Upper Moreland presses the issue to get past Springfield-Montco

SPRINGFIELD >> Upper Moreland had a pressing issue at halftime of Friday’s game at Springfield-Montco.

That issue was the pace of the game, which had been played at just the slow and methodical pace the host Spartans wanted and had them up by a point at the break. However, Golden Bears coach Dan Heiland had a pocket ace that if executed, could turn things around.

Thanks to their pressing defense, the Bears sped the game up and ran away with a 63-45 win over the Spartans.

“We put in a new press yesterday and it really helped us pull away,” UM guard Jourdan Gregg said. “That’s really all it was, Coach got on us a little bit, told us to start playing Upper Moreland basketball so we just turned up the pressure.”

Springfield Twp. didn’t want to get into a run-and-gun game with Upper Moreland, so came out determined to slow the game down on both ends. Defensively, the Spartans (0-7, 0-6 SOL Freedom) played in a 2-3 zone that limited the Bears’ ability to get into the lane and on offense, they weren’t in any rush to hoist shots.

The hosts got off to a great start thanks to Austin Maggioncalda, the lone senior in the starting lineup. Clearly trying to close the gym early by shooting the lights out, Maggioncalda went 4-of-4 from 3-point range in the opening quarter, sticking one with a hand right in his face.

While the outcome got away from them, Spartans first-year coach Rob Fusaro hasn’t doubted his team’s effort this season.

“These guys, I can say that they compete every game,” Fusaro said. “This game got away a little bit, but they don’t roll over and they’re going to fight. We have one senior who’s playing, so I’m excited for the future we’re building.”

Weathering a 9-2 Bears run midway through the second quarter, Springfield Twp.  scored the last four points of the half for a 25-24 lead at the break. Upper Moreland had hit five 3-points in the opening 16 minutes, but wasn’t playing to its strengths.

With a toolbox of quick, athletic guards, Heiland figured the best approach was to force the speed of the game to increase. Conveniently, the Bears had just spent part of Thursday’s practice working on the right fix.

“I was watching basketball like I do every night, saw a team run it and thought we had the group of guys to run it so we put it in yesterday,” Heiland, also in his first year as head coach, said. “We only went over it for about 10 minutes but our guys executed it perfectly in the second half.”

Gregg was a key catalyst in the Bears (4-2, 4-1 SOL Freedom) blitz in the second half, poking away five steals and flying around the floor as UM swarmed and trapped Springfield Twp.’s ball-handlers. The senior also played a part in slowing Maggioncalda down, staying glued to the Springfield Twp. sharpshooter after his hot start and holding the Spartans guard to a scoreless second quarter

Guards Byron Hopkins, Jahaire Johnson and McKie Walker helped Gregg get the press rolling while Matt Tiernan covered the back end well, picking off a couple passes in the third and taking one all the way for an and-one that gave UM a 36-26 lead. McKie, a reserve guard, scored all eight of his points in the second half and had two of his three steals after halftime.

“Coach told us we had to step it because we had played slow in the first half,” Walker said. “We just worked on it in practice and it came out really well, we got a lot of stops and steals so it gave us a spark in the third quarter.”

It seemed like wherever the Spartans threw the ball, a pair of Golden Bears defenders were right there to swarm the pass recipient and the hosts just couldn’t get the game slowed down again. After committing just five total turnovers in the first half, the Spartans gave it up nine times in the third and five more in the fourth as UM stretched out the lead.

“We wanted to force turnovers with pressure and not by gambling for steals,” Walker said. “We basically got them to put the ball in our hands.”

Playing a high-pressure system can sometimes backfire if the team pressing starts getting called for fouls. Heiland noted that was definitely a risk, but felt like if his guys stayed with it the entire third quarter, they’d be able show it wasn’t just a gimmick to get a few quick points.

Gregg believes his team’s athleticism presents problems defensively and the guards in particular were eager to make up for a subpar first half.

“We have to see it as the game goes on, some nights they may let you get away with more things,” Gregg said. “We want to be physical, we want to pressure and we like to play fast so as long as we’re not in foul trouble, we look to play that way.”

Maggioncalda finished strong, scoring seven in the final frame for a game-high 19 points while Andrew Kennedy battled his way to nine points and five boards for the Spartans.

“We have the effort,” Fusaro said. “We have to learn to relax when we get pressured and continue to do what we know we can do.”

The Bears may not have played up to speed in Friday’s first half but thanks to a halftime reminder, they left a much better impression in the second half.

“We talk about playing with pride and representing what’s on our chest in our play,” Gregg said. “We try to play that brand of Upper Moreland basketball every time we step on the floor.”

UPPER MORELAND 12 11 15 25 – 63
SPRINGFIELD 14 10 4 17 – 45
Upper Moreland: Byron Hopkins 3 0-0 7, Jahaire Johnson 5 1-1 14, Jourdan Gregg 4 2-2 11, Jake Tiernan 1 3-3 5, Matt Tiernan 3 1-1 7, McKie Walker 3 2-2 8, Justin Sanders 2 0-0 5, Jeremy Harmer 1 0-2 2, Ryan Schernecke 1 2-2 4. Totals: 23 11-13 63.
Springfield: Dylan McKenzie 0 7-8 7, Andrew Kennedy 3 3-5 9, Kyle Smythe 1 0-2 3, Austin Maggioncalda 7 0-0 19, Ben Cooney 2 1-3 5, Brett Smith 1 0-0 2. Totals:15 11-18 45.
3-pointers: UM – Johnson 3, Gregg, Hopkins, Sanders; ST – Maggioncalda 5, Smythe.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply