That sizable chip Lower Moreland carries on its shoulder when it comes to playing Bicentennial Athletic League rival Holy Ghost Prep is understandable.
Last season, Holy Ghost won all four meetings, including a 65-47 romp in the PIAA District 1 Class AAA final at Villanova.
"They really wiped us off the floor in that one," Lower Moreland sophomore guard Nick Smolda said. "It's something we don't forget. And we use it as motivation."
Clearly. With Smolda producing 15 points off the bench Friday night in an Independence League showdown, the Lions completed a regular-season sweep of the Firebirds with a 69-55 triumph in Huntingdon Valley.
"This has always been a big rivalry," junior point guard Dan Duffey said. "We try not to get too hyped about playing Holy Ghost, but that's pretty hard to do. They have a strong tradition of winning."
The hosts didn't show any nervousness in the first half, connecting on 13 of 22 field-goal attempts (3 for 6 from beyond the arc) while taking an eight-point advantage into halftime.
In claiming its 15th straight victory, Lower Moreland, guided by fourth-year coach Seth Baron, improved to 16-1 overall and 10-0 in Bicentennial action.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Smolda netted 11 of his 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers, in the second half. He added five rebounds (three on offense) and two assists.
"He comes out with such great energy," Duffey said. "Down the stretch, he really came through for us."
In the third quarter, after the Firebirds trimmed the gap to 38-36, Smolda and junior guard Tyler Millan provided breathing room with back-to-back threes. A 7-0 run at the start of the fourth made it 55-42.
Millan drilled five treys (three in the first half) en route to 18 points and posted three assists. Duffey, a soccer player and erstwhile golfer, delivered 12 points, five boards, four assists, four steals, and a block.
The Firebirds (11-9, 10-3) played without 6-5 senior center Andre Puleo, who has an ankle injury.
"We planned all week for him," Duffey said. "He definitely would have made a difference for them. He's a big body inside."
Joe Braun, a 6-4 junior, paced the visitors with a career-high 26 points and 11 boards. Tim Brennan contributed eight points, four assists, and four boards.
The white-hot Lions were also aided by Phil Madden (five boards, two assists, two blocks), Matt Cerruti (seven points, five assists, two steals), and Jake Fazio (three assists).
Holy Ghost Prep 9 16 17 13 - 55
Lower Moreland 12 21 15 21 - 69
HGP: Liam Brennan 4, Joe Braun 26, Tim Brennan 8, Mike Kirby 6, Ted Kawoczka 4, Connor Rankin 2, Julian Turner 5.
LM: Danny Duffey 12, Phil Madden 4, Tyler Milan 18, Dicky Rhodes 8, Jake Fazio 1, Matt Cerruti 7, Mike Gould 4, Nick Smolda 15.