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Senior moments help La Salle hold off Archbishop Wood

La Salle's Zach Crisler looks to shoot near Archbishop Wood's Daeshon Shepherd during their game on Friday,, Feb. 8, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

SPRINGFIELD >> Allen Powell was on a mission.

The La Salle senior guard eluded one defender and split a double-team all before crossing midcourt. Once he got over the timeline, Powell split a second double team, suckered a defender into taking a half-step his way then shoveled the ball to Zach Crisler for a dunk and a foul.

Less than a minute prior, the Explorers had been on their heels but the two seniors delivered just the kind of play La Salle needed to fend of Archbishop Wood’s furious comeback bid.

It certainly wasn’t pretty Friday, with the teams combining for nearly 50 fouls, but La Salle’s seniors were the difference in a 73-64 win over the Vikings in a PCL game that had a lot of meaning for both teams.

“Coach (Mike McKee) talks a lot about courage and I think we showed that down the stretch,” Crisler, who scored 19 points, said. “They really started coming at us hard, we were up 14 and they brought it within four. We played strong, we started playing forward and hit free throws down the end.”

The teams played to an even 14-14 first quarter, but Wood was already in the bonus by the time it ended. La Salle (19-2, 11-2 PCL) shot 26-of-31 at the foul line in the game with the Vikings (14-7, 8-5 PCL) shooting 24-of-33 and the majority of the fourth quarter’s scoring came at the two free throw stripes.

La Salle made 16 of its 19 fourth free throws, which was a key reason the Explorers came out ahead.

“We work on it all the time in practice,” Powell said. “If you make them in practice, you’ll make them in a game.”

The Vikings didn’t point to any external factors for their shortcoming and instead focused on their own subpar shooting. Wood hit just 30 percent of its shots, and struggled to finish attempts around the rim all night.

La Salle’s Allen Powell shoots a three during the Explorers’ game against Archbishop Wood on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

While Wood did a great job with offensive rebounds, coach John Mosco noted it was because they were missing so many first attempts right at the iron.

“We have to shoot better, they played physical and I think that took us back a little bit from getting into the lane and being able to score,” Mosco said. “We have to be able to score with hands all over us, so we have to do a better job with that.”

Jaylen Stinson led Wood with 18 points and hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers during the team’s fourth-quarter comeback. Julius Phillips, Wood’s lone senior, poured in 16 and Mosco noted how exhausted the forward was after all the energy he put into the game.

Wood has a key game to wrap up the regular season on Sunday at Archbishop Ryan. A win would give the Vikings a higher seed for the PCL playoffs, keeping them out of a play-in game and also a leg up for a spot in the District 12-5A title game later this month.

Archbishop Wood’s Rahsool Diggins pulls up to shoot a jumper during the Vikings’ game against La Salle on Fridya, Feb. 8, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

Mosco wasn’t happy with a couple of his team’s earlier PCL losses, but he didn’t have complaints with the effort his guys gave Friday. It was just a matter of making shots and being a little stronger going to the rack.

“I really like the way we’re playing right now,” Mosco said. “We’re playing a lot tougher than we were in the middle of the year. We fought tonight; we got back into the game. A three here, a made basket here or there, we’re right in the game.”

Powell hit a stone-cold 3-pointer four seconds before the halftime horn to send the Explorers into the break ahead 33-26. The guard, who has picked up several college offers in the last two weeks, scored a game-high 23 but his dime to Crisler for the dunk with 1:45 left, giving La Salle a 63-55 lead, was just as important.

“That was awesome, it’s the stuff you don’t see in games but comes from all the things we work on in practice,” Crisler, who scored 19, said. “We’re just trying to play unselfish and find each other. Allen found me and made it easy to finish the play.”

“They tried to trap me on the inbound, I was able to escape and get up court real fast,” Powell said. “It was a three-on-one, I saw Zach and he finished with a great dunk.”

Powell had nine points as part of a 20-point La Salle third quarter which allowed the Explorers to open up a 53-39 lead. The Explorers were strong on both sides of the ball in the quarter, keeping Wood off the glass and turning Vikings mistakes into points.

Senior Kahlil Diarrah had one of the plays of the game, soaring into the air to intercept a lob attempt, then throwing a long outlet to Jake Timby for a 3-pointer.

“We executed on our plays we ran offensively and played good defense,” Powell said of the quarter.

The Vikings stormed back in the fourth, jumping on a La Salle team that was trying to slow down the tempo. Muneer Newton sparked it with tenacious defense and his teammates kept attacking to start drawing trips to the line themselves.

La Salle’s Konrad Kiszka drives to the basket during the Explorers’ game against Archbishop Wood on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

Stinson hit a three to make it 57-50, and another that got within 57-53 before Wood cut the lead all the way down to 59-55 with 2:08 left. La Salle drew a foul that sent Timby to the line where he made both attempts and after La Salle got a stop, Powell found Crisler and the Explorers regained control.

“It’s a big group of seniors, we’ve been together four years, we’ve grown together and there’s a lot of maturity on the team,” Crisler said. “They started making a run at us, we called a timeout, we had gotten on our heels a little bit but we started to play forward again.”

Prior to the game, the Explorers honored 13 seniors — nine players and four managers. The group is having its best season together and with one game remaining at St. Joseph’s Prep on Sunday, will finish in the top three of the PCL standings.

“La Salle is a big brotherhood, even our managers, we hang out with them all the time and it’s a big family,” Crisler said. “With family, no matter what and if everything starts to go wrong, you stick together and we’ve been together so long that’s just what we’ve done.”

LA SALLE 14 19 20 20 – 73
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 14 12 13 25 – 64
La Salle: Allen Powell 7 7-8 23, Titus Beard 2 1-2 6, Konrad Kiszka 5 6-6 16, Jake Timby 2 4-4 9, Zach Crisler 5 8-11 19. Nonscoring: Kahlil Diarrah, Jack Rothenberg, Manny Freyre, Sam Brown, Joe Dempsey, Luke Baldini. Totals: 21 26-31 73.
Archbishop Wood: Julius Phillips 4 6-9 16, Rahsool Diggins 2 9-10 13, Jaylen Stinson 5 5-7 18, Daeshon Shepherd 5 2-2 13, Muneer Newton 1 2-4 4. Nonscoring: Brennen Kersey, Dominick Borzacchiello, JD Mosco, John Donahue. Totals: 17 24-33 64.
3-pointers: L – Powell 2, Beard, Timby, Crisler; AW – Stinson 3, Phillips 2, Shepherd.

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