NEWARK — Salesianum held a small lead most of the night when the Sals met Middletown in the second DIAA boys basketball semifinal on March 9, but they just could not shake loose of the Cavaliers. But with the score tied in the closing seconds, Isaiah Hynson gave the Sals the lead for the final time.
Hynson’s teardrop floater with 4.2 seconds remaining put Salesianum on top, 51-49, and when a last-second Middletown halfcourt attempt bounced off the backboard and rim, the fifth-seeded Sals had a 51-49 win over the top seed. For the second consecutive year, Salesianum will play for a state championship, this time against No. 7 William Penn. That game is Saturday at 6 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Middletown had taken a 46-45 lead with 2:32 remaining when Jaden Rogers stepped in front of a Sallies pass and went three-quarters the length of the court for a dunk. But the Sals’ R.J. Johnson drove into the lane for a layup, ending the Cavaliers’ 5-0 run and restoring a one-point lead for Salesianum.
The Sals missed on three chances to extend the lead before Kareem Thomas tapped in the last of those errant shots with 1:17 on the clock. Middletown got its own second-chance bucket when Amir Cunningham grabbed a blocked shot and put it back, and he was fouled in the process. His free throw tied the score at 49.
Salesianum dribbled most of the last minute off the clock, and Hynson found himself with the ball outside the top of the circle with about 11 seconds to go. He got past a defender into the lane and let go of a left-handed floater that hit nothing but net on its way down, and the hundreds of Sals students in that end zone went nuts. But the Cavs weren’t done.
After a timeout, Cunningham dribbled to the midcourt stripe and took the last shot, which wasn’t off by much. The Sals could breathe a sigh of relief and start getting ready for the Colonials.
Hynson paced the Sals with 18 points, with Thomas adding 12 and Justin Hinds 11. Hinds also had 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Salesianum improved to 16-7. One of those losses came at William Penn in January, a 75-63 decision.
For the Cavaliers, Jaiden McGhee and Cunningham each had 12. Amir Hite finished with 10. Middletown finished 19-3, with both in-state losses coming to Sallies.
Tickets to the final go on sale at noon Friday at the University of Delaware website.
All photos by Mike Lang.