Friars' press douses fire in Dragons Curley strategy results in 22-point win, 70-48, in MIAA C tournament

February 21, 1996|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

From the sound of the final buzzer ending Archbishop Curley's 30-point win over Glenelg Country School back in January, Friars coach Dan Popera knew what his strategy would be if the teams happened to meet again.

"We knew we wanted to press," said Popera, recalling his team's ability to force turnovers in the last meeting.

Last night, in the opening round of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference Tournament, the longtime coach indeed got a chance to put his plan into motion. And the result was just as he had imagined.

Host Curley forced 26 turnovers, using presses and traps to overpower the Dragons' inexperienced backcourt en route to a 70-48 victory.

"Last time we were successful with the full-court press," said Popera. "We did a few more traps near mid-court today, and it worked out pretty well."

Curley (10-13), the tournament's second seed, advances to today's semifinal round, where it will play host to third-seeded Friends, a 60-40 winner over Lutheran yesterday, at 6 p.m.

If the Friars play anything like they did yesterday, the Saints could be in for a long day.

Time and again, Curley used swarming traps to force turnovers in the back court, then converted the steals into easy layups at the offensive end.

"We knew from playing them last time that their guards had some trouble holding onto the ball," said Friars guard Ron Riccitelli, who scored a team-high 14 points. "We put the pressure on them on defense, made some steals and got some easy baskets."

Trailing 9-7 midway through the first quarter, Glenelg Country (9-14) was outscored 22-9 the rest of the half, and the rout was on.

Especially impressive was the Friars' defense on 6-foot-6 center Bernie Dennison.

Entering the game averaging 27.1 points and 19.2 rebounds -- both second in the metro area -- the Dragons' Dennison was left with only perimeter jump shots in the first half and was held to six points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Though he exploded for 14 second-half points, also finishing with 13 rebounds, Curley's lead already was well in hand.

Dragons' first-year coach John Aquila said his team's execution lTC was basically good, but its inability to hit some early layups hurt.

"What we wanted to do was spread the floor, put Bernie or Pat [Dennison] in the middle and distribute for the easy shot," said Aquila.

"We did a good job of that early, and if we would have made a few of our layups it would have taken some of the pressure off our kids and made things easier."

But the Dragons kept missing, shooting 30 percent in the first half as the Friars built their lead to as many as 17 points.

Curley, meanwhile, was having a much easier time of it, taking mostly layups and shooting 52 percent for the game.

Brian Montoya chipped in with 11 points for the Friars, with teammate Mike Palmere adding 10 and Brian Hubbard and Chuck Fuller contributing eight each.

"I thought we moved the ball well," said Popera, whose team committed just 12 turnovers.

"They've got the big man in the middle, so you know you won't get a lot of shots inside. But I thought our ball movement got us some good looks at the basket."

Curley extended its lead to 50-33 by the end of the third quarter and led by as many as 24 down the stretch.

Eric Greenberg (eight points) and Jason Casely-Hayford (six) also helped out on offense for the Dragons.

* Park 82, Mount Carmel 46: Paul O'Callaghan scored 23 points to pace Park (18-2) past Mount Carmel (6-14) for its 17th straight victory. The Bruins also received 11 points each from Keith Ganzenmuller and Justin Goldstein.

* Friends 60, Lutheran 40: Paul Masson led all scorers with 21 points to lead the Quakers (11-10) past the Saints (6-10) in another quarterfinal game. Friends held Lutheran to just one point in the opening quarter and led 44-30 after three.

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