By Jeremy Balan
It took Lick-Wilmerding High School’s boys basketball team three games to figure it out, but it finally came up with the formula to beat Urban.
The Tigers locked down the paint, denied standout Urban guard Nate Cohen the ball and outrebounded the Blues 36-22 in a 69-58 win in the Bay Counties League West semifinals on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
The Lick defense sagged, neutralizing 6-foot-5 Urban forward Julian Matulich, and the Tigers (17-10) double-teamed Cohen with regularity. Cohen still had a game-high 19 points, but had to work hard getting into scoring positions.
“Our whole plan was to double-team Nate and the most important part of stopping guys is denying them the ball,” said Lick head coach Eliot Smith. “The first two times we played, he got the ball and we couldn’t stop him. Anthony Shaw did a great job of denying.”
Shaw had nine points and three key offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but had the most significant impact guarding Cohen.
“Where it shows is when Nate missed his free throws,” Smith said of Cohen’s four missed free throws in the final quarter after making his first five. “That’s when I know we got him.”
The Lick defense ultimately forced the Blues (15-10) to beat them with their jump shooters, but Urban lost its best shooter late in the second quarter. Urban junior shooting guard Matthew Monges hit 4-of-5 3-point attempts in the first half, but did not return from an ankle injury he sustained with 1:27 left in the second quarter.
“It definitely hurt us,” said Urban head coach Joe Skiffer. “If it had happened two days ago, we could have made a better adjustment, but they deserved to win.”
The Blues were up 25-24 when Monges was helped off the floor, but Lick took the lead just under a minute later on a jump shot from junior forward Benjamin Schneider and built the margin steadily in the second half. Schneider led the Tigers with 14 points and had eight of his team-high nine rebounds in the second half.
Urban sophomore guard Harrison Golding picked up some of the shooting slack with three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but the Lick lead largely stayed in double digits for most of the final frame.
“Urban has been the great story. We were just very fortunate,” Smith said. “When that kid went down, that was the game. It was an even game till he got hurt.”
The Tigers also played one of their best offensive games of the season and their point total was their second highest this season. Ten Lick players scored and four scored in double figures.
Benjamin Schneider – 14
Isaiah Boone – 13
Philip Stone Jr. – 10
Matthew Bergland – 10
Anthony Shaw – 9
Nate Cohen – 19
Harrison Golding – 19
Matthew Monges – 12
Harry Krinsky – 4
Julian Matulich – 3