Home Local Sports Salesianum pulls away for DIAA basketball tournament victory over Polytech: Photo gallery

Salesianum pulls away for DIAA basketball tournament victory over Polytech: Photo gallery

Kareem Thomas of the Sals looks to make a pass as the Panthers' Xavier Brewington approaches. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — A three-point shot from Kareem Thomas as the first half came to a close jump-started Salesianum in their second-round DIAA basketball tournament matchup on March 2. Thomas’ triple with .4 seconds remaining came with a free throw, and the four-point play put the Sals in front of the Panthers, 28-25, at the break. They never trailed again in a 72-53 victory over the Panthers at Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium.

The Sals, seeded fifth in the 24-team field, will play No. 4 Tower Hill at 4 p.m. Saturday in one quarterfinal. It will be another shot at redemption for last year’s state championship game, won convincingly by the Hillers. The Sals defeated Tower, 65-51, when the teams met on Feb. 2.

Poly rallied to cut the Sals’ lead to 15-13 after one, and they rallied in the second to take the lead a few times. They were ahead by a point, 25-24, as the clock ticked down, and Thomas drained the three and the free throw.

Salesianum had possession to open the second half and immediately added to the advantage on a mid-range jumper by Justin Hinds, who also scored the first basket of the first half on an alley-oop. A Panthers turnover resulted in a three-pointer for Isaiah Hynson. Hynson then scored with a left-handed floater off an inbounds pass from Brandon Baffone to put the Sals up by 10.

The Panthers responded with five straight, but the Sals were not going to allow the first-quarter comeback repeat itself. Their defense tightened, and instead of relying on three-point shots, the Sals found their touch from in close. Zach Swartout went from his right hand to left to get around a defender for a layup late in the third, and after the Panthers’ Brett Shelton-Hoskins nailed a corner three, Sallies’ Anthony Smith banked in his own triple as the buzzer sounded to put the lead at nine heading into the fourth.

Swartout sped past the Panthers’ defense for a layup to open the fourth, exciting the large Sallies student section. After the defense forced another turnover, Smith drove the baseline for a layup and harm, pushing the lead to 14. Swartout set up the evening’s most exciting hoop almost two minutes into the fourth, disrupting a Polytech shot, then saving the ball inbounds to Hynson. He passed the ball to Thomas, who bounced it under the hoop to Smith. Smith lofted the ball up just above the rim, where Thomas would rise to get it and slam it through the rim.

Final statistics were not available Friday morning. The Sals improved to 14-7, while the Panthers wrapped up a 17-5 campaign.

All photos by Mike Lang.