GLENSIDE – They say it’s not how you start but how you finish the game and they’re probably right.
While LaSalle registered just two field goals in the first quarter, the Explorers sure enough finished with a flurry, outpacing visiting Conwell-Egan Catholic (CEC) 19-11 in the fourth quarter and overtime to win a Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) dogfight, 53-50 Friday night (Jan. 8) in Glenside.
Countering a monster game by CEC senior LaPri McCray-Pace – who led all scorers with 25 points, LaSalle had three players in double digits. Led by top scorer and junior Jarrod Stukes (18 pts), the Explorers also received double-digits from senior Ryan McTamney (16 pts.) and junior Matt Paulus (11).
“I’ve always said, ‘if you have two guys who can score in this league, you can be pretty good. But if you have three guys who can score, you can be really good,’” stated LaSalle head coach Joe Dempsey.
“I’ve always prided our team on spreading the ball around. It’s a lot harder to defend three guys who can score 12, 13, 14 (points) than it is one who can score 20 or more.”
Anytime LaSalle needed a basket in a bad way, it counted on Stukes.
“One of the things that Stukes does for LaSalle is that he gets the ball to people in scoring areas,” stated CEC head coach Frank Sciolla. “He scores for them and he sets them up and he gets good opportunities.”
“He is a warrior; it all starts with him,” added Dempsey.
Trailing the Eagles 39-34 entering the fourth quarter, LaSalle registered a 9-2 run in the final frame, a scoring spurt the Explorers expanded to 11-3.
Back-to-back layups near the end of the fourth quarter by McTamney and Stukes put the Explorers on top for just the second time in the game. Stukes’ driving layup gave the home team a 45-42 edge with 1:38 left in the fourth period.
The Eagles (7-4, 1-2: PCL) answered back with a 3-pointer by McCray-Pace that tied the score at 45-all with 1:21 remaining in regulation. After a missed jumper by McTamney, Egan had a chance to tie with 7.4 seconds left. However, a baseline jumper by McCray-Pace clanked off the rim as time expired, sending the sides to an extra session.
LaSalle scored the first five points in overtime, starting with a jumper by McTamney about a minute in and a driving baseline layup by Stukes from the left side of the basket. When McTamney made one of two free throws, it put his team on top 50-45 with less than a minute left in overtime.
Again, McCray-Pace returned fire, hitting his fourth 3-pointer in the contest to draw the Eagles within a pair with 23.1 seconds left. Paulus got to the line twice in the last 20 seconds however and made 3-of four foul shots, countering a layup by senior Vinny Dalessandro (8 pts.) that cut the Explorers’ edge to two points.
Try as he might, McCray-Pace’s last attempt at a game-saving 3-pointer clanked off the rim, keeping LaSalle unbeaten in the PCL and handing Egan its third straight loss.
While the Eagles made three more shots from the floor than did the Explorers, LaSalle hit for six field goals and seven free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. Egan had just four field goals and a lone made foul shot in the last two periods.
“That’s the Catholic League – it’s a possession game,” said Dempsey. “You can run up and down all you want but when it’s money time, you have to execute your offense and make foul shots.
“That really was the difference.”
That and the Eagles had trouble handling the Explorers’ defense late in the game. Egan turned the ball over twice in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, lost the ball in the lane once without getting off a shot and traveled once with the score tied at 41-all midway through the fourth period.
“We got sped up much as we did in the Constitution game and the Roman game,” explained Sciolla. “I have to keep doing a good job of staying patient and teaching our guards.”
After the game, the coach lamented letting this one get away. His team was up by a point when Kar’ron Johnson missed both ends of a pair of technical free throws, McCray-Pace was stripped of the ball in the lane and junior Darien Simmons was called for traveling.
“The game spins – we’re up 41-40, we have two technical free throws and we also have the ball on a side-out and we get no points,” stated Sciolla. “That’s it, right there.”
Early on in the battle, LaSalle was the team having trouble adjusting.
“They are very physical; it took us a little while to get used to the speed and the intensity of the game,” explained Dempsey.
“I don’t know why we started off so slow; we’ve been getting off to really good starts this season – so much so that teams have been punching us back in the second period.”
A putback and a 3-pointer by McCray-Pace, a driving layup by Johnson and a shot off the glass by Dalessandro gave the Eagles an early 9-4 lead. Sophomore Eric Esposito beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer that went in, then out, then in again and Simmons hit a shot off the glass to begin the second period with a 15-7 lead.
Suddenly, the Explorers started doing some punching back of their own. They did most of the damage from behind the 3-point line. Three-balls by Paulus, Stukes – his second in the contest, and a pair by McTamney drew the home team back within two points three minutes into the second stanza.
After a block by Johnson, Conwell-Egan countered when senior James Thompson found Dalessandro open for a baseline jumper. While the Eagles expanded their edge to five when McCray-Pace hit 1-of-2 free throws, LaSalle answered with Paulus’ second 3-pointer in the period to make it a 2-point game heading into the locker room.
Egan would have been up more at the half but the Eagles missed half of their last six free throws in the second period.
While Stukes’ third 3-pointer in the game to start the second half gave the Explorers a brief 1-point edge, Egan answered with an 11-5 scoring spurt that was capped by a pair of acrobatic layups by Esposito and McCray-Pace.
Following up on a 22-point game against Constitution and a 23-point performance vs. Roman Catholic, the 25 points by McCray-Pace included four treys, three of which came in the last three periods.
“Lapri played great; he kept us in the game” stated Sciolla. “He had a performance that we weren’t able to take advantage of.
“We had some opportunities. We (missed) some really good layups and free throws down the stretch that could have opened up the game. And we had the ball to win it at the end.”
The Eagles return to action at 7 p.m. tonight at Neshaminy. Egan returns for just its third home game Monday night, Jan. 11 in a PCL battle against PCL rival Cardinal O’Hara.
Sciolla had this to say about the fact that the Eagles have been home just twice so far this season.
“A lot of these games have been a blur because we’ve been doing so much on the fly. I feel like I’ve been on a bus for a month-and-a-half straight. I guess that’s because nine of our first 11 games have been on the road.”
“A home game Monday night is obviously a momentous occasion.”
Egan entered the fourth quarter leading 39-35 and could have been up more had not the opponent registered seven points in the third period on second-chance baskets.
Free throws – those made by LaSalle and those missed by the Eagles – also played a part in the outcome. The Explorers made 12 of 17 foul shots after the intermission while the visitors made just one of their last seven from the charity stripe.
Contact the author at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com, or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter
LaSalle 53, Conwell-Egan 50
(Jan. 8 at LaSalle)
LaSalle 7 17 10 11 8 – 53
Conwell-Egan 13 13 13 65 – 50
CONWELL-EGAN — LaPri McCray-Pace 25, Vinny Dalessandro 8, Eric Esposito 5, James Thompson 1, Darien Simmons 5, Kar’ron Johnson 6; TOTALS — 19 7-17 50.
3-POINT GOALS — McCray-Pace 4, Esposito.
LaSALLE — Shane Stark 4, Dan Remolde 2, Konrad Kiszka 2, Ryan McTamney 16, Matt Paulus 11, Jarrod Stukes 18; TOTALS — 16 14-22 53.
3-POINT GOALS — Stukes 3, Paulus 2, McTamney 2.
|June 15, 2015||2:14 pm|
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