WILMINGTON – Two teams that look quite a bit different than they did last season met Tuesday night at Salesianum, and the host Sals proved to be a step ahead of William Penn, topping the Colonials, 58-48. It was the home opener for Salesianum and the first game overall for Penn.
William Penn, returning just one starter from last season’s team that went 18-4, was able to move the ball in the first half but did not have the shooting touch, trailing by 16 at the break, 30-14. The Sals, meanwhile, were hot from the outside, sinking three three-pointers along the way. One of those belonged to senior Mike Kempski, who had eight points, all in the second.
A different Colonials team emerged from the locker room in the third quarter. Coach Steve Christensen said he told his players during the break to be aggressive on both sides of the ball, and they were. The shots started to fall, and a large contingent of William Penn supporters came to life in Birkenheuer Gymnasium.
Led by the returning starter, Jermal Crumel, William Penn trimmed the lead to 32-21 in less than three minutes. Crumel scored nine points in the quarter, and it appeared as if the Sals’ lead might be in jeopardy. Salesianum coach Brendan Haley was not surprised.
“Steve does a great job, and they were in their first game,” he said. “We knew that in the second half they’d be a better team than they were in the first. We got a little shaky, but they caused some of that and exposed some things that we’ve got to get better at.”
After a timeout, however, Salesianum steadied the ship. The lead was 40-31 when sophomore big Tariq Ingraham went to the line for two free throws. He made the first, and followed a miss on the second by getting his own rebound. Ingraham was fouled again on his way up for a layup, and he nailed both subsequent free throws for a 13-point cushion heading into the fourth.
Kempski said the message during that timeout was clear. “We had two straight turnovers that were just plain sloppy. He just basically said to get back to your game. We weren’t worried. We knew what to do.”
The Colonials were not done, however, continuing their offensive assault in the final eight minutes. Salesianum stretched the lead to 14 at the outset of the fourth as sophomore Jack Brown made a nice save on a ball heading out of bounds under the offensive basket. His flipped the ball back to his brother, Paul, and the junior forward laid it off the glass for a 45-31 advantage.
William Penn answered by scoring the next seven points, getting as close as they had been since early in the second. The final three points of the run came on a three-point shot by Gerrad Wall. Another field goal by Wall cut the Salesianum lead to 51-44 with 2:17 to go.
The Sals, however, were able to hang on in the final minutes, and Ingraham added two points on a two-handed tomahawk jam.
The first half began with William Penn taking a 6-2 lead, but the Sals scored the next 11 points until Robert Rynkowski ended the run with a triple for the Colonials. Ingraham spent a significant portion of the half on the bench with two fouls, but Salesianum was able to increase its lead from four points to 13 when he returned. Haley said being able to compete with the big guy on the bench was important.
“Darnell (Vaughn) played huge in that time when it could have gone the other way. We felt better about ourselves when he stepped on the floor and hit some big shots and defended. Paul had a great night for us. He didn’t come off the floor much. Tonight, he dug in, and we needed him,” Haley said.
“We’ve got some guys who can shoot the ball. Teams are going to double down on Tariq and make life tough on him in terms of getting it in. Those guys have to open it up for him in terms of making shots, and tonight they did.”
Ingraham led the Sals (2-0) with 15, including nine of 10 from the free-throw line, where the Sals were just 15 of 26. Paul Brown had 11, and Duncan Trerotola added nine. Salesianum is off until Dec. 16, when they travel to Malvern Prep (Pa.) for a 7 p.m. meeting.
Crumel had 15 for William Penn, and Wall added 13. The Colonials fell to 0-1 and face another test on Thursday when they travel to Smyrna to meet the Eagles. Tip-off is at 6:15 p.m.