MILLTOWN – One for the thumb.
That about sums up the exhibition the Salesianum and St. Mark’s basketball teams put on Feb. 9 at St. Mark’s, a five-overtime marathon that was not decided until the final seconds. After almost six and a half quarters worth of action, Jack Brown nailed a three-point shot to give the Sals an emotional 57-54 win over the Spartans.
St. Mark’s still had a timeout and 5.2 seconds to send it to a sixth extra session, but a desperation shot fell short of the rim, setting off a celebration among the Sallies players, coaches and fans sitting behind their bench. The Spartans’ faithful, though disappointed in the outcome, saluted their players for their effort.
Brown, one of the Sals’ leading scorers, did not get on the board until the fourth quarter, and he drained his first triple with a minute to go in the second overtime to give his team a brief lead. On the decisive possession, the Sals held the ball for almost the entire final minute. Mike Wallace and Chris Cohill spent most of that time dribbling the ball near midcourt. With about 10 seconds remaining, Wallace drove down the left sideline, fired the ball crosscourt to Brown at the foul line extended right, and Brown’s shot was true.
It was the end of a long evening that was high on drama, if short on scoring. After three quarters, Salesianum held a 25-19 lead, but the Spartans fought back in the fourth. They steadily chipped away at the lead, and with 2:02 to go, Eric Ludman backed his way down the key and hit a short jumper to tie the score at 29.
That is when Brown reached the scoreboard, hitting a 15-footer to restore the Sals’ two-point advantage. Will Hoffman tied it up again with 48 seconds remaining on two free throws, and Brown’s shot at the buzzer missed, sending the game to overtime.
St. Mark’s had a four-point lead in the first extra session at 36-32, but Darnell Vaughan knotted the score. The Spartans regained the lead when Mickey Williams fed a driving Nick Leski in the lane. This time, Cohill made a pair of free throws, and the first OT ended with the score level at 38.
The teams matched each other in the second overtime, with two field goals – one a two, one a three – apiece. Vaughan made his presence known in the third, scoring on a follow shot to put the Sals ahead, 45-43. Victor Marcelo did him a point better with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Vaughan responded with a hoop and harm of his own, giving Sallies a 48-46 lead. Vaughan, however, would foul out seconds later, and Eric Ludman sent the game to overtime four after a short shot on a terrific spin move.
The teams combined for just six points in the fourth OT. Marcelo hit two free throws and Ludman one to make it 51-48 Spartans with 1:19 to go, but the Sals had plenty of time. Paul Brown connected on a three from the top of the key, and St. Mark’s was unable to score after holding the ball for the final 30 seconds of the period.
Paul Brown struck again with another triple at the beginning of the final session, but Leski quickly answered with one of his own. The teams traded possessions for a few minutes before a turnover gave the ball back to Salesianum, setting up the final sequence. Just another night in the Sallies-St. Mark’s rivalry.
Vaughan and Paul Brown each scored 15 for the Sals, while Cohill added 10. Salesianum improved to 10-5 and will host Mount Pleasant on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
For the Spartans (11-5), Leski had 18 and Ludman 12. St. Mark’s, which saw its six-game winning streak snapped, is back in action Tuesday at 5:15 at Charter School of Wilmington.