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Babylon cools off Center Moriches

Babylon's Brendan Laing goes against Tyler Reynolds inside

Babylon's Brendan Laing goes against Tyler Reynolds inside for a shot during the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B state semifinals. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

On Sunday, Babylon most certainly did not rest.

"We practiced for three hours,'' coach Chris Morra said, "and two hours of that was spent on man-to-man defense.''

That's because the Panthers, last season's Long Island Class B champions and state finalists, had to prepare for an opponent that has been on an offensive roll.

Center Moriches scored 104 points and hit 14 three-pointers Saturday in a victory over Mattituck, and scored 81 and 80 points in its two wins before that. "That's a lot of points in a 32-minute high school game, so we knew defense was the key,'' Morra said. "They can explode.''

But Babylon defused the Red Devils on Monday, taking away the perimeter shot and applying constant ball pressure. The result was a convincing 58-45 victory that broke a tie for first place in Suffolk League VII. The Panthers improved to 9-1 and Center Moriches fell to 8-2, with both losses coming against Babylon.

Babylon was led by 6-8 center Brendan Laing's 23 points, 16 in the first half, when the hosts grabbed a 31-16 lead that was never in jeopardy. Steven Schweitzer added a career-high 18 points, including four three-pointers that ruined the Red Devils' strategy of double-teaming the Panthers' big men. Ray Wardell, a 6-7 forward, contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds.

"We used our height to our advantage,'' Laing said.

Babylon also handled Center Moriches' all-court pressure defense, another talking point at Sunday's marathon practice. "I used eight guys against the five starters,'' Morra said, "so they could get used to moving without the ball in our press-break offense. Our forwards pass like guards.''

Laing called the coach's practice gimmick "a great drill. It definitely helped. They're quick and they pressure you all over the court. That drill prepared us.''

The Panthers must utilize alert passing against pressure defense because last year's star point guard, Fernando Vazquez, graduated. They don't have a traditional point guard on the roster. "Fernando was our dribbler. We don't have anyone like that,'' Laing said. "So passing is very important for us.''

So is Laing's continued improvement. "I really worked on my low-post game -- my first move to the basket -- and my ballhandling and passing,'' Laing said.

The results were obvious. "A game like this shows what all of Brendan's hard work the last two years can do,'' Morra said.

The coach repeatedly shouted out "41'' when Babylon set up its offense Monday. "That's four out and one in,'' he said. "Brendan is the one in and we fed it to him down low. He's really expanded his game around the hoop. He's coming on as one of the better big men in Suffolk.''

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