Long Reach's long shooting in 3A East semis falls short

Gwynn Park's presence inside too much, 60-51

Boys basketball

March 01, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BRANDYWINE - The No. 18 Long Reach boys basketball team did nearly everything necessary to upset Gwynn Park in last night's Class 3A East regional semifinal. Namely, the Lightning slowed the tempo to a half-court game and hit eight three-pointers.

But in the end, a valiant effort fell just short.

Sophomore guard Mike Smelkinson scored a game-high 20 points, including five three-pointers, and junior Jared Bradford added 11, but Long Reach lost to the host Yellow Jackets, 60-51.

Gwynn Park (22-2), ranked sixth by The Washington Post, will next face undefeated Annapolis tomorrow at Annapolis for the East regional title. The second-ranked Panthers (25-0) defeated Friendly of Prince George's County, 54-50, in last night's other semifinal.

Four players scored in double figures for Gwynn Park, led by senior Darrick Sesker with 15 points. Junior center Tariq Bond added 14 points and 10 rebounds, senior guard Louis Hinnant had 12 points, and junior guard Edwin Davis scored 11. For Long Reach (17-7) to have a chance, it needed to somehow offset a decisive Gwynn Park size advantage. The Yellow Jackets dominated inside, out-rebounding the Lightning 36-22.

Long Reach, however, had the advantage on the perimeter. The Lightning converted eight of 22 three-pointers, but shot just 8-for-27 from inside the arc. Meanwhile, in the first half the Lightning zone defense forced Gwynn Park into several outside shots, and the Yellow Jackets hit just 2-for-10 behind the three-point arc.

With Long Reach ahead 25-24 at halftime, Gwynn Park changed its game plan and began to push the ball inside. After shooting 10-for-29 in the first half, the Yellow Jackets were 15-for-24 in the second half. Of the 15 baskets, nine were layups and three were dunks.

"It was a big disadvantage," said Long Reach coach Al Moraz, referring to Gwynn Park's height. "Every guy they had could jump up over our guys. There was a three-, four-, five-inch disadvantage to every man."

Gwynn Park went on an 8-0 run over the opening four minutes to take a 32-25 lead. Long Reach immediately responded with a 7-0 run to tie the score at 32-32 with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter.

At that point, Hinnant took over. His two assists on Gwynn Park's final three baskets of the third quarter and six straight points to open the fourth to complete a 12-2 run gave the Yellow Jackets their biggest lead, 44-34. Long Reach closed to within 48-43 on Smelkinson's fifth three-pointer with 3:20 remaining but could come no closer.

"We fell apart. We didn't keep doing what we wanted to do and let them run," Smelkinson said. "But we kept fighting. We weren't going to go away."

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