LINCOLN — Cumberland High couldn’t continue to allow two of Lincoln High’s better players to feel comfortable on the offensive end.
That much was clear to Clippers assistant coach Collin Geiselman through the first half of Monday’s Division II-North clash at The Lions’ Den. One look at the stat sheet was enough to send a strong message to his troops: stop giving Lincoln’s Alec Cronan and Luke Kelly the freedom to either shoot from the outside or drive to the rim.
Cumberland did a much better job on the Lincoln duo in the second half and was handsomely rewarded for its efforts with an important 60-47 victory. The Clippers improve to 3-5 in league play while the Lions slip to 1-6.
If Cumberland was going to rally from a double-digit deficit in the first half – it was cut to a manageable eight points at recess – the Clippers were going to have to do a better job identifying Cronan and Kelly. The two combined for 22 first-half points on three 3-pointers.
The sledding in the second half proved a little more arduous for the Lincoln pair. Cronan managed just one free throw while Kelly nailed just one field goal. Another key member for Lincoln, Tyge Joyce, was handcuffed all evening and finished with five points.
“We weren’t closing out on the shooters and I know No. 5 (Kelly) was killing us. On No. 3 (Cronan), we coming out too high and not staying in our defensive position,” explained Geiselman, who was filling in for head coach Gary Reedy. “It was also going to come down to us being more patient on offense.”
A more appropriate term might be explosive, which the Clippers were in the second half, particularly in the early stages. Cumberland netted the first six points of the half as part of a game-changing 18-4 run that pinned the home team in a 47-37 hole.
“We usually start four guards, but we went bigger in the second half,” noted Geiselman.
Having a bigger collection of teammates out there enabled Cumberland freshman Brandon Kolek to find the range. He ended up with 19 points on five 3-pointers.
Lincoln appeared to have found something after Joyce hit two free throws and Kelly (12 points) stole the ball at midcourt for an uncontested layup. That narrowed the deficit to 50-44 with 5:35 left, but that was as close as head coach Kent Crooks and his Lions would come the rest of the way.
All told, Cumberland held Lincoln to 14 second-half points while scoring 35.
“We settled for too many jump shots,” said Crooks. “Defensively, I don’t we turned in a good second half at all. We were getting beat on fundamental basketball plays that all you have to do is make sure you switch.”
Tyler Calabro fueled the Clippers’ comeback with 11 points while Ryan Cotter chipped in with 10 points. Cronan finished with 14 points to lead the Lions.
Lincoln rallied to defeat Cumberland at last month’s Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland/Lincoln Roadshow Holiday Classic. On Monday, the Clippers were able to return the favor and at the same time keep their playoff hopes alive.
“This was a team (Lincoln) that we knew we could play with. We knew we had a good shot to win here, so this was really important for us,” said Geiselman.