The Explorers Hold the Hawks to 12 Second Half Points to Win 49 – 48
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 3/2/2022 –
It was not artistic, the game was sheer competition. Relying on defense the La Salle Explorers came away with a 49 – 48 win over the Saint Joseph’s Hawks in what reminded many of the excited 2,812 in attendance of an old fashion Big Five game. The Explorers held the Hawks to 12 second half points, and found a way to grind out a win.
“A Big Five rival game, you can expect anything,” said La Salle Coach Ashley Howard. “You never know what to expect. Our guys did a good job of keeping their composure. When we didn’t see the ball go through the basket, we focused on defense. In the second half we stayed committed to that. We had to dig, scarp, and claw to find a way to win by one point.”
Two Halves, Two Different Results
While La Salle did not shoot the ball well making 20 of 61 (32.8%) and just 6 of 28 from distance, they limited Saint Joe’s to 27.4% from the floor (17 – 62), 7 of 24 from beyond the arc. The numbers for the Hawks in the second half were 5 of 32 (15.6%) and made only 2 of 11 from distance.
The first half was quite a different story as Saint Joe’s held a 36 – 24 lead and made 12 of 30 field goal attempts and 5 of 13 three-pointers.
“A tale of two halves for us offensively,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Billy Lange said. “I thought our defense was good enough to give us a chance to win. Give La Salle credit. they kept hanging in despite not shooting the ball well either. We needed fourteen points in the second half to win the game. We didn’t get it. We only got twelve.”
La Salle Defense, Clifton Moore Blocks Became the Difference
The second half started with a three-pointer by Taylor Funk who gave Saint Joseph’s a 39 – 24 lead. Then the La Salle defense started to chip away at the lead. In the latter 20 minutes the Hawks committed 8 turnovers that disrupted the offense, and the ball did not fall as well. The Explorers feasted off collective energy getting stops.
Under a minute left Saint Joe’s went inside to Ejike Obinna. His shot was blocked by Clifton Moore. Obinna got the rebound and fed Funk and his shot was stopped by Moore who was fouled and went to the free throw line for the winning point with 47.4 seconds on the clock. Those two rejections were a decisive momentum shift.
“I try to focus on defense, said Moore. “The offense was really not working for me today. I wanted to help the guys and tried to make adjustments to help my team win. So, I focused on defense.”
Moore had a game-high 7 blocks to give him 76 this season, one shy of the program-high for blocked shots in a single season set by Lionel Simmons.
The End Game
With just under a minute and a half Explorers guard Khalil Brantley, who scored a team-high 11 points, drained a three to tie the game at 48.
“Brantley gave us great energy,” said Howard. “On defense his ability to disrupt the Saint Joe’s ball handlers and throw off the timing of their offense helped us. We left him out there and he made some huge shots in the clutch when we needed it.”
Saint Joe’s had an opportunity when LSU missed a one and one with 14 seconds to play. Hawks guard Jordan Hall put up a shot. It missed and during the scramble for the rebound, the horn sounded to end the game. And the Explorers and their fans celebrated.
In the first half the Hawks had a good mixture of inside and outside play. They were able to get the ball to the post, drive to the rim, and make some three’s. The offense was not consistent throughout the game. Still, Saint Joe’s had a chance.
“Up until the twelve minute mark I thought we were okay,” said Lange. “They are going to fight, too. It’s not all Saint Joe’s. There is another team out there that did a good job. They speed you up. We have to make quick decisions. We have good players and when they do it collectively and in a united way, they do it. For the last twelve minutes, we didn’t do it.”
Obinna recorded a double-double for the Hawks with 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Hall added 12 points and 5 assists. Erik Reynolds II contributed 11 points.
Jhamir Brickus scored 10 for the Explorers and Christian Ray pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Philly Standings
Saint Joseph’s falls to 10 – 18 and 4 – 13 in the Atlantic 10. La Salle is 9 – 18 and also 4 – 13 in the league. The Hawks could have taken second place in the Big Five, but are now tied with the Explorers at 2 – 2 in the city series. And that has meaning to both programs.
“All of our players know all of their players, so it’s one of those things when it’s a real Big Five game,” Howard said. “That’s what makes the Big Five the Big Five. It’s a real connection. It’s unique in Philadelphia. I’m glad our guys experienced that. To have a game like this when you feel like you’re playing for something substantial, it adds to the experience.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian