Long Reach pressures Atholton into 1st loss

Raiders' turnovers ease Lightning's path, 59-42

Boys basketball

High Schools

January 11, 2003|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

The jury was out on whether Atholton would be able to handle Long Reach's defensive pressure as the two unbeaten Howard County teams went toe-to-toe at Long Reach last night.

The verdict is in. Atholton could not. Long Reach won, 59-42.

No. 11-ranked Long Reach (12-0 overall, 8-0 Howard County league) caused the No. 20-ranked Raiders (9-1, 5-1) to turn the ball over on three of their first four possessions and, before the sellout crowd of 1,000 could blink, the Lightning led 7-2.

Midway through the second quarter, it was 21-8. Jared Bradford scored nine of his game-high 17 points in that quarter, which ended with Long Reach leading 25-10.

Ordinarily, Atholton coach Jim Albert would have been happy to hold a quality team like Long Reach to 25 points in the first half.

But his team made 15 turnovers in that half, failing to handle the Lightning's pressure and scoring just four points in the second period. Atholton made 28 turnovers in all.

"We're pretty fast," said Lightning coach Al Moraz. "The press bothered them, but their coach has done a great job with them. Bradford stepped up for us and we played very well. We played a real intense first half against a good team."

Terell Blackwell and Joey Taylor outplayed Atholton's frontcourt combination of Micah Mbah and Jonas Vaitkus. Blackwell was especially effective at making his presence felt and forcing the Raiders to alter shots.

Blackwell, who fouled out with 3:38 left to play, scored seven points and had five rebounds.

"He [Blackwell] plays defense, blocks shots and rebounds and played well for us," said Moraz.

Point guard Mike Smelkinson, one of the Lightning's top scorers, was held to four points, but contributed nine assists and five steals. The Lightning had a total of 15 steals.

"We knew at halftime that our lead was 15 and that they had come back against River Hill after trailing by 15, so we knew we had to play a complete game," said Smelkinson. "We wanted to send a message."

Taylor led the team with seven rebounds while scoring eight points and making two steals and two assists.

Mbah, Atholton's leading scorer, was slowed by an ankle sprain and scored just nine points before sitting out the fourth quarter.

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