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La Salle struggles down the stretch in loss to Roman Catholic

SPRINGFIELD >> La Salle faced its largest deficit of the night – 15 points – early in the fourth quarter of its Philadelphia Catholic League matchup with Roman Catholic Monday.

The Explorers battled to get within seven points with more than half of the final quarter remaining, but that’s as close as they’d get. They were held scoreless for 3:20 while the Cahillites extended their lead to 12 points in a 63-52 loss at La Salle College High School.

Roman’s Xzayvier Brown hit a three-pointer on the second possession of the fourth quarter to put the Cahillites (10-1 PCL) ahead, 52-37. La Salle’s James Shields responded with a three before Sam Brown made two free throws and Nix Varano converted a layup for seven straight Explorer points. After Roman’s Shareef Jackson made a basket, La Salle’s Brown responded with a three to make it a seven-point game, 54-47, with 4:10 remaining.

Roman’s Toby Ojukwu hit a pair of free throws under the three-minute mark and Dan Skillings threw down a dunk to make it 58-47 with 1:30 to go. Xzayvier Brown added a free throw 20 seconds later to make it a 12-point game.

La Salle’s starters talk to coach Mike McKee, center, before a game against Roman Catholic Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Ed Morlock/MediaNews Group)

La Salle’s Horace Simmons made a jumper with 50 seconds left. Those were the Explorers first points since Sam Brown made it a seven-point game at 4:10.

“We actually had possession, too, and turned it over,” La Salle coach Mike McKee said of when the game was 54-47. “When we fight that hard, we have to understand that we need a good possession at that point. It’s really important for us to have a good possession at that point. We’re improving and the good thing is we still have some room to improve on some IQ things, maybe some effort things, get a little more feisty in certain ways. The effort is good as far as how hard we play, but I think we have to figure out ways to be physical and take some charges. It’s a physical game – we have to play physical.”

“Turnovers, our transition defense wasn’t that good today and Roman took advantage of that,” Sam Brown said. “That’s where they got a lot of their points today and that messed us up in the fourth quarter.”

Skillings, a Cincinnati commit, gave the Explorers (6-4 PCL) problems all game. He led Roman with 19 points and played a key role in swinging momentum at the end of the third quarter. He scored with less than 10 seconds remaining in the penultimate quarter before making a diving play to steal the inbounds pass. He got the ball back under the basket and converted the layup before the buzzer to give the Cahillites a 12-point advantage heading to the fourth.

Brown led La Salle with a game-high 20 points. Simmons and Varano joined him in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. 

La Salle’s Sam Brown

Khalil Farmer and Xzayvier Brown joined Skillings in double figures for Roman with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

Roman used an 11-0 run to turn a 10-8 deficit into a 19-10 lead early in the second quarter. La Salle responded with seven of the next nine points to get within 21-17, but Roman’s Farmer scored five straight points to make it 26-17. The Cahillites maintained a comfortable lead and went into halftime ahead, 30-22.

La Salle, which is tied for sixth place in the PCL, has three games left in the regular season – Bonner-Prendergast Wednesday, Archbishop Carroll Friday and Archbishop Ryan Sunday – before competing in the 10-team playoff.

“I’m a big believer in one game at a time,” McKee said. “If you really focus on one game at a time, you have a chance to do as well as you can. If you look too far ahead or too far behind you get out of sorts.”

“Being aggressive, doing the things that we didn’t execute today,” Sam Brown pointed at as things to work on down the stretch. “That will help us through the three games we have this week. We have a lot of really good teams left. We have a lot of good players and coaching, so it’s just about what we do in practice throughout the rest of this week.”

Roman Catholic 63, La Salle 52

Roman Catholic 15 15 19 14 – 63

La Salle 10 12 15 15 – 52

RC: Skillings 8 3-6 19, X Brown 4 2-4 11, Farmer 4 5-6 15, Q Brown 2 0-0 4, Ojukwu 2 4-5 8, Jackson 3 0-0 6. Total 23 14-21 63.

LS: Brown 5 8-8 20, Williams 2 0-0 6, Varano 4 0-0 10, Simmons 4 1-1 11, Jennings 1 0-0 2, Sorge 0 0-0 0, Shields 1 0-0 3. Total 17 7-7 52.

3-point goals: RC: Farmer 2, X Brown. LS: Brown 2, Williams 2, Varano 2, Simmons 2, Shields.

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