WILMINGTON – St. Elizabeth’s boys basketball team welcomed back a familiar face on Jan. 25, and he played a key role as the Vikings picked up a tough road win at Salesianum, 56-52. Jordan Brown, who missed the first 13 games of the season with an injury, scored nine points, including making five of six free throws down the stretch. St. Elizabeth evened its record at 7-7 and avenged a Jan. 5 home loss to the Sals.
A capacity crowd was on hand, including 2014 Salesianum alumnus Brian O’Neill, who now plays professional football for the Minnesota Vikings. O’Neill was the state player of the year his senior season, leading the Sals to the school’s first state championship. He and the others in attendance were treated to a fast-paced contest, which was close nearly all night, as Vikings-Sals matchups usually are.
The Vikings used impressive offensive rebounding to help themselves to an early lead, leading to several short field goals, and they were ahead by seven at the half, 26-19. They added a free throw at the beginning of the third quarter before the Sals scored on a baby hook shot by Darnell Vaughan, followed by two free throws for Salesianum’s Jack Brown.
But Jordan Brown ended the mini-run, streaking down the court and driving splitting two defenders for a layup that pushed the lead back to six points at 29-23. That sparked a 9-2 run that extended the lead to 11, and although four free throws brought the Sals to within 37-32, Justin Money hit a twisting scoop layup as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third to send St. Elizabeth into the fourth with a seven-point advantage.
The Sals closed the gap to three points on a putback by Ethan Hinds, but Money found Nasir Brown open underneath to get those points back. The Vikings missed a few free throws in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but they maintained possession with some timely offensive rebounds. Money got one of those, catching his own miss and banking in the his second-chance shot without coming to the ground. That put the St. Elizabeth lead at 44-38.
Jack Brown hit a spinning shot with 2:45 to go, but Jordan Brown found Nasir Brown underneath with a nifty pass to answer. Rasheen Caulk got hot for the Sals down the stretch, scoring six points in the final two minutes, but the Vikings – who struggled from the free-throw line all night – finally found some consistency from the stripe. Their final 10 points came from the line, including Jordan Brown’s five of six and Ray Jones hitting a pair during that stretch.
Nasir Brown paced the Vikings with 18 points, while Money had 11. St. Elizabeth travels to Caravel on Wednesday for a 7:15 p.m. tip.
For the Sals, Caulk was the lone scorer in double figures with 14. Three players – Jack Brown, Hinds and Vaughan – scored nine each. Sallies fell to 7-5 and visits Archmere on Tuesday. Game time is 6:15 p.m.