La Salle’s playoff hopes take hit with loss to St. Joseph’s Prep

SPRINGFIELD >> The La Salle boys basketball team entered Friday night as the 10th seed in the Philadelphia Catholic League standings and the owners of the final playoff spot.

The Explorers had a chance to improve their seeding and playoff hopes against St. Joseph’s Prep, but came up short.

They lost to their bitter rival, 71-56, in front of a packed house at La Salle College High School.

“I think (St. Joe’s) wanted it more,” La Salle coach Joe Dempsey said. “I think they played harder. We didn’t defend very well at times. We hurt ourselves with self-inflicted wounds.

“We’re still fighting for the 10th spot. We have a couple games left. I think we need at least one win to get in.”

La Salle has three games left this season to try to earn a spot in the league playoffs. It travels to West Catholic Monday, hosts Father Judge Friday and goes to Archbishop Ryan next Sunday.

The Hawks took full control of the game in the middle two quarters. After trailing, 12-11, after one quarter, St. Joe’s led by 19, 52-33, heading into the fourth.

Gabe Arizin was key for the Hawks during the game-changing stretch. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the second and third quarters, hitting two threes in each.

“Give them credit they hit some shots,” Dempsey said. “Their role players stepped up and hurt us. (Brian) Griffin and Arizin played terrific and that kid (Ed) Croswell really hurt us on the glass.”

The Prep’s lead ballooned to 23 in the fourth quarter, but La Salle didn’t quit.

The Explorers — led by Jarrod Stukes — scratched and clawed their way back into the game and cut their deficit to eight points twice in the final two minutes, 60-52 and 64-56.

“I’m proud the kids didn’t quit,” Dempsey said. “We’re in every game. Today we’re playing so many young kids. We only have two seniors on the roster — not trying to make excuses for the guys, but it’s very difficult to win in this league with only two seniors on your roster. It’s a man’s league.”

But eight was as close as they’d get before falling, 71-56.

Stukes scored a team-high 19 points for La Salle and Zach Crisler joined him in double figures with 16.

Prep’s Croswell scored a game-high 20 points. Arizin and Kyle Thompson each added 14 points and Darius Kinnel chipped in 12 — including four clutch free throws in the final two minutes.

The Explorers were without forward Konrad Kiszka, who is likely out the rest of the season with a meniscus issue. The 6-foot-6 sophomore could have helped against Prep’s 6-foot-7 Croswell, who scored most of his points around the rim.

“You play the kids that are healthy,” Dempsey said. “Everybody has a role and hopefully we can try to find some other kids that can step up.”

Top photo: La Salle’s Sean Simon battles St. Joe Prep’s Gabe Arizin for the ball. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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