WILMINGTON — Salesianum’s Tommy Montooth opened the Sals’ basketball game against Sussex Tech on Feb. 15 with a pair of three-pointers, but it was his shortest field goal of the evening that made the difference. Montooth drove the baseline and banked a four-footer off the glass with 3.2 seconds remaining to lift the Sals to a thrilling 59-57 victory over Sussex Tech at Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium.
The Sals, ranked seventh in the state by 302Sports.com, were able to salvage a win after they surrendered a seven-point lead in a back-and-forth fourth quarter. The game was tied at 45 when Sallies made a run and threatened to put the game away.
It started when Rasheen Caulk picked off an errant pass and sent the ball to Justin Molen, whose transition field goal made it 47-45. James Yelbert scored with a friendly roll from the home rim, and after a Ravens free throw, Yelbert connected on a slick turnaround jumper. The lead swelled to seven at 53-46 with about three minutes remaining, but Tech had another run in them.
The Ravens scored the next six points, the last two of which came from Kevin Custis after a turnover. Caulk restored a three-point lead for the Sals with 1:01 to go, but Custis was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. He made two of three from the charity stripe, again cutting the Tech deficit to one.
Molen made two free throws, but Custis struck with his sixth triple of the night with 13.6 on the clock to tie the score. Salesianum called a timeout, and Caulk was able to find Montooth down the left side preceding the winning shot. Custis’ long attempt to win the game at the buzzer glanced off the rim.
The Sals were able to win their fifth in a row and seventh in their last eight against a Ravens team that took down the second-ranked team in the state, Dover, earlier in the week, but it was a dogfight. The hosts built an early 8-0 lead, but Sussex Tech heated up from beyond the arc, knotting the score at 13 after one quarter. The Ravens took their first lead early in the second on a pair of free throws before continuing their long-distance assault. An eight-point run gave the Ravens a 25-21 lead, and it was 28-25 in favor of Tech at the break.
The Ravens built a seven-point lead of their own midway through the third, but a dustup between the teams seemed to spark the Sals. After emotions cooled, the Sals got a short jumper from Molen, a corner three from Ethan Hinds, and a lay-in from Molen. That tied the score at 41 heading into the decisive fourth quarter.
Three Salesianum players reached double figures, led by Molen with 13. Caulk and Mashon Tiller each had 11. The Sals (11-8) wrap up the regular season on Tuesday at Concord. Tipoff is at 3:30 p.m.
Custis put on a show offensively for the Ravens, going for a game-leading 26, while Skylar Johnson had 14. The Ravens connected on 10 three-pointers on the night. Tech finished the regular season with a 12-8 record and will find out on Feb. 28 if that is enough to earn them a spot in the state tournament field.