LOWER MORELAND >> The Lower Moreland boys basketball team’s 18-point halftime lead was cut in half by a Calvary Christian surge in the third quarter.
Maybe a few weeks prior, the Lions would have caved to the comeback push. But Monday night, Lower Moreland knew how to reinforce the advantage it built in Monday night’s Bicentennial Athletic League tournament first-round matchup.
“We’ve given up a couple big leads this year,” Lions coach Seth Baron said. “You lose 13 guys, 12 guys and the experience is an issue. Early in the year, that experience was a factor and as the year goes on you see them fighting through moments.”
Lower Moreland finished the third quarter with a 9-2 run – Jack Doneker’s pull-up jumper putting the hosts up 58-42 going to the fourth. The eighth-seeded Lions proceeded to open the final period with a 12-2 burst, pulling away from the No. 9 Cougars for a 76-50 victory.
“This Lower Moreland team right now would beat Lower Moreland from the first week of the season by like 20 points,” Baron said. “We are that much better now. I’ve been real happy with the growth these guys have shown me.”
John Przybylinski finished with a game-high 22 points and was one of third Lower Moreland players in double figures as the Lions posted a season-high in points for the second straight game – eclipsing the 74 they put up in besting Conwell-Egan last Thursday.
“Pushing the ball on offense,” Przybylinski said. “Our defense was good and when we got those defensive rebounds, we pushed the ball and scored and they couldn’t stop our transition offense.”
Doneker added 16 points while Brian Grant scored nine of his 12 points in the second quarter as Lower Moreland (10-13) the defending BAL tournament champ, advances to visit top-seeded The Christian Academy in the quarterfinals 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. TCA rolled past No. 16 Plumstead Christian 81-35 in the first round.
“TCA, we have never seen them, they’ve never seen us,” Baron said. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They shoot great, they’re athletic, I’m not looking forward to the bus ride but I’m looking forward to playing a new team and you never know what could happen.”
Doug Werner’s 13 points paced Calvary Christian (10-13), which topped Lower Moreland 64-53 at home Jan. 17. Gabe Conover had 11 points while Luke Potts chipped in 10 points for the Cougars, who visit Dock Mennonite in the District 1-2A semifinals Feb. 19.
Lower Moreland led 41-23 at halftime and was still up 16 at 47-31 before Conover collected four straight points – the last two off a behind-the-back pass from Jalen Adams and through a foul – to make it 47-35.
After two Grant free throws at 3:24, Potts knocked down a 3-pointer then scored off a steal, pulling the Cougars within 49-40.
A Braden Alicea bucket had the Lions up 11 before a Werner free throw cut the margin to 51-41 with 1:47 remaining in the quarter. But Tim Kroll got two on a drive, extended the Lions’ lead to a dozen while Przybylinski’s corner triple made it 56-42. Doneker’s jumper pushed the advantage to 16 at the end of the third.
“These kids are learning, they’re learning how to win, they’re learning what to do to extend leads,” Baron said. “It’s been awesome.”
After two Adams free throws had Calvary Christian within 60-44 with 6:06 left, Lower Moreland put the game away by scoring the next 10. Baskets from Joe Morozin and Doneker were followed by three straight points to make it 67-44. Doneker added the next three to put the Lions up 26.
“Our defense was a lot better than the first time we played them and that was the key,” Przybylinski said. “They scored like 60 points on us in the first game and we only hold them in the high 40s, low 50s.”
Consecutive threes from Doneker and Przybylinski had Lower Moreland up 10-2 in the first quarter. A Przybylinski free throw at 1:10 gave the Lions their first double-digit lead at 18-8 before Werner hit a triple. But a Grant free throw and Przybylinski layup off a backcourt steal had the Lions leading 21-11 after eight minutes.
A Justin Sandler triple then a Grant 3-point play had LM up 37-20 with 1:29 left in the second quarter. Doneker dropped in a runner, increasing the lead to 19 before a Potts trey made it 39-23. Przybylinski, however, drove down the lane for a layup and a 41-23 Lions lead at halftime.
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