Gwynned-Mercy coach John Baron shouted a typical instruction - "Stop the ball" - and then one slightly unusual addendum - "Everybody! EVERYBODY!"
All five Gwynedd-Mercy defenders dutifully converged on Cabrini point guard Cory Lemons, no paths to the basket or byways to jump shots left exposed.
"He is an all-American type for our level, and we respect him greatly," explained Baron, who can X and O with any coach on any level. "Our goal was to try our best to contain and find him and then worry about the other guys."
That's the deal with Cory Lemons. You must pay him extra attention, yet that's also playing into his hands.
"I want to pass the ball anyway, so I don't mind," said Lemons, who drove into the tangle of bodies in the lane and kicked the ball out to a trailing teammate for a three-pointer, for Cabrini's first points of the night. That was the only time he got quintuple-teamed, but he noticed the extra eyes on him all night. He has to be played that way. One of his first-half baskets was SportsCenter-worthy, a scoop shot in traffic that banked high off the backboard from an implausible angle.
"He has the ability to just take over a game, and he has before," said Cabrini coach Marcus Kahn. "But it's not his first thought."
The Cavaliers may be under the hoops radar around here. But after the always-in-doubt 78-73 victory over Gwynned-Mercy and an 83-70 win over Baptist Bible College on Saturday, they are 16-1 and ranked eighth nationally in Division III, led by a senior point guard from Wilmington.
Their next home game is Wednesday against Immaculata.
"Lemons is by far the best D-III kid in the area," said another D-III coach, Joe Cassidy at Rowan, speaking for coaches on both sides of the river.
Top guards can play a calm game at a high speed. Lemons does that. He doesn't throw a pass if the target isn't open, and he can square up for a jumper after maneuvering to get free. He scores 16.5 points a game, making 50 percent of his field-goal attempts, plus he averages 6.8 assists and 6.0 rebounds a game.
Looking back, Lemons wasn't sure it would even work out for him at Cabrini. He had played a year of junior-college ball at Salem Community College (N.J.), then sat out a year at Wilmington College.
"When I first got here, Coach and I didn't really see eye to eye," Lemons said. "There was no lack of respect, more like, I saw different things, he saw different things. Now we're definitely on the same page. I thought the offense was too tight. I didn't have room to operate."
Lemons sees one reason it opened up a bit over time. "He saw I could make good decisions on the fly, so he let me go," Lemons said.
"Some guys are very good at running a system, but if you can speed them up, they're not quite as good," Kahn said. "Cory has proven he can help us win a game in the 50s, and win if we're near 100."
Earning the trust of a coach is an age-old story.
"It's just been a process of learning accountability, responsibility, not just to yourself but a group of guys," Kahn said. "It takes a lot on the court, which he had, but you have to double those efforts off the court, in the classroom. Things aren't going to be OK just because you want them to. If you need help, you can't have too much pride, you have to ask for it."
Lemons passed that hurdle some time ago.
"Now, he's asking [for help] for other guys that need it," Kahn said.
His first year, Lemons said, he lived at home. "It was tough; I was commuting all the way from Delaware, 45 minutes away," Lemons said.
Nobody questioned Lemons' commitment to the team or his competitiveness. Kahn said that among the first words he heard from former assistant Rick Bell about Lemons were, "No work is too hard for him."
"Cory gets it - he really understands the game," said Cabrini assistant Bill Wiley. "He's just so prepared. He will have like a zillion questions about the scouting report. You know he's ready. He's paying attention."
You don't get ranked eighth in the country being a one-man team. Lemons had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists against Gwynned-Mercy. Six players scored at least eight points. Four Cavaliers scored in double figures Saturday, with Lemons leading them all with 27. Wiley talked about how this has been a process over the last four years, ramping up the schedule, adding more depth, literally getting bigger and stronger.
Kahn was hired four years ago by a new athletic director, Joe Giunta, who said he interviewed six strong candidates, five locals and Kahn, a California native who had coached another small-college program, University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.
"When I found I was the only non-Philly guy going for it, I thought, 'Oh, OK, maybe next time . . . somewhere else,' " Kahn said.
Wiley had coached Giunta years ago at Penn State-Delco. Wiley remembers telling Giunta, when he heard of the interest in the out-of-towner, "I don't know if this is a regional type of job; I think this is a local-type job."
But Giunta was convinced he'd found his man, and sure enough, Kahn was named Colonial States Athletic Conference coach of the year each of his first three seasons, reaching the NCAA Division III tournament the last two years.
Wiley said Kahn won him over immediately. The two hit it off and Kahn offered him an assistant's job.
"He's got his act together," Wiley said. "He came in with a program."
The last time Cabrini had it going like this, John Dzik was coach. Kahn had the good timing not to follow Dzik, who built the program from scratch into a local small-college force.
"I think the sky's the limit here," Kahn said. "It has a strong, proud tradition of basketball, is hungry for that again. I knew it could be a special place."
The surest way to become special: Get special players. Cabrini has one.
"When Cory's got the ball in his hands in the open floor, that's when we're at our best," his coach said.
Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus" columns at www.philly.com/offcampus