It took the Lick-Wilmerding High School boys’ basketball team three games to figure it out, but they 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 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,” Lick coach Eliot Smith said. “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 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,” Urban coach Joe Skiffer said.
The Blues were up 25-24 when Monges was helped off the floor, but Lick took the lead about a minute later on a jump shot from junior forward Benjamin Schneider and built the margin steadily in the second half.
“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.”