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Simon scores 1,000th point, La Salle rolls past Lansdale Catholic in PCL opener

La Salle’s Zach Crisler goes for a layup near Lansdale Catholic's Luke Godzieba during their game Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

SPRINGFIELD >> When you join a group that includes a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, as La Salle’s Sean Simon did Tuesday, it’s a pretty good night.

Simon became just seventh player in Explorer history to reach 1,000 points in La Salle’s Philadelphia Catholic League opener with visiting Lansdale Catholic. The senior eclipsed the mark with a 3-pointer in the second quarter, one of the five he drained in the contest to finish with a 22 points as the Explorers rolled to a 78-49 victory.

“It’s a great honor, a lot great of great ballplayers have hit a 1,000. I just think it’s a great milestone to hit for me, shows how much of a scorer I can be,” Simon said. “It just means a lot to me cause not a lot of people can do that.”

Zach Crisler collected 12 of his 15 points in the first half while Allen Powell added 10 points for La Salle (8-2, 1-0 PCL) which led 20-9 after the opening quarter and never let the margin dip below double digits from there as the Explorers won their second straight and seventh in their past eight games.

“We just had a more athletic team than them. We just pressed them, got them going, got them sped up,” Simon said. “They just couldn’t handle the pressure tonight.”

Simon — who transferred to La Salle from SCH Academy after his sophomore season — is the first Explorer to reach 1,000 career points since Amar Stukes in 2013. The first to join the club was Hall of Famer Tom Gola, who graduated in 1951 with a still school-record 1,392 points.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s an unselfish kid. Takes good shots, cares about his teammates, the guys like him and respect him,” said La Salle coach Joe Dempsey of Simon. “He’s a quality student, quality kid. Great teammate and couldn’t happen for a nicer kid.”

Lansdale Catholic’s Jack Kusters knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 22 points — 14 in the first half — to pace the Crusaders (5-4, 0-1), who struggled with the Explorers’ aggressive full-court trap.

“That was the key, we did not handle their pressure well,” LC coach Joe Corbett said. “We expected and we went over it but we had guys leaving our guards out to dry in the backcourt. We never had guys flashing when we needed to.  Just seemed like we were a step slow getting to the middle and trying to get that ball reversed — pressure was the big difference in the beginning of the game.”

La Salle’s Isaiah Snead drives to the basket during the Explorers’ game against Lansdale Catholic on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The contest was tied just once — 4-4 in the first quarter — before a Crisler three-point play at 4:26 began a 13-2 Explorers run. Simon connected on a 3-pointer then drove to the hoop after his half-court steal to put La Salle up 10 while an Isaiah Snead free throw made it 17-6 at 1:45.

LC cut the lead to 17-9 with a Nick Scheetz putback and a Luke Godzieba foul shot before Powell’s three in the final seconds of the quarter pushed the margin back up to 11.

“They’re a tough team to play, they play with a lot of pride, they’re well-coached, they’re tough kids,” said Dempsey of LC. “But I wasn’t happy. We were a little nonchalant at times. The kids haven’t been back to school, so. But all and all, we did enough to win.”

A Kusters three had the Crusaders within 24-14 but La Salle responded with a 10-2 run capped by back-to-back triples from Simon — the first from the wing to reach 1,000 points then the second after the Explorers forced a turnover in the backcourt — to make it 34-16.

“When I’m just playing, I’m just out there trying to score. Just doing whatever I can to get the W,” said Simon, who came into the night a dozen points shy of 1,000. “Just happened that I got into a groove, started hitting some shot and I ended up getting it.”

LC chipped the deficit down to 14 three times but La Salle went up 18 at 43-25 before going into halftime leading 45-18 after two Jack Rothenberg free throws at 31.9 seconds.

“They shot the ball well and we couldn’t string enough stops in a row to kind of cut that margin under 15 or 14,” Corbett said. “Jack hit a couple threes, started to chip away, but we just have a long way to go defensively for us to be able to get back into a game like that. We had to string together three or four stops in a row. We just couldn’t do that with them.”

In the third, a Kusters 3-pointer had LC back within 14 at 50-36 before a Crisler basket inside and four straight points from Powell put the Explorers ahead by 20.

A Marvin Harrison, Jr. bucket off a drive made it 61-40 at the end of the quarter. La Salle’s biggest lead was 29 at the final score.

Lansdale Catholic’s Tim Cunane looks to pass during the Crusaders’ game against La Salle on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Explorers visit Bonner & Prendergast 7 p.m. Friday. The Friars bounced back from a double-overtime loss to Plymouth Whitemarsh by cruising past Conwell-Egan 80-54 Tuesday.

“Our challenge will be how tough I can make these guys,” Dempsey said. “We don’t lack anything. We have height, we have guards, we have shooters, we have guys who can handle. We have some long guys and we can play zone, man, fast, slow. So, it’s going to be how tough I can make these guys and how ready I can get them for these battles we’re going to go through.”

Lansdale Catholic, meanwhile, hosts unbeaten Bishop McDevitt 7 p.m. Friday.

“We have a lot of unanswered questions,” Corbett said. “We have to get better defensively. We don’t have a lot of time, playing a very good team on Friday, so we have to figure some stuff out.

“You know, one thing about these guys is win or lose, we come in the next day ready to get better and that’s what we stressed in the locker room – this game is over with, we have to get ready for McDevitt on Friday.

Dempsey earns 200th victory

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, La Salle honored Dempsey for his 200th career coaching victory, which came last Friday night when Explorers defeated Benedictine Prep of Richmond, Virginia 72-54 in the third-place game of the Benedictine Capital City Classic.

After the victory over Lansdale Catholic, Dempsey’s record at La Salle stands at 201-141.

“It means I’m at a great school and had great assistant coaches, really good players,” said Dempsey, now in his 14th season at La Salle. “I’ve been fortunate the school’s allowed me to coach for such a long period of time. You know, someday I’ll look back and say ‘What an accomplishment,’ but I’m very proud of where I’ve been able to take the program with a lot of help from a lot of people.

“We started out a long time ago 4-21 and I wasn’t sure I was going to the bathroom the right way. We’ve been able to win some games since then.”



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