The last time Dulaney senior Cam Byers took a shot in high school game was a three-pointer that he missed at the buzzer in the 63-61 loss to Eleanor Roosevelt in last season’s Class 4A state semifinals at College Park’s Xfinity Center.
On Thursday night, in host Dulaney’s 73-45 victory over St. Paul’s, he took another three-pointer that broke a 6-6 tie with 2:45 left in the first quarter that ignited a 12-2 run to end the quarter.
“I’ve been in the gym all summer really working on my shot, trying to turn myself into a guard to get ready for the next level and it’s a shot that I work on a lot because down at Xfinity I missed that shot, so it’s a shot I’ve worked on every day,” said Byers, who finished with a game-high 23 points and added 10 rebounds.
It was Dulaney’s first game of the season after winning its first regional title since 1977 and going 22-4 last season and coach Matt Lochte had no problem with the 6-foot-6 senior taking the long-range shot.
“We don’t want him three-point hunting on the perimeter, but absolutely, he has the green light to catch and shoot if the ball finds him in the offense,” Lochte said. “That was a great catch and shoot.”
It was Byers’ only three-pointer of the night, but he was dominant inside against a St. Paul’s team playing without 6-9 Luke Trotta (broken thumb).
“He’s working his tail off in the paint, he’s finishing around the rim, he’s getting to the free-throw line and all that stuff helps us get into our bread and butter which is the pace of play and our pressure,” said Lochte, who also got 10 rebounds from senior forward Cole McGee.
Byers became even more of a central target after St. Paul’s senior Seth Higgins picked up his third foul with 17.9 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Seth had to get pulled so we lost our guy in the middle who knows how to play that position really well and had to go to a different type of defense and coach Lochte did a great job of taking advantage of it and getting Cam the ball,” St. Paul’s coach Phil Hahn said.
Ryan Conway (15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) had five points and three assists in the first quarter.
The play sparked the Lions into the third quarter when the Lions outscored the Crusaders 24-13 with pressure defense that led to numerous inside baskets.
“I thought we did a really good job against their pressure at some points, we just couldn’t turn that into points because of their athleticism,” Hahn said.
Latrell Harper provided a lot of that athleticism with four steals to go along with six points and Jaylin Webster added nine points.
“We push up the zone to speed them up, so when we sped them up, they turned the ball over and we got tips and deflections,” Byers said. “We are a transition team, so we have to go and phase three is when we go fast and we go fast all the time.”
Conway had eight points in the third quarter and the heavily-recruited junior rested along with several other starters in the final quarter.
Dulaney, which lost two transfers from last season, Ike Cornish (Legacy Early College High, SC) and Che Evans (Neumann-Gorretti High, PA.), will play again Saturday, Dec. 7, against Havre De Grace at 4 p.m. at New Town High.