Home Local Sports Salesianum wins, will face Tower Hill for DIAA boys basketball title: Photo...

Salesianum wins, will face Tower Hill for DIAA boys basketball title: Photo gallery

Isaiah Hynson had nine points for the Sals. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

NEWARK — With two minutes left in the third quarter, Salesianum led Howard by 23 in the second semifinal of the DIAA boys basketball tournament on March 10. By the time the quarter ended, the Wildcats had gone on an 8-0 run and taken much of the momentum and trailed, 43-28, as the fourth quarter opened.

Howard took advantage of numerous Salesianum turnovers to get to within nine with 4:46 to go, but the Sals held on for a 58-50 win at the Bob Carpenter Center and a chance to play for the state championship on Saturday night.

Salesianum will meet Tower Hill at 6 p.m. that evening in search of the school’s third championship. The Sals defeated the Hillers, 54-46, on Feb. 3 at Tower Hill.

After the Wildcats had cut the deficit to single digits, the Sals scored the next seven points on five free throws and a transition layup by Brandon Baffone. The turnover that led to Baffone’s hoop was one of 21 forced by the Sals, who converted them into 26 points. They led by 16 with 2:18 to go.

But Howard wasn’t about to give up. The Wildcats, who hadn’t made a three-pointer all night, got two of them from De’Mere Hollingsworth during a 10-3 run that made the score 57-48 Sals with 24 seconds on the clock. They cut the lead to seven with 17 seconds left, but Salesianum was able to compete the victory, much to the delight of the large and boisterous student section that filled one end zone of the Carpenter Center.

It made for a nail-biting finish for the Sallies fans in the sold-out arena who were looking for revenge for a 62-59 Howard win at Sallies on Feb. 19. Early on, the Sals had their way and threatened to blow the Wildcats out. Isaiah Hynson took a pass from Sam Walsh and opened the scoring with a three-point shot 75 seconds in. After a few empty possessions, Molen turned a Hynson steal into another triple. A traveling violation gave the ball right back to the Sals, and this time, it was Kareem Thomas for three with the assist to Dariyon Williams. The game-opening run reached 13 points before Xavier Richards-Powell scored in the paint for the Wildcats with just 1:11 remaining in the first.

The Sals continued the offensive show in the second. Molen converted another Wildcats turnover into a layup, extending the lead to 19-4. Howard, on the other hand, struggled not only to keep possession, but also to make shots when they had the opportunity, and they made just three of eight free throws in the first half.

The second quarter ended with the Sals scoring seven of the final nine points. Molen hit a layup to make the score 26-11, then hit one of two free throws, followed by a fast-break layup. The teams traded a pair of free throws each to end the half, with Salesianum up by 18. Howard’s total of 13 first-half points was its lowest of the season.

Some of that was due to the presence of Sam Walsh, who missed the first battle between the two teams. Hollingsworth, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, had just two points in the first half and four through three quarters.

The Sals committed 26 turnovers, a number Walsh said has to be much lower against the Hillers on Saturday.

“Twenty-six turnovers is unacceptable. We have to get that under control,” he said.

Molen led the Sals (15-8) with 16 points and 12 rebounds before leaving the game with 2:36 to go after taking a hard bump and appearing to hurt an ankle. He was walking around the bench area before the game ended. Thomas had 12 points, and Hynson added 9.

The Sals will try to win their first title since back-to-back triumphs in 2014 and 2015. Tower Hill is seeking its first championship.

For the Wildcats, Hollingsworth and Darius Brown each had 14, while Jameer DeShields had 10. The Wildcats finished the season 18-4.

All photos by Mike Lang.