Wednesday’s second half surge powers Longwood to road win

Published 2:07 am Thursday, November 16, 2023

Defense turns to offense. It’s a tale as old as time, at least for Longwood men’s basketball under Griff Aldrich.

The Lancers (2-1) locked down Maryland Eastern Shore (1-2) after halftime to earn an 80-61 road win thanks to a suffocating halfcourt defense.

“It’s great to get a win on the road at a Division I program,” said Aldrich. “Maryland Eastern Shore is coming off of a great year last year. They have a lot of new players, but I was really impressed and thought they competed hard and played hard from start to finish. I give them a lot of credit. I thought our guys were resilient and came back and took care of business in the second half in order to get the win.”

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A mix of hustle and grit powered the decisive run right out of the second-half gate as the Lancers swarmed the Hawks. Longwood only surrendered four made shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half to turn a four-point lead into a 20-point advantage. Longwood also didn’t allow UMES to make a three after halftime.

The stops unlocked an offense that was gummed up at times in the first half. However, Longwood ripped off 44 points in the final 20 minutes, and four players finished in double figures.

‘You have to play with energy’

“In order to play good defense, you have to play with energy, you have to be connected, and then it just spills over onto the offensive end,” Aldrich said. “Conversely, comparing it to the first half, we did not play with urgency and effort, and we were not connected, and that spilled over to the other end. From that standpoint, it was good to see them respond well.”

Szymon Zapala had a game high 15 points, and he and Michael Christmas—who finished with 11—controlled the paint. While Zapala had seven points in the second half, he and Christmas kept Longwood afloat in the first half thanks to their bruising interior presence. Christmas had nine of his 11 before the break, and Zapala added eight as the Lancers nursed a 36-32 lead at the break.

“Our post players, Mike and Szymon, kind of carried us,” Aldrich said about the first half. “There was no semblance of our offense. We weren’t connected at all. We were taking hard shots.”

That was enough to give Longwood a four-point advantage at the half before Walyn Napper and Jesper Granlund, two seniors, could get unlocked after halftime on offense.

“We challenged them at halftime that they needed to increase their mental focus,” Aldrich said. “I thought they did a really good job with that. It starts with Walyn Napper. I thought Walyn was really crisp. He got to the paint a ton. He was finding people for open looks constantly. He had double figures, but a lot of that started with what happened on the defensive end.”

Crunching numbers for Longwood

Napper finished with 12 points, and Granlund chipped in 12 points in the second half as well.

Now, the Lancers head back home to open up a five game homestand as they host North Carolina Central on Saturday, November 18. Tip is set for 3 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN+ and on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country. Tickets are available at