FRANCONIA >> For a moment, Ty Salone seemed to freeze in time.
Souderton’s senior point guard started to drive then hesitated, seemingly ready to pass. A year ago, he likely would have. But this is a different Ty Salone.
This is a different Souderton team.
“It’s a new start,” Salone said. “I feel like this year is going to be a jump-start and this is a great way to start the year.”
The Indians started the season off in convincing fashion with a 62-48 win over Lansdale Catholic in a semifinal of the Souderton Rotary Tip-Off Classic Friday night. It was the debut for Souderton coach Chuck Kornegay and he got a strong performance out of his seniors.
Tracey Simsick led all scorers with 22 points in a dominant outing, also pulling down six rebounds while Salone chipped in 10 points with six assists and four steals. Michael Bealer had nine points and eight rebounds while Noah Horas scored eight and Matt Cartwright had two points and three assists off the bench.
“My seniors did me proud,” Kornegay, a former standout at Villanova, said. “I put them in charge and they did what they were supposed to do. Tracey is our best player, he’s our scorer. Ty is our facilitator, they both did a great job.”
The game started off slowly, with the teams combining to shoot 0-of-5 from the floor and Souderton getting tagged for four fouls inside the first 2:30 of play. After LC’s Dan Modestine broke the scoreless deadlock with a foul shot with 5:57 left in the opening frame, the game really got started.
It was also the debut for LC coach Joe Corbett, who has a couple of intriguing pieces to work with.
Modestine, just named a team captain, had 12 points while lengthy Ryan Braun had 17 points, including three 3-pointers and three blocked shots as the sixth man. Forward Ty Grant had four points and eight rebounds for the Crusaders.
“The turning point was the last three minutes of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter,” Corbett said. “It seemed like (Souderton) got out in transition and ran their spots and we just wore down. They were an athletic team.”
Souderton’s offense had gotten a few good shots to start off but then then actually started to fall. Senior swingman Tracey Simsick was Big Red’s catalyst, erupting for 10 points in the first quarter as Souderton raced out to a 17-6 lead. Salone had four assists in the spurt while Simsick had eight points to energize the run.
“I don’t think many people thought that we were going to be that good this year,” Salone said. “This is our focal point, to prove we’re for real this year and I think Tracey and I really took pride in that.”
LC took the punch to the chin and started chipping back thanks to Modestine. The senior shoting guard canned a corner trey to cut it to 19-11 with 2:18 left, and scored the next four LC points to make it 21-15 Souderton at the end of one. That little spurt would carry over as the Crusaders scored the first eight points of the second for a 12-0 run spanning the two quarters.
A score inside by Braun made it 22-21 in favor of the hosts, their first lead, with 6:14 left in the first half. Austin Eberhart and Simsick scored the next four to put Souderton back up, but LC responded again and went up 26-25 when Dan Jalonski split a pair of freebies with 4:13 to go.
“We thought that was the type of team we wanted to be, a team that can knock 3s down,” Corbett said. “We just have to try and get better on the defensive end and in transition defense. One positive was that we got guys in transition hitting 3s.”
Souderton’s reserves, who had not been able to keep up the pace in the first quarter, made up for it with a strong second quarter. Noah Horas banked in a jumper then Matt Cartwright did the same to push Big Red back in front, and after a Starkey Gabel score for LC, Horas scored again and Simsick drained a 3 off the wing with a minute left for a 34-28 lead.
The senior, who mixed his outside shooting with a determination inside, drove and scored again with 13.9 left to give Big Red a 36-28 lead at the break. The bucket came right after the wing soared up to swat a shot inside.
Souderton’s early success in each half was keyed on its press defense. When the legs were fresh, it was tough for LC to move the ball up the floor but when Souderton got tired, that’s when the shots started coming for LC.
“We (have) 10 or 11 guys that can play,” Kornegay said. “I intend to use them in some kind of capacity. When guys get tired, we can shift new guys in. We used it to our advantage to exhaust the other team a little bit.”
Souderton got a similar, but not as extreme, hot start in the second half. Salone, not known for his scoring as a junior, scored two layups, the second coming off a coast-to-coast take following a steal, to open the frame.
Michael Bealer followed that with a 3-pointer, his first make of the game, then LC came right back with five points. The squads cooled for about two minutes, then Bealer got warm again. He canned back-to-back threes, both from the corner, to push the lead and give Souderton a 49-33 edge going to the final quarter.
Just as important as Bealer’s three 3-pointers was the defensive play of Souderton, which held LC to five points in the frame. Kornegay said it was just about staying sound in the fundamentals and principles of defense.
LC battled to the end, but Souderton’s depth proved to be a bit too much for the Crusaders.
Corbett said his group has been terrific to work with thus far and their focus is on finishing the weekend 1-1 but also getting better with each game.
Souderton will play for the tournament title against Simon Gratz tomorrow at 5 p.m. while LC will play in the consolation against Allentown Central Catholic. Gratz had an impressive win over ACC and its athletes and speed will be a test for the Indians.
“They have multiple guards that can score and they’re gritty and work hard,” Kornegay said. “It’s a whole different style of game but we’re up for the challenge.”