by Jody Kessler
After losing two straight games, La Salle needed a win. They were in the one-and-done format of the Class AAAA playoffs.
It was a classic between La Salle and Reading. Neither team led by more than five points. They traded buckets all the way down the stretch until the game was decided by two points. Fortunately for La Salle, the two points were in their favor, as they won 57-55.
Senior Eddie Mitchell led the Explorers with 19 points. Senior center Brennan Woods, who found a new role off the bench for Joe Dempsey’s squad, had 10 points and eight rebounds. He came up with a number of huge offensive rebounds and putbacks. Joe Brown also had a good game, adding 13 points of his own. Amar Stukes had 9 points and four steals. Mike Ponica had 6, nailing two clutch threes in the second half.
In front of a huge raucous crowd at the neutral site of Archbishop Carroll each team left everything on the floor in a high energy game.
“I was realy proud of the way we didn’t crack,” said coach Joe Dempsey. “ We didn’t buckle. Reading is a tremendous team and we’re fortunate to have this win. It’s a tribute to our players.”
The game went down to the final moments. With 52 seconds left, and down by 3 points, Reading had the ball. Kevin Piotrowicz came up with a huge steal, feeding the ball to Mitchell who went in for a fast break slam dunk. Piotrowicz then fouled Delvon Brown shooting a three pointer, who then made two of three free throws. Mitchell then lost the ball and Reading’s Lamondre Burge scored, bringing the Red Knights within one point at 56-55.
La Salle had the ball with 15 seconds left. After doing a good job of milking the clock, Mitchell was fouled intentionally. He hit one of two free throws.
Reading had the ball one more time, down two with six seconds left. They pushed the ball up court, launched a three for the win, missed, rebounded for a putback to tie, but also missed, giving La Salle the hard fought victory.
“[It was a] good team win,” said Mitchell, who is headed to Rider next year. “We played cooperatively and stuck together.
“Don’t get too high or too low,” said Brown. “It was a great win. We knew they were a great team coming in. We had to play a great game and luckily we had great mental toughness. We worked hard throughout the whole entire game and never took a play off.”
“We were dead-even teams, and it came down to a couple plays, and we were fortunate,” said Coach Dempsey. “We did some dumb things, we lost the ball a few times but with that being said. I’m happy to get a win.” About the La Salle defense he said “They kept the score in the fifties and if it gets much higher, we’re losing that game.”
La Salle plays William Allen High School at Council Rock South High School Wednesday at 7:30 in the second round.