The memory of the way the season ended for the Dulaney boys basketball team has been etched in the minds of every player that was on the court when the Lions fell at home to Perry Hall, 64-63, last year in the Class 4A North Region semifinals.
Four of those starters on the court that night return when the Lions open the season tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Archbishop Curley at Johns Hopkins University.
Those returning starters from last year's 18-6 squad include sophomores Ryan Conway (6-feet) and Ike Cornish (6-6), junior Che Evans (6-7) and senior Cameron Amoruso (6-3).
“I’m going into my 15th season as head coach and I don’t recall returning as many as four starters,” said coach Matt Lochte, whose career record is 214-113 in the previous 14 seasons. “We’ve had a bunch of good teams.”
Lochte has shared the bench for all 14 of those campaigns with assistants Lancy Cash and Jason Carrington.
“We are going into our 15th year together and that’s pretty rare for a high school program,” Lochte said.
Conway, who scored 22 points in the loss to Perry Hall, runs the point for a talented backcourt that includes Evans and Cornish.
“Those three are definitely our core and we’ve also got some depth coming off the bench,” Lochte said.
Junior forward Cam Byers, a 6-6 transfer from John Carroll, is projected to be in the starting lineup.
“Cam Byers is a true rim protector which is something we haven’t really had in a few years,” Lochte said.
The last time a Dulaney boys team won a regional crown was in 1976 when they lost in the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
“We’ve lost in multiple regional championships and, although last year was a sectional final, it felt like a championship game,” said Lochte, who has channeled the importance of every action into the minds of his players.
“We kind of are preaching this year that everything matters. A missed free throw in the first quarter or a bad turnover in the first quarter can really come back to haunt you,” Lochte said.
Perry Hall went on to win a state championship last year.
“A lot of their guys graduated and are playing big-time college basketball, but for four of our returning starters, they remember that game like it was yesterday and that is going to be motivation,” Lochte said.
The key to achieving deep postseason success could depend on the bench.
Forward Cole McGee (6-4) and sophomore guards Latrell Harper (5-10) and Jaylin Webster (6-1) are in line to pick up valuable minutes off the bench.
The rest of the reserves include senior Tucker Morris (6-1) and juniors Ethan Anderson (6-2), Donnie Milligins (6-0) and John Schmidt (6-5).
Expect the Lions to score in bunches with an explosive offense and be able to create scoring opportunities with a pressure defense.
“As in the past, we are going to be full-court pressing team,” Lochte said. “We are going to throw a variety of presses at opponents every night and we are also going to be an up-tempo team, not only on the defensive end, but also on the offensive end, we stand a good chance of wearing the opponent out and that’s going to be our game plan most nights.”
Dulaney faces its first Baltimore County opponent on Wednesday, Dec. 12, when they host Catonsville at 5:30 p.m.
The Lions will also play Philadelphia’s Neumann Goretti (Dec. 27), and St. Georges Tech (Dec. 28), of Delaware, in a holiday tournament at the Wicomico Civic Center and they face Dunbar (Jan. 18) and Lake Clifton (Jan. 19) at Morgan State University.
“The one thing that we are looking to achieve is a few championships,” Lochte said. “Our goal is the county, the region and the state. They are lofty goals, but we believe they are realistic with this group and this nucleus back.”