CLAYMONT — The first half of Archmere’s boys basketball game against Conrad on Feb. 15 at Moglia Fieldhouse was played more at the Auks’ speed, with the Red Wolves taking a 17-13 lead into halftime.
But Conrad was able to open up the lead in the third thanks to some long-distance accuracy, and the Red Wolves held off Archmere’s late challenges for a 42-36 victory. The win clinched the Diamond State Athletic Conference title for the Red Wolves and the automatic state tournament bid that goes with it.
The game was played at a quick pace, with few fouls to slow the action down until the final minute and change. The teams combined to attempt just nine free throws. The atmosphere had a postseason feel, with student sections from both schools showing up in full voice.
A Chris Albero steal early in the third led to a basket for Charlie Malloy, bringing the Auks to within a point at 18-17. The Red Wolves extended that lead to six on a three-pointer by Kelcey Epps before P.J. Blessington scored from in close and Albero added two free throws, but Conrad finished the third on an 8-2 run.
Six of those points came on three-pointers, one from Jaylin Horsey and, after a few empty possessions for both teams, another from Julius Russell with 2:10 left. The Auks called a timeout and held the ball almost until the end of the quarter before Malloy hit a mid-range jumper. Russell, however, raced down court and banked in a 12-footer as the buzzer sounded.
The home rims were not kind to the Auks’ shooters, but they cut the lead to a pair with 3:55 to go thanks to a steal and long baseline two for Albero and a corner three for Matt McCarthy. Latrell Wright, who scored all eight of Conrad’s first-quarter points, answered immediately, and a Red Wolves block gave them possession once again.
Although they didn’t score, they were able to burn a few seconds off the clock.
Archmere, trailing 35-31, had a shot bounce out with 1:25 to go, and they committed four fouls over the next 17 seconds trying to get the Red Wolves to the free throw line. Epps foiled those plans, however, by nailing a corner three off the inbounds pass after the sixth Auks foul. Conrad made four free throws in the final 38 seconds, enough to overcome a layup by McCarthy and an Albero three.
Wright finished with 15 points to lead the Red Wolves, and Epps added 10. Conrad (14-5) closes out the regular season on Tuesday at Wilmington Charter. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.
For the Auks, Albero had 12 and McCarthy 11. Archmere fell to 11-7 and plays its regular-season finale on Friday at 6:15 p.m. vs. A.I. DuPont.
All photos by Jason Winchell.