WILMINGTON – Salesianum used two big runs to overcome the long-distance marksmanship of Concord in a 62-51 nonconference basketball win on Feb. 21. The Sals finished the regular season with eight straight wins and a 15-5 record and are virtually guaranteed a first-round bye in the state tournament, which begins next Wednesday.
Salesianum began the game by jumping to a 9-0 lead and had the advantage up to 16-2. But Concord battled back through the second and third quarters, and the Raiders finally took the lead at 42-41 on a three-point shot by Matthew Ilodigwe with 1:29 to go in the third. Concord built the lead to 45-41, which is when Salesianum started its own comeback.
Duncan Trerotola, one of three Salesianum players honored before the game on Senior Night, ended the third quarter with his third three-pointer of the game. Three free throws at the start of the fourth put the Sals back up by two, and Darnell Vaughn extended that to five by draining a triple after a missed free throw.
Trerotola hit a field goal, followed by two free throws by his classmate, Joe Nowak, and Nowak added a bucket. That extended the run to 15, and the Sals had a 56-45 lead and a bit of breathing room. Ilodigwe found the net for a three with about a minute and half to go, picking up the Raiders’ first points in eight minutes.
Early on, no one in the gym would have believed the Sals would have needed a comeback. When Chris Cohill picked up a steal a few minutes in and found Paul Brown for a stuff, Salesianum had a 9-0 lead. Brown was unstoppable, hitting from down low seemingly every time he touched the ball. He finished the quarter with 16 points, along with a pair of assists on Trerotola’s two three-point shots, and the Sals had a 22-10 lead after one.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Nowak said of Brown’s quarter. “He was a madman out there. That was an amazing start by him.”
Concord warmed up from the outside in the second. Ilodigwe had eight points, including his second and third treys, the second of those cutting the Salesianum lead to 28-23. The Sals managed 13 points in the quarter, including five straight from Nowak that put the Sals ahead, 32-23, but with Brown on the bench with two fouls, the Raiders began to pound the ball down low. Joe McHugh found the touch from mid-range and scored two straight, and at the half, the Sals’ lead stood at four.
Jack Brown opened the second half by collecting his own miss and laying it in, sending the Sals to a 37-31 lead, but the offense went cold after that, while Concord remained hot. The Raiders tied the game on consecutive threes by Matthew Arrabal and McHugh, and after Paul Brown stopped the bleeding with two free throws, Concord drilled another pair of threes, these by Ilodigwe and another by Arrabal.
After that, however, the Raiders’ shooting went a bit cold, allowing the Sals to put together the comeback.
“It was really hard getting out to that start and watching them climb back in it,” Nowak said. “But we just gritted it out. That’s been our whole season. We just had to keep them off the boards. They were getting too many offensive rebounds. We just had to grit our teeth and start boxing out.”
Salesianum played without guard Mike Kempski, perhaps the team’s best outside defender. The senior left school early with an illness.
Brown did not hit another field goal after the first quarter but finished with a game-high 21 points. Trerotola had 12 and Nowak 11. The Sals finished the regular season undefeated at home and will host a playoff game at Birkenheuer Gymnasium on Friday, March 3. Nowak said the team loves defending its home court.
“We’re so ready for it. We’re excited. We like to protect our home court, and hopefully for the first game of the playoffs we’ll get a big crowd out and a home-court advantage,” Nowak said.
For Concord, Ilodigwe had 16 points, while McHugh added 15. The Raiders connected on nine three-point shots, four of those by Ilodigwe. The Raiders wrapped up their season with a 4-16 record.