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Upper Dublin boys get back on track against Lower Moreland

01/18/2022, 11:45pm EST
By Zak Wolf

Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)

Seaton Kukla knows what it takes to play physically with other players and dominate the paint. He learned the hard way, while getting knocked around by Drew Stover at practice everyday last season. The big man had a first hand experience of what Stover did to every big man he faced last season and he’s using it to his advantage this season. 

“I said he was the Shaquille O’Neal of high school basketball,” Kukla said. “I had to guard him every day in practice and I couldn’t stop him. If he got the ball in the post, he was going to score no matter what.


Kulka (above, shooting) and Upper Dublin have won 10 games already this season despite the graduation of Drew Stover. (Photo courtesy Upper Dublin Athletics)

“I learned to use my body and size, and to push people around under the basket.”

It’s not always easy to replace a 1,000 point scorer, especially someone who was as dominant as Stover, now at Millersville, but Upper Dublin hasn’t missed a beat this season. Thanks to a 50-39 victory against Lower Moreland on Tuesday, the Flying Cardinals are off to a 10-3 (7-1 SOL Liberty) start on the season, despite losing their star big man from last year. 

Stover averaged 24.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game last year, including a 43-point explosion against North Penn, so it’s understandable that Kukla isn’t replicating that production. But that doesn’t mean Kukla has been a slouch this season, putting up solid numbers for the Cardinals. 

The big man followed up his 20-point performance against Upper Moreland on Friday with 17 on Tuesday against Lower Moreland (5-6, 4-3 SOL Freedom), doing so despite being under-the-weather and spending a little more time on the bench than usual. He did well to score down low and be physical against a team that didn’t have a ton of size. Kukla hit seven of his 10 shots from the field and went 3-of-4 from the line. 

“He’s doing a good job offensively,” Upper Dublin head coach Chris Monahan said. “He’s a very talented offensive player, and he’s an inside-out guy. He’s a kid who can make 3s, put it on the floor a little bit against a team like this where he does have a little bit of size, he can finish around the rim.”

When Lower Moreland switched to a zone in the second half, they did their best to try and limit touches in the paint or deep catches by Kukla. The big man had to pick his moments, 

“The zone is all about finding open spaces,” Kukla said. “Every zone has open spaces and you’ve got to find them to beat it. If you find the one and seal it, if you get the ball you're going to score.” 

Kukla did a good job of not forcing things and even when he wasn’t getting the touches he wanted, he didn’t get frustrated. Kukla was patient in his play and let the offense run and when an opportunity presented itself, he didn’t think twice. 

It wasn’t just Kukla who helped Upper Dublin get by Lower Moreland, with junior point guard Colin O’Sullivan helping out. In his second season with UD after transferring from Hatboro-Horsham, O’Sullivan has also seen an expanded role this year. 

He only scored eight points on the night, but O’Sullivan calmed things down when the Cardinals got off to a rough start and were turning the ball over. 

Lower Moreland led 18-16 after the first quarter, but O’Sullivan controlled the pace and was able to deal with the Lions doubling teams off ball screens. O’Sullivan is the quarterback for Upper Dublin, so his vision and ability to read the defense was key. 

“He’s a cool customer,” Monahan said. “He’s able to survey, look one way, wait for the defense to commit and then hit the open guy.

“There’s not a lot that he hasn’t seen and he’s been a steadying presence and he makes shots.”

Without Stover, there’s a lot more options that Upper Dublin can go to when they’re in tight games. They can go to Kukla or O’Sullivan, as well as D.J Cerisier, Griffin Pensabene or Chris Kohlbrenner who have all shown the ability to score the ball this year.

“I love Drew Stover, but last year everybody knew the ball was going to him,” Monohan said, “With this team, it’s any one guy that can get to the basket, any one guy can make 3s; we have five guys on the court who are capable of scoring.”

The ability to spread the ball around has certainly helped Upper Dublin this season, but against Lower Moreland, it was their defensive intensity that turned the game around. The Cardinals outscored the Lions 34-21 in the final three quarters, holding them to single digits in each quarter. 

Lower Moreland is a team that can get hot fast and they showed it in the first quarter, knocking down four threes. John Kroll, who led Lower Moreland with 14 points, was a key focal point of the Upper Dublin defense. The Cardinals did their best to make it tough for him and to limit wide open threes for his teammates. 

“We just try to pressure the ball, we try to keep it out of the paint and I think we did a good job with that and contesting shooters,” Monahan said.

By Quarter

Upper Dublin:       16 I 12 I 12 I 10 II 50 

Lower Moreland:  18 I  6  I  8  I  7  II 39

Scoring
Upper Dublin: Kukla 17, O’Sullivan 8, Johnson 7, Cerisier 6, G. Pensabene 5, M. Pensabene 3, Kohlbrenner 2, Mulroy 2 

Lower Moreland: Kroll 14, B. Alicea 10, Grant 7, I. Alicea 4, Pennisi 4, Krutsinger 2


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