WILMINGTON –Salesianum and St. Mark’s rekindled their storied rivalry Friday night inside a jam-packed Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium, with students from both schools giving the game a playoff feel. In the end, the Sals managed to create enough offense against the Spartans’ patient approach, taking a 36-27 win.
Salesianum’s Donte DiVincenzo did not get the number of offensive opportunities he is accustomed to, but the senior found his touch in the second quarter, scoring 10 or his game-high 18 points as the Sals opened an 11-point halftime lead that proved to be too much for St. Mark’s. DiVincenzo said his team needed to settle down after a first quarter that ended in a 5-5 tie.
“They make it tough every time we play them. They really work their offense well. Just relax and play our game,” he said.
Sals coach Brendan Haley said he wanted to make sure his team did not get frustrated “looking at a number” after the first quarter. He delivered a message between periods.
“You just have to dig in and say that’s OK,” Haley said. “If we have to win like this, we’re going to win like this. I really credit (St. Mark’s) defensively. They’re just an extremely well-coached team that makes it very difficult for you.
“They stress you mentally so much with how well-coached they are. You have to be prepared for possessions that might go 30, 40 seconds. To ask them to dig in for 30 and 40 seconds and to keep their focus the whole time, that’s hard to do, and I give them a lot of credit.”
In the decisive second quarter, Jake Sherlock scored the first basket to give the Sals a 7-5 lead. DiVincenzo scored his first point on a free throw, then hit his first field goal, a 12-foot jumper. Matt Williams responded after a Spartans timeout with a bucket to make it 10-7 with 4:40 to play in the first half, but that would be the last St. Mark’s field goal until Williams hit a layup almost nine minutes later, more than halfway through the third quarter.
DiVincenzo, meanwhile would add his only three-point basket of the night, plus two more buckets, including a dunk that just beat the halftime buzzer and gave Salesianum a 19-8 advantage.
“I knew that he was going to cross over, and as soon as he crossed over I stepped in. I didn’t realize the time on the clock, so when I looked up at half court I saw two seconds so I knew that I could get to the basket so I just went up,” he said.
Williams, who finished with 10 points to lead the Spartans, scored all eight of the team’s third-quarter points as St. Mark’s managed to cut a point off the halftime deficit. An old-fashioned three-point play by Jamai Rice midway through the fourth brought St. Mark’s within 26-19, but that was as close as the Spartans would get. Salesianum scored the next four points and hit six of seven free throws down the stretch. Shane Clark contributed a key steal, converting the layup to help seal the win.
“He was dribbling out, and I saw it, so I just took it,” said Clark, who had eight points.
Clark said the Sals fed off the energy inside the building, calling the Sallies’ student section the best in the state. He also had some kind words for the Spartans’ faithful
“They brought their A game, especially their student section. They had some great chants. It definitely energizes us,” he said.
Rice and Chris Ludman each finished with seven for the Spartans, who fell to 9-4. They next play on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at Archmere.
The Sals are now 7-6. It was their 29th straight home win dating back to February 2012, including three playoff games. They are off for a week and will be back in action next Friday on the road at St. Elizabeth at 7:30 p.m.