LEWES – Salesianum fell behind, 21-6, after one quarter and was not able to mount a comeback in a 77-58 loss to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School of Akron, Ohio, on Sunday night at the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament at Cape Henlopen High School. The young Sals, who lost several seniors from last season’s state championship squad, struggled to keep up with SVSM’s dynamic duo of Josh Williams and Jibri Blount, who scored 21 and 22 points, respectively.
The tall, athletic Irish used their height and experience to their advantage, shooting nearly 54 percent from the field. They also reached the foul line 27 times, making 17 free throws, while Salesianum shot 39 percent for the game and attempted just 12 free throws, making eight.
After the first period, the Sals played fairly evenly with the Irish, who are ranked in USA Today’s top 50 nationally. Behind senior Donte DiVincenzo, Salesianum cut the deficit to 11 at the half, 41-30, but shooting woes and turnovers hurt their efforts after the half. Each time Salesianum appeared ready to make a run, St. Vincent-St. Mary had an answer. Terrance Dean, for example, followed a DiVincenzo miss with a short put-back to cut the lead to 48-36, but Irish guard Jayvon Graves responded immediately with a layup to push the lead back to 14.
DiVincenzo scored 28 to lead all scorers on 10-for-26 shooting, including three three-point shots, and he was five of seven from the free-throw line. DiVincenzo, playing in front of his college coach, Villanova’s Jay Wright, scored from outside and inside. He received support from classmate Shane Clark, who added 15 points. He scored six of Salesianum’s points consecutively in the fourth quarter on three layups, including one where he was sent sprawling out of bounds in front of the various college coaches who had descended on Cape Henlopen to watch the talent from all over the country who are in town for the three-day event, which ends Monday.
A bright spot for Salesianum was the play of Jamal Whittlesey. The 6-5, 300-pound freshman scored five points, two on a baby hook shot taken after he backed his defender into the paint. The other three came on a short turnaround layup, also taken after backing his man close to the hoop. He was fouled on that shot and converted the free throw. He added nine rebounds.
The Irish threw in a few highlight-reel plays along the way. Blount, a 6-6 forward who will play college ball at Cleveland State, split the key in the first half and threw down a left-handed dunk that gave his team a 14-point advantage. Late in the fourth quarter, with the outcome not in doubt, Williams – headed to Akron to play hoops – grabbed a steal at halfcourt, drove toward the basket and lobbed the ball off the backboard. His teammate, 6-6 junior forward Henry Baddley, took the ball in stride and dunked it, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Baddley and Graves joined Williams and Blount in double figures with 12 points each. St. Vincent-St. Mary’s plays its final game at Slam Dunk on Monday at 7:30 p.m. vs. Sunrise Christian Academy of Kansas, which defeated nationally ranked Christ the King (N.Y.) Sunday afternoon.
Salesianum, playing an ambitious schedule, lost its fourth straight game and fell to 1-5. The Sals will try to reverse their fortunes Monday at 3 p.m. against Caesar Rodney at Cape Henlopen.
The rest of the schedule for Slam Dunk on Monday is as follows: Christ the King vs. Sanford, noon; Our Savior New American (N.Y.) vs. Haverford School (Pa.), 1:30 p.m.; Roselle (N.J.) Catholic vs. Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.), 6 p.m.; and Mount St. Joseph (Md.) vs. Cape Henlopen, 9 p.m.