Shane Cohen (above) is a major reason Lower Moreland is off to a 9-2 start to the season. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Shane Cohen has never been one of the tallest kids on the basketball court.
At 5-foot-7, the Lower Moreland junior point guard has found himself looking up to players like former NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson throughout his life.
More recently, he has found videos to study of shorter high school players like 6-foot guard Jordan McCabe, a Top 100 recruit from Wisconsin known for his ankle-breaking ability.
“I know they’re going against even bigger kids than what I’m going against, so I’m trying to watch them and use their moves against these kids,” Cohen said.
In a matchup of the last two unbeatens in the Bicentennial Athletic League’s Independence division on Wednesday night, Cohen and the Lions faced off against a towering Valley Forge Military Academy squad.
The Trojans have 6-foot-10 forward Abraham Deng and 6-foot-9 forward Marius Ntwari in their frontcourt. Even Valley Forge’s 6-foot-2 point guard Arion Lewis is a few inches taller than the majority of the Lower Moreland lineup.
Lewis scored 31 points, but it was his smaller counterpart who stole the show. In a 67-62 Lower Moreland overtime win, Cohen finished with 26 points, 19 of which came after halftime.
After a 9-15 finish in 2016-17, the junior has the Lions at 10-2 overall and 7-0 in league play thus far this season. In the latest PIAA rankings, Lower Moreland is No. 6 in the 4A classification.
“My coaches, they’re giving me the confidence,” Cohen said. “They’re telling me its my team this year, even though I’m a junior. They’re telling me I have to take leadership of this team. Everything is going to have to run through me. Everything is going to have to work through me...If I’m not open, I’m getting everyone else open.”
Every time Lower Moreland needed a boost in Wednesday’s win, Cohen was there to make a play.
After Lower Moreland trailed by as many as 17 in the second quarter, Cohen told Lions’ coach Seth Baron he wanted to guard Lewis. He helped slow the talented guard down following a 13-point first quarter.
Cohen scored just seven points in the first half, but reeled off seven straight in the third quarter to give his team its first lead in the second half. With Lower Moreland trailing by two late in the fourth, Cohen cut backdoor for a layup to send the game into overtime.
In OT, he came through once again, tying the game with another backdoor cut at the 1:19 mark. After a putback by Jordan Zoubroulis gave the Lions a two-point lead in the final minute, Cohen put the game away by stealing the inbounds pass--one of his six steals--and scoring a layup.
Baron said he usually expects a big jump for players from their sophomore to junior season, and he was excited about how Cohen would elevate his game during his third year with the program. So far he has seen Cohen’s mind catch up to his physical gifts.
“Offensively, he’s so much more poised, he makes the right decision now every single time,” Baron said. “Last year, fastest kid on the court, but last year he didn’t think maybe sometimes as fast as he moved. This year, they’ve caught up. He makes all the right decision. He’s our defensive leader. He’s our offensive leader. It’s a pleasure to have him.”
A groin injury 10 games into last season forced Cohen to sit out most of his sophomore year. He said he averaged about 10 points per game when he was healthy.
Cohen’s 26-point outing in Wednesday’s win was only his fourth highest scoring effort of the season. He has two games with 27 and a 28-point effort already under his belt.
Junior guard Bryce Horn has played with Cohen since elementary school. He and Cohen also played together for East Coast Power during the spring. Even Horn has been taken back by what Cohen has accomplished so far this season.
”He has the most potential in the world out of anyone I know, but I didn’t really expect something out of him like this,” Horn said. “It’s been ridiculous. Game-after-game, it’s not one game and then he takes off. It’s 100 percent at all times.”
Cohen, Horn, Zoubroulis and fellow juniors Jake Himmelstein, Andrew Finnegan and Forrest Keys have played together since about second grade.
The chemistry is evident during games as the Lions whip the ball around the court and find each other cutting through the lane.
Horn said the group used to go watch Lower Moreland games together before they got to high school and talked about one day playing together when they were in middle school.
Led by their speedy point guard the group has the Lions atop the BAL's Independent division 12 games into the season.
“I know with my guys, we’ve been playing together forever,” Cohen said. “I know we can compete with anyone.”