by Jody Kessler
After a big win Monday night against Roman Catholic, LaSalle did not want a letdown against Cardinal O’Hara on Wednesday at home.
Coach Joe Dempsey was worried about the team coming out flat after the emotions of Monday. Even though the game looked like a mismatch on paper, his concern proved true when Cardinal raced out to an early lead.
But the Explorers did not panic and methodically came back to score a big win against the Lions. They used a balanced scoring attack and a staunch defense to win 67-42. Moving to 11-2 on the year, they appear on track to defend their District 12 championship. Cardinal is now 3-9.
After the Lions started with a 10-3 run, LaSalle went on an 11-0 run to take the lead. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 14-12 LaSalle after a bucket by Cardinal’s Pat Hagenbach.
The Explorers dominated the second quarter to the tune of 20-9. Their defense captured the ball on some key turnovers and their shooting got hot. Senior guard Mike Poncia nailed two threes, and 6’9” Steve Collins hit one right before the end of the half. It was 34-21 LaSalle.
The third quarter was just as dominant for LaSalle as they outscored the Lions 16-5. Halfway through, senior captain Brennan Woods had an “and 1” to stretch the lead to 50-26 and the Explorers were well on their way to the win.
Coach Dempsey used a number of guys all game, subbing in and out. He got the whole bench in with the game’s outcome in hand. The reserves were cheered on loudly by the other players and fans, and they did well, too.
“This is a good win all around,” said senior captain Joe Brown. “We got a lot of guys in. We came out and we tried to execute the game plan really well and I thought we did that.”
About the camaraderie of the players and how they all root for each other he said: “It’s encouraging. We have a lot of seniors on the team, we have a lot of experience. We try to relay that message to the underclassmen and try to show that on the court.”
When asked what the mind-set is against a weaker team Coach Dempsey said, “You want to tell the kids to run the stuff, run it well, share the ball. Luckily they tended to details and it worked out for us. We’re playing well. I like our chemistry, I like the kids we have, they’re working hard. I think at this time of the year it becomes a grind and kids get tired, you have to hope they continue to do what you ask them to.”
Poncia led the Explorers with 13 points. Sophomore guard Amar Stukes had 12. O’Hara’s Lamotte Williams led the Lions with 11.