WHITEMARSH >> When Allen Powell subbed into La Salle’s spring league basketball game against Lower Merion on Tuesday, he went right on the attack.
The problem for Powell and his Explorer teammates was that instead of trying to build a lead, they were trying to dig out of a double-digit deficit against the Aces. La Salle poured a lot of energy in on a hot night at Colonial Elementary School but couldn’t get over the hump and dropped a 51-44 decision in Plymouth Whitemarsh’s spring league.
La Salle won the final three quarters but it was the slow start and 16-5 Aces lead after the first frame, that did the Explorers in.
“We had to come back the whole time and fighting back against a good team, it’s hard to do,” Powell said. “The start was bad, we went 11 points and it was hard to come back when shots weren’t falling on our end.”
The Explorers lost two starters off this winter’s team in Jarrod Stukes and Matt Paulus. Powell is expected to step into Stukes’ point guard role and he’s using the games in PW’s league to start building chemistry with his teammates.
On paper, La Salle has a well-balanced team coming back with young but skilled big men in Zach Crisler and Konrad Kiszka plus senior sharpshooter Sean Simon and a handful of versatile guards like Isaiah Snead and Matt McMahon. Simon, who transferred to La Salle from Springside Chestnut Hill at the end of last school year, echoed Powell in saying the league is helping get everyone on the same page.
“We’re starting to get team chemistry,” Simon said. “We have a new point guard in Allen, so we’re working him into that role. He can get by his guy most times and that leads to easy baskets or kick-outs because people have to help on him.”
Once the first quarter ended, La Salle played much better on both ends of the floor, with Powell and Snead leading the way with their aggressive takes to the rim. Snead, Simon and Crisler each scored nine points while Powell had eight and McMahon and Simon each pulled down eight rebounds.
Simon noted the team is keeping things relatively simple in terms of what defenses its running and the kind of offensive sets it has in for this league. It’s more to get the bench players from last season more minutes and start developing next season’s team.
“I liked to see that kind of fight in our team,” Powell said. “This helps me to get to know my teammates better. As the starter, you have to step up to the plate and be more of a leader and give it all you’ve got.”
A multi-year starter at point guard, Stukes was known as a tenacious defender and wanted the challenge of guarding the Catholic League’s best players. It’s something that Powell knows he has to do as well and it’s a chief priority of his this summer.
“I’ve been in the gym working on defensive slides and trying to get better all around on defense,” Powell said. “I want to go to practices and games and guard the best player.”
Powell also said he’s getting more comfortable being vocal and commanding his teammates on the floor. One of the biggest things a point guard has to learn is the best way to get a message to each individual teammate and for Powell, this spring league is helping that process.
La Salle would get within two possessions a couple of times in the final three quarters, but every time the Aces came up with an answer. Forward Joshua Martin started off hot with six points in the first quarter, and continued to be a problem in the paint all game, finishing with 16 points.
Steve Payne had 13 points and seven rebounds for Lower Merion and guard Theo Henry scored 10 points to help pace the Aces.
Even with two state champions in Archbishop Wood and Neumann-Goretti, plus teams like Archbishop Carroll, St. Joe’s Prep and Roman Catholic that almost always contend in the PCL, the Explorers feel like they have the foundation for a team that can be right in the mix next winter.
“I wouldn’t be here and playing if I didn’t think so,” Simon said. “I think it will be an open year and everybody will have a good chance.”
Top Photo: La Salle’s Allen Powell drives past two Lower Merion defenders during their Plymouth Whitemarsh Spring Basketball League game on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)