Lally strengthens Hammond's hand as a 'trump card' Boys basketball: Point guard does good things that don't appear on the score sheet, says his teammates, coaches. Look where the Bears are, in first.

January 16, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

His coaches call him "the glue that keeps it together."

So far, point guard Pat Lally has kept Hammond together well. The Bears are tied with Atholton for first place with a 6-1 Howard County League record and are 8-3 overall.

Lally sparked Hammond to its biggest win Wednesday, a 75-58 victory over pre-season favorite Long Reach. Lally played one of his best all-around games, scoring 13 points, making three steals and three assists.

He also helped to defend Long Reach's lightning in a bottle, the irrepressibly quick Chris Smith, and drew the fifth foul that forced Smith from the game with 4: 23 left to play.

Lally grew up playing on the same Columbia Basketball Association team as Smith and then with him on the Columbia Running Rebels travel team, so he knows his moves.

He lacks Smith's rare quickness, and that's why the 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior will end up at a Division III school such as Marymount or Greensboro or perhaps Division II Catawba, while Smith will likely be at a Division I school such as Lafayette or Pennsylvania.

But no one is a better student of the game than Lally, who began his high school career at Catholic power Mount St. Joseph. Lally switched to Hammond his sophomore year, because he realized that his only chance to start on varsity would be at point guard, and that his good friend B.J. Romonowski, St. Joe's current point guard, would be tough to beat out.

"B.J. played on my travel team and is a great point guard," Lally said.

That kind of ability to make tough choices makes Lally a special player. Knowing the competition is tough drives him to work a little harder and to study opposing teams and players to learn their strengths and weaknesses.

"He's like a third coach for us," said Bears coach Mark Murray. "He watches all the teams and players and comes to us and tells us stuff."

He also knows the strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities of his own players well enough to make them look good.

"He makes you better or worse by his being on or off the floor," Murray said.

Lally's coaches told him after last season that he needed to work on his outside shooting, so that's what Lally did. Now he's averaging about nine points a game.

"I was reluctant to shoot last season, so they double-downed on our big guys," Lally said.

He sank two three-pointers in the first half against Long Reach to loosen up the inside defense.

"He listens to what you tell him, and then he changes," Murray said. "Basketball is his passion. He's one of those players who is always thinking and does the kind of things that don't show up in the box score."

Hammond assistant coach Dan Schaub calls Lally a Bobby Hurley-type player.

"He's deadly at the foul line at the end of games, and it's refreshing to know we have that trump card in those situations," Schaub said. "We wish he were a sophomore, because players like him are few and far between."

Lally shot 83 percent at the foul line last season and is "struggling" at 73 percent this winter. He averages six assists and only 1 1/2 turnovers a game.

"I try to play smart, make good decisions and pass well," Lally said. "I'm not slow, but a lot of guards are quicker. So I try to use picks a lot."

Lally deflects credit for Hammond's success to his teammates and coaches: "We all work together and hustle. We have balanced scoring. There are no superstars. Coach Murray deserves a lot of credit because he definitely gets the most out of his players and is a good game coach who makes adjustments. He and Coach Schaub work well together. Coach Schaub calms us down and is a very funny guy who can lighten our mood."

That mood needed no lightening after Wednesday's Long Reach win, but Lally knows there's still a long season ahead for the Bears, who hope to be a force in the Class 1A state playoffs.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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