly what they wanted was the worst thing for the Pioneers.

Fergus complimented Lions point guard Danny Duffey and said he isn’t going to turn the ball over much, so not giving the ball away to Lower Moreland carries extra importance.

Exler returned to start the second half and while the Pioneers’ offense picked up, it was already too late. Dock netted 15 points, but it couldn’t slow down LM’s humming offense and the Lions put in 23 in the third. Recent addition Dane Bergis showed good chemistry with Exler in the quarter, scoring eight straight on three assists from the senior.

But Lower Moreland is run by a guy who has chemistry with all his teammates. Duffey had seven assists and in general, the Lions shared the ball like there were extra credit points riding on it. Smolda was the biggest beneficiary, as every one of his makes was assisted.

“It all starts with the defense,” Smolda said. “Once the defense is rolling, the offense comes to you.”

“The numbers across the board are great and it starts with Danny, how can it not?” Baron said. “He’s a two-time MVP, so much attention comes his way, he gets our shooters open.”

Fergus said he was happy with Dock’s bench play, it’s just about getting consistency from a team that’s much younger than most he’s had in his coaching career.

Smolda said Saturday was his first perfect game but he also added that he might not even be the best shooter on the team. The Lions have several sharpshooters and they regularly engage in shooting contests in practice, with Smolda saying Tyler Millan usually wins.

These shoot-offs can get heated, but it only helps Lower Moreland in games.

“It gets really intense,” Smolda said. “Sometimes I win, but most of the time Tyler wins. It helps us a lot, it makes us want to shoot more and gives us the will to win.”

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