FREE­DOM BOYS BEAT PARK­LAND IN TOUR­NA­MENT

Pa­tri­ots beat Park­land 61-55, while Cru­saders top Dieruff 76-67

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Keith Groller

Both Free­dom and host Notre Dame got what they wanted from open­ing night at the Jeff Dai­ley Memo­rial Tour­na­ment.

First and fore­most, they got vic­to­ries in the 11th an­nual tipoff event that hon­ors the legacy of one of the great­est play­ers in Cru­saders' and Le­high Val­ley scholas­tic bas­ket­ball his­tory. Dai­ley died in a fire while a stu­dent at East Strouds­burg Univer­sity in Novem­ber 2007. He was 23.

Free­dom held off Park­land 61-55 and Notre Dame out­lasted Dieruff 76-67 to earn berths in Satur­day night's cham­pi­onship game.

But both the Pa­tri­ots and Cru­saders have some things to work on af­ter a typ­i­cal open­ing night that showed a lot of prom­ise in sev­eral ar­eas but also some kinks to be smoothed out.

Park­land and Dieruff also have ar­eas that need im­prove­ment and will set about do­ing that in Satur­day's 4 p.m. con­so­la­tion game.

That will be fol­lowed by a very spe­cial girls game fea­tur­ing Notre Dame and Al­len­town Cen­tral Catholic.

Vikettes coach Mike Kopp will be go­ing against his son, Josh, the Cru­saders' suc­cess­ful men­tor, for the first time. That game is set to be­gin at 6 with the boys ti­tle to fol­low at about 7:45.

Mims magic

In Free­dom's win over Park­land in the opener, ju­nior Caleb Mims put on a show with 25 points, mak­ing seven 3-point­ers. Six of the treys came in the first half, when Free­dom opened a 33-24 lead.

“We were pre­par­ing for this

“That’s the style, and it may be ugly at times, but we’ll take it.” — Joe Stel­lato, Free­dom coach

all off­sea­son,” Mims said. “We were so hyped for this game.”

Mims said he felt Free­dom, com­ing off an 8-14 sea­son and los­ing one of its best play­ers in Jevin Mu­niz in a much-pub­li­cized trans­fer to Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Academy, was un­der­rated en­ter­ing the sea­son.

“I know we have a lot of pieces and ev­ery­one knows their role,” Mims said. “We’re com­ing to sur­prise ev­ery­body.”

Free­dom had 20 steals in­clud­ing six by Ma­lik Mims, Caleb’s brother.

Mims said the de­fen­sive pres­sure and in­ten­sity will be the key all sea­son.

“De­fense wins cham­pi­onships,” he said. “We thrive off it.”

Stel­lato ec­static

Free­dom coach Joe Stel­lato said in the midst of the Mu­niz con­tro­versy that he was fo­cus­ing on the play­ers who re­mained on his ros­ter, and with good rea­son.

The Pa­tri­ots are quick, tena­cious and deep.

They forced 27 Park­land turnovers, 23 through three quar­ters.

“That’s what we have to do, that’s the way we have to play,” Stel­lato said. “That’s the style, and it may be ugly at times, but we’ll take it.”

Stel­lato said the game plan was to pres­sure Park­land’s guards and not to let the Tro­jans get into a half-court set.

Park­land was able to do that more fre­quently in the fourth quar­ter and whit­tled a 52-34 deficit af­ter three quar­ters down to 57-52 with 37 sec­onds left.

But Free­dom was able to make enough free throws to put it away.

“At one point we got away from our game plan and stopped look­ing to score and I had to call time­out and tell them to do what we do and play the way we play,” Stel­lato said. “If you see an open shot, take it. It was very im­por­tant to get off to a good start.”

Malek Mims added 19 for Free­dom, but Stel­lato also praised the play of Isiah Cedano and Reuben Soto for their work in­side against the taller Tro­jans.

“Ev­ery­body con­trib­uted,” Stel­lato said. “We used a lot of peo­ple be­cause we have guys on the bench who can play. We’re go­ing to shuf­fle goes in and out and keep ev­ery­body happy.”

Cru­saders team­work

Notre Dame is also ex­pected to be one of the top teams in the Colo­nial League, and the Cru­saders showed off the main rea­sons why in their win over Dieruff.

Pat Boyle’s squad is deep, hard­work­ing and un­selfish. Notre Dame had 27 field goals and 18 of them fea­tured as­sists.

Fresh­man Bren­dan Boyle led the way with 18 points in his var­sity de­but and added sev­eral as­sists.

He was hardly a one-man show as Filippo Baldo and Jaden Cun­ning­ham added 17 and 13 points re­spec­tively and Billy Cor­nish was a force on the boards with 16 re­bounds.

Dieruff started quickly, jump­ing to a 6-0 lead.

But Notre Dame fought back to tie it at 17 af­ter one quar­ter and then held the Huskies to seven points in the se­cond quar­ter in open­ing a 39-24 half­time lead.

Honor Huff, con­sid­ered one of the area’s best shoot­ers, was just 5-for-16 from the field through three quar­ters be­fore get­ting hot down the stretch. His four 3-point­ers in the fourth quar­ter gave him a game-high 26 points over­all and brought Dieruff back to within 69-61 in the fi­nal minute.

“We’re pleased, but there’s a lot to work on,” Pat Boyle said af­ter se­cur­ing his 399th ca­reer vic­tory. “Free­dom is very quick. We have our work cut out for us in the cham­pi­onship game.”

AMY SHORTELL/THE MORN­ING CALL

Free­dom's Caleb Mims put on a show with 25 points, mak­ing seven 3-point­ers.

AMY SHORTELL/THE MORN­ING CALL

Free­dom's Isiah Cedano drives down the court as Free­dom plays Park­land at Notre Dame-Green Pond on Fri­day night.

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