WILMINGTON — Salesianum played its final game before the postseason starts, and the Sals will enter the tournament on the heels of a 58-44 win over a talented Howard squad on Feb. 17. The Sals wrapped up the regular season with a 13-7 record.
The contest got off to an uneven start, with both teams going through stretches where nothing was falling. R.J. Johnson started the scoring for the Sals with an early steal and layup, but Salesianum would not make another field goal until Anthony Smith drained a three-point attempt with 27 seconds left. That gave the Sals a short-lived 9-7 lead until Bryson Lane tied the game in the closing seconds.
The Sals took two leads in the second, including a 13-11 advantage on a baseline jumper by Kareem Thomas. They could not add to that point total, however, and the Wildcats responded with the next seven points. Xavier Richards-Powell gave Howard a 16-13 lead with a three at the 4:40 mark, and R.J. Matthews added the next two. Sallies made four free throws in the final 63 seconds of the half, and their defense caused several Howard turnovers, and the Wildcats led by one at the break.
The momentum changed for good in the third. Down, 23-21, after a three-pointer by Marcus Johnson, Isaiah Hynson responded with a triple of his own to put the Sals back on top. That began an 11-0 Sallies run that featured five points from Justin Hinds and three from Johnson.
It was more Salesianum as the fourth began. Zach Swartout drove the lane for a contested layup, and after a rebound on the defensive end, Thomas hit a mid-range jumper. Consecutive threes by Smith and R.J. Johnson extended the lead to 16 with about four minutes to go. An 8-0 Wildcats run, capped by a pair of free throws by Ayden Richards-Powell, trimmed the deficit to nine, but good Sals defense and some turnovers prevented Howard from getting any closer.
Final statistics were not available early Saturday morning. The Sals are off until Feb. 28 if they have to play in the state tournament’s first round and until March 2 if they earn a first-round bye.
Howard (13-3) visits Delcastle on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.