WILMINGTON — Nnanna Njoku got the game started in a big way for the top-ranked Sanford Warriors on Jan. 10 at Salesianum. The junior big man slipped behind the Sals’ defense, took a perfect lob from Corey Perkins and slammed down an alley oop just 14 seconds into the game for the quick 2-0 lead. The Warriors would go on to prevail, 61-45, remaining undefeated against Delaware opponents.
Sanford features a lot of height, and they put it to good use against the Sals in front of a spirited sold-out crowd at Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium. Njoku and fellow standout Jyare Davis combined for 32 points against a game Sallies defense.
Davis, who committed to play at Providence College earlier in the week, showed his versatility early with a three-pointer that put Sanford in front, 9-4. But the Sals stayed close, getting threes from Justin Molen and Rasheen Caulk and a pair of field goals from Tommy Montooth. Caulk’s three pulled the team to within a point at 15-14, but the Warriors’ Hassan Perkins drained a triple of his own with about 35 seconds to go to push the lead to four after one quarter.
The Warriors took control in the second, scoring the first 12 points to extend their run to 15. A combination of Sallies turnover issues and ball-hawking Sanford defense propelled the Warriors. Perkins hit another three from the same spot on the floor to open the second. Davis went into traffic for a bucket. Njoku scored off an offensive rebound. Brandon Dwyer came off the bench to swish a three-pointer, and Njoku finished the run with an authoritative one-handed jam.
Charles Parson grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a mid-range jumper with 3:43 to go in the half for the Sals’ first points of the second. He was fouled in the process and made the free throw. The home team trailed by 11 at intermission.
After a quiet third period, Sanford took a 15-point advantage into the fourth. Davis showed why he will be playing in the Big East Conference with a nice baseline lay-in off the glass. Njoku then shook the backboard and electrified the crowd with a two-handed tomahawk slam.
The Sals fell behind by as many as 19, but they kept battling. Caulk scored on a tough baseline jumper to get their fourth quarter going, and Ethan Hinds went for three. Hinds also scored on a fast break, and he hit one more field goal after missing a few minutes after crashing into the end wall while trying to score on another occasion.
Njoku led all scorers with 19 points and was likely into double digits in rebounds as well. Davis had 13, and Hassan Perkins finished with 12. The Warriors (5-3) remained unbeaten against Delaware opponents and host Tower Hill on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.
For the Sals, Caulk and Hinds reached double figures with 14 and 12, respectively. Salesianum (3-6) is at home against Archmere on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.