PENNY HILL — The first four games of Saint Mark’s boys basketball season came against familiar foes, and the Spartans defeated all of them. On Dec. 17, Saint Mark’s mixed it up with West Philadelphia, and the result was the same, a 57-50 victory.
The game was part of the Urban Youth Showcase, a six-game event at Mount Pleasant High School that pitted schools from Delaware against those from Pennsylvania. Each state won three games.
The Spartans’ domination of the boards gave them lots of opportunities in the early going, but their shots were not falling. Fortunately for Saint Mark’s, the defense was stellar, forcing the Speedboys into several first-quarter turnovers, and in time the Spartans found their shot.
Alassan N’Diaye and Chase Wright helped the Spartans get going with three-point shots for the team’s first two makes. Michael Friend hit a few mid-range jumpers as well. West Philadelphia was limited to three field goals and trailed, 16-6, after one.
The Speedboys’ Teddy McAlister opened the second quarter scoring with a free throw, but both teams struggled during the stanza. N’Diaye knocked down a fourth-chance short jumper to get the lead to 11, but turnovers plagued both teams until halftime. The Saint Mark’s lead remained at 10 at the half.
Offense was not an issue in the second half. The Speedboys mounted a comeback thanks in large part to their three-point shooting, but with fewer than two minutes remaining in the quarter, they still trailed by eight, 37-29. Christian Taylor had a lot to do with that. The senior pounded the ball inside often, getting two field goals off the glass and making three of four foul shots.
McAlister cut three points off that deficit with a long triple, and he followed that with some defense, picking off a pass near the foul line and going three-quarters of the court for a layup that brought West Philadelphia to within three at 37-34 with 1:06 to go.
The Speedboys then intercepted a Spartans pass, but Saint Mark’s got it back with their own steal almost immediately. That paid off with two free throws for Friend, and the Spartans took a five-point advantage into the fourth.
Saint Mark’s AyoMosiah Odumosu had the only field goal of the fourth until the 4:45 mark, when West Philly finally got on the board. The Speedboys were making shots, but they could do little more than trade buckets with Saint Mark’s the rest of the way. A three-pointer for the Speedboys at the buzzer by Makel Butts closed the gap to seven.
N’Diaye, who was named the most valuable player of the game, had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans. Taylor had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Saint Mark’s (5-0) heads to Red Lion for a game Dec. 19 at 7:15 p.m. before traveling to Florida for a Christmas tournament.
A.B. Coulibaly led West Philadelphia with 13 points. McAlister had 12, and Brandon Williams added 11.
All photos courtesy of Nick Halliday.