LEWES — Salesianum battled back to tie College Achieve Public Charter School when the teams met Dec. 27 at Slam Dunk to the Beach, but the Sals could never regain the lead and fell to the Phoenix, 67-64, in the final game of the day at Cape Henlopen High School.
The Sals were the lone Delaware team to play on Wednesday at one of the country’s best-known holiday tournaments, and they drew College Achieve. Based in Asbury Park, N.J., the program is in its first year of competition and is currently ranked 11th in New Jersey by nj.com.
The Phoenix held a 43-32 halftime lead thanks in no small part to their long-distance shooting; they made seven three-point shots in the first half. But the second half had a different look as the Sals took better care of the basketball, and their shots started falling.
Salesianum limited College Achieve to nine points in the third quarter, none from distance, and the Sals’ began chipping into the deficit. A three-pointer by Isaiah Hynson after a Sals steal cut the Phoenix lead to 46-39 with 4:30 left in the quarter. Another steal, this one by R.J. Johnson, led to a transition layup by Kareem Thomas, and the team trailed, 52-48. With 20 seconds to go in the third, Luke Brown scored on a follow shot, and Salesianum was down just two going into the fourth.
Jebron Harris added three points to the Phoenix lead to open the scoring in the final stanza, but Thomas made two free throws, and Brown drained a corner three to level the score. Brown came up with a steal after that, but the Sals missed on a few chances to take the lead.
David Munro and Jamir Westry scored for College Achieve to restore a four-point advantage, only to see Justin Hinds answer with a three ball for the Sals. The Phoenix, however, scored six of the next eight points to take a 65-60 lead into the final minute. Still, the Sals were very much in the game.
Hynson scored on a feed from Johnson with 57.4 seconds left to make it 65-62, but Anthony Mauro knocked down two free throws. Thomas scored underneath with 9.7 seconds remaining and the score 67-64 in favor of the Phoenix. Both teams missed free throws in the final nine seconds, including two by College Achieve with 3.6 seconds to go. Thomas took a quick pass near midcourt, but his half-court prayer would not be answered.
Hynson had 20 to pace the Sals, with Thomas adding 18 and Hinds 14. Salesianum (2-3) will play James M. Bennett (Md.) on Friday at 6:45 p.m. at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, Md., as part of the Governor’s Challenge.
Four players reached double figures for the Phoenix. Mauro and Harris each had 15, while Westry had 11, and Nas Hart added 10.