WILMINGTON — For one half of their basketball game against William Penn, Salesianum played the Colonials’ game. Up and down the court the teams went, shots flying — and often hitting — with the teams combining for 81 points. But as the Sals’ offense cooled in the second half, the team turned up its defensive effort and found many of its points at the foul line in a 68-58 victory at Father John Birkenheuer Gymnasium.
William Penn entered the game as the state’s third-ranked team by Delaware Live/302Sports. The Sals, who faced a tough out-of-state schedule in the first month of the season, are currently ranked seventh.
The Sals were home for the first time since Dec. 23, and the fans in attendance were treated to a high-flying first half. They sprinted out to a 7-2 lead thanks to a pair of Justin Molen free throws, a three-pointer from Kareem Thomas and a steal and hoop from Sam Walsh. But the Colonials scored the next five, tying the score on a triple from Jalen Sample, before Molen ignited a 13-0 run with an old-fashioned three-point play.
The defense was responsible for several of the points in that streak, leading directly to a driving layup for Justin Hinds. The long-distance shots were falling as well. After a timeout by William Penn midway through the first, Molen picked up an offensive rebound, dribbled a few feet away from the basket and into the corner, and calmly nailed a three. Walsh closed out the run with a three ball of his own.
Salesianum kept the offense going into the second, opening up a 13-point lead at one point before Penn cut the lead to 37-31 on another Sample three. Dariyon Williams made his own three to push Sallies’ lead back to nine.
The half ended with more long-distance wizardry. Molen sandwiched a pair of threes around a nifty layup from the Colonials’ Emmauel Vohm. The second of those beat the halftime buzzer, and as Molen was surrounded by his teammates on the court, the Salesianum student section whooped it up in their end-zone bleachers. The Sals’ lead at the break was 46-35.
Salesianum slowed its pace in the third quarter, and their shooting cooled. They had just two field goals in the stanza, including another Molen triple, but the Colonials cut the lead to 55-47 after the third. William Penn had just three field goals in the quarter, but two were three-pointers from Sample, including his own buzzer-beater.
The fourth quarter featured just one Sals field goal, and that came on a leaner a minute and a half in from Molen, restoring a double-digit lead. But some adventures at the free throw line kept the door open for the Colonials, and when Gabe Valmond banked a scoop shot off the glass and in with 2:37 remaining, Sallies’ lead had shrunk to just four, 59-55.
After a Salesianum timeout, the Colonials came up with a steal, but they missed on two opportunities to score. Quinn O’Hara hit two clutch free throws, after which Valmond slashed his way in for a field goal that again made it a four-point Sals lead. But the Colonials would not make another field goal, and Sallies made seven of eight free throws in the final 95 seconds to seal the victory.
Molen finished with 28 points to lead all scorers. Thomas was the other Sals player in double figures; he had 11. Nine different players scored. The Sals (3-6) remained unbeaten against Delaware competition, but they get another tough opponent on Tuesday when they travel to No. 3 Middletown for a 6:30 p.m. tip.
Four Colonials scored in double figures, led by Sample with 17. The others were Valmond (16), Jaiden Guy (11) and Emmanuel Vohm (10). William Penn fell to 9-2. They are scheduled to play at home Monday against Albany (N.Y.) Academy.
All photos by Jason Winchell.