Long Reach hopes for defensive game Young Lightning takes on taller, older Crisfield

Boys basketball

March 14, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Long Reach coach Al Moraz expects a defensive "war" when his first-year Lightning tangles with the Crisfield Crabbers in the Class 1A state semifinals at College Park at 3 p.m. today.

Crisfield (23-3) allowed just 50 points a game this season.

Long Reach (10-13), a much younger team that has hit its stride, allowed just 48 points during its three playoff victories.

"Our strength is our good, tough, man-to-man defense," Moraz said. "And our press creates our offense. What we do well is full-court press."

Leading that defense for Long Reach, which has no seniors, is 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore Turon Kosh.

"He's our best defensive player and guards the other team's top offensive player," Moraz said. "In all my years of coaching, I've never had anyone play harder than him."

Kosh will guard Crisfield's Andy Collins, a 5-foot-7 senior who averages 15.3 points and is the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,200 points.

Talley White, a 6-0, 190-pound Lightning freshman, usually guards the other team's biggest player. Today, that will be 6-foot-7 Crabbers senior center John Nelson.

"Talley is a physical banger on the boards," Moraz said. White, who cut his right middle finger in a kitchen accident just before last Friday's region final, will be ready to play today. He averages nine points and nine rebounds.

Another good defensive player, 6-3 sophomore Aaron Henry, is a shot blocker who likely will come off the bench today, although he started the region final because of White's injury.

"Aaron had never played organized ball before, and I was just amazed at the things he did against Brunswick in the region final," Moraz said. "He's the only one on our team that can dunk."

Junior Shawn Green, a shooting guard, has improved defensively and is a three-point scoring threat.

Point guard Chris Smith is Long Reach's catalyst and also an excellent shooter who scored 29 points in the regular season finale against River Hill and 21 against county champion Centennial. When Smith was out with a foot injury, Long Reach lost five of the six games he missed.

Smith, the team's top scorer with a 15-point average, is the only one of Long Reach's 13 players to have played in a varsity game before this season. He and 6-1 freshman Devin Conwell are the team's best all-around players. Conwell averages 10 rebounds and 14.5 points.

"Devin is a tremendous offensive rebounder -- one of the best I've ever coached," Moraz said. "He can score from anywhere, always knows the situation and can shoot with either hand. He uses his body exceptionally well, and is well-polished for a freshman."

Moraz expects Crisfield to be much quicker than Brunswick, so he is worried about his team getting into foul trouble. "We're not deep," Moraz said.

And unlike Brunswick, which shot 6-for-17 at the foul line, Crisfield could thrive off Long Reach fouls, because four of the Crabbers five starters shoot 74 percent or better at the line.

Crisfield coach Phil Rayfield, who will start three seniors and two juniors, is not taking the underdog Lightning for granted. "Records don't mean anything now," he said. "We're all level. We know they are small but quick, and have good guards and don't give up many points."

Crisfield's last trip to the state playoffs in 1982 resulted in a state title. The Crabbers were knocked out of the region playoffs last season by Colonel Richardson in triple overtime, 116-115. Crisfield has won seven state titles.

"Our bench is our strong point," Rayfield said. "We can go nine deep."

Moraz expects four or five buses of fans to travel to College Park to support the fledgling Long Reach team. "We're going to enjoy it, because you never know if this team will get this opportunity again,' Moraz said.

Long Reach moves up to Class 2A next season.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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