Long Reach left behind by Central 'Bigger, better' team rolls over Lightning, 90-70

Boys basketball

March 08, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

CAPITOL HEIGHTS -- Long Reach moved up from Class 1A to Class 2A this season, and knew it would be much tougher to make the state final four again.

The second-year Lightning, which lost in the state finals last season, indeed will not be going back to College Park.

Central of Prince George's County defeated the Lightning last night, 90-70, in the Class 1A South Region championship game. Central moves on to take on Edgewood in the state semifinals Thursday.

The game was decided in the first quarter, when Central scored the first 15 points, hit 11 of its first 14 shots and dominated inside and outside.

"We had a tremendous season and this is a tremendous group," Long Reach coach Al Moraz said. "I don't know why they jumped on us like that. But they were bigger, better, as quick or quicker, more physical and have a great coach. We were giving up four or five inches on every man. Everything we threw at them they handled and they killed us on the boards."

Central (21-4), a state champ in 1996, started the game with a full-court press, and Long Reach didn't handle it well, making five first-quarter turnovers.

As they have all season, however, Long Reach (17-9) rallied. Four baskets by Tally White, three by Shawn Green and two by Chris Smith in the second quarter pulled the Lightning to within five points, 36-31. Long Reach had possession with 1: 28 to go, but turned it over, and Central scored the last five points to take a 41-31 lead at halftime.

"We've been playing in spurts all season and today that wasn't good enough," said Devin Conwell, a 6-foot-1 forward who scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds -- despite missing half the second quarter in foul trouble. "Their whole team was athletic. They had no weaklings. They were just too good."

Long Reach had beaten Howard County champ Atholton, then Lackey and McDonough of Charles County to reach the region finals. Central had beaten Centennial and Surrattsville. Central, which defeated No. 4-ranked Mervo earlier this season, trailed by five points with 30 seconds left against Surrattsville.

"They didn't press as much as we thought they would," Central's leading scorer Bernard Boley (27 points, 13 rebounds) said. "This was the best game we've played all season. Our plan was to go down low, and then if they double-teamed to kick it back out. We knew we had to step out on defense because they shoot well."

Smith led Long Reach with 20 points and 10 assists. White scored 17 points. Green had 11 points.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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