Fallston Boys Basketball Earns First Round Bye

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The MPSSAA basketball playoffs kick off in full force tonight with a big slate of games for both boys and girls. While a lot of teams around the state will be competing to keep their dreams of winning a state championship alive, a few lucky teams will enjoy having earned a first round bye.

One such team is the Fallston boys basketball team. A year ago, Fallston lost its opening round game against North East 56-43, a frustrating end to a season. Fast forward to a year later and the Cougars, with their 18-4 record, have earned a first round bye, as well as home court advantage throughout sectional play.

For head coach Brian Hulka, it's been a wonderful first year at the helm of the program.

"I couldn't ask for a better group of kids to work with. I was extremely fortunate to land two great assistant coaches in Drew Gill and Jon Amoss. The success that we've had as far as wins and losses is really just the icing on the cake," Hulka said. "The entire school has really rallied around this group of kids."

It's been an easy group for the Fallston community to rally around considering how well the Cougars have been playing lately. The team has won 12 of its last 13 games, has won five straight, and come out victorious in a few high profile contests, including winning the Manchester Valley Holiday Tournament.

Among Fallston's more impressive wins includes a season sweep of Bel Air and a win against rival North Harford, but it's the group's 56-52 victory against Aberdeen that Hulka believes is the Cougars' marquee result.

"They ended up winning the Chesapeake Division and only lost three of four games all year," Hulka said. "I found out we've only beaten them a few times in school history, so that's something we can be proud of."

The team's leader this year has been guard Dylan Wolf. The senior has averaged 15 points per game, but Hulka believes he could have more if wasn't so focused on distributing the ball and getting all his teammates involved. Junior forward Ethan Sommer is also having a big season with 13 points per game who Hulka praised for his versatility on the offensive end of the floor.

Senior guard Brady McMaines and senior forward Andrew Solomon have also put in some superb performances for the Cougars. Hulka referred to McMaines for being the glue that held the team together, contributing in a lot of ways that don't show up on a stat sheet. Solomon has also been an unsung hero for Fallston, regularly battling and excelling on defense against opponents who are bigger than him.

6-foot-5 sophomore Jack Dennis has also been big on the glass for Fallston, hauling in seven rebounds a game.

It's a hardworking group that values defense, rebounding, and the three point shot, which is exactly the way Hulka and his coaches want it.

"We're not the most athletic team out there but we're smart, unselfish and won't be outfought or outhustled- it's worked so far," Hulka said.

It's also a group that thrives at home. After dropping its home opener in its own gym against Joppatowne, Fallston has rattled off eight straight wins.

Having home court advantage to start the playoffs is encouraging to Hulka, but the Cougars do enter the playoffs a little banged up- Wolf is recovering from a back injury, and one of the team's top offensive threats, Ryan Cassedy, is most likely out for the playoffs.

Despite not being 100-percent healthy, Hulka is still confident his team will be a tough opponent in the playoffs, especially playing in front of one of the top home crowds in the area.

"We are certainly looking forward to getting back on the floor and keeping the season going," Hulka said. "We're going to face a tough team in the semifinals and then it only gets tougher from there, but this group of kids is up for the challenge."
February 24th, 2017By: Wick Eisenberg

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