Curley calls on big D to stop McDonogh, 69-53 Full-court pressure forces Eagles into 27 turnovers

Boys basketball

February 12, 1997|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Archbishop Curley coach Dan Popera said that pressure defense has been his team's bread and butter all season long.

Yesterday against 20th-ranked McDonogh, the host Friars turned that bread and butter into a feast.

Curley used the full-court press to force 27 Eagles turnovers, including 12 in the first quarter alone, on its way to a 69-53 win in a critical Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference matchup.

The victory moved the Friars (17-9 overall, 8-4 in the league) into a tie with McDonogh (14-6, 8-4) for second place in their division with one game remaining. Should the teams finish the regular season deadlocked, Curley would be awarded the second seed and home-court advantage in the upcoming B Conference Tournament by virtue of their two head-to-head wins.

"Today, the first quarter was all about defense," said Popera, whose team, despite struggling on offense itself built an early 18-8 lead. "Unfortunately, we could've extended that lead in the first quarter, but we were turning the ball over ourselves."

However, it didn't take long for the Friars to correct their problems on offense, and when they did, the rout was on.

While McDonogh was simply fighting to keep possession of the ball, Curley -- running at every opportunity -- built its lead to 14 at halftime and as much as 26 by midway through the third quarter.

"I thought they out-hustled us, they out-coached us, they out-played us and they were clearly the superior team today in every facet of the game," said McDonogh coach Jack MacMullan.

"I think when you play 20-25 games a year you play a stinker or two. I thought this was a stinker. I'm a little confused as to why we played a stinker in a game that potentially meant first place."

The Eagles entered the day a game behind division leader St. Paul's.

From the early moments of the game, it was Archbishop Curley that assumed control. Led by forward Mike Palmere, who scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second and third quarters, the Friars grabbed the early advantage and continued to expand their lead until late in the third quarter.

Using defensive pressure to create fast-break opportunities, they outscored the Eagles, 11-0, to end the first quarter. They went 13-2 in a four-minute spurt shortly before halftime, and 15-3 in the first four minutes of the third quarter to open a 50-24 lead.

Palmere frequently served as the finisher. "My teammates were getting me the ball," he said. "Anybody on this team can do that. It just happened to be me."

Center Brian Hubbard had 12 points, guard Chuck Fuller had 10 and forward Pat Geiman added seven for Curley. Freshman David Lunn paced the Eagles with 19, and center Lance Clelland added 14.

With the season winding down, the meaning of the victory wasn't lost on Curley's players.

"It's definitely important," said Palmere. "We definitely want to have home-court advantage in the playoffs. We have one conference game left, and we have to go out there and play like we did today."

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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