The Salesianum basketball team had lost four of its previous six games going into a Jan. 20 meeting with archrival St. Mark’s. And that afternoon, coach Brendan Haley found out that 6-foot-8 sophomore Tariq Ingraham – the Sals’ leading scorer – had been declared academically ineligible.
So how have the Sals’ responded? By winning four of their last five, including three straight close ones over quality opponents. The biggest was a 39-37 shocker over then-No. 1 Mount Pleasant 39-37 on Saturday.
“We’ve been doing a lot of good things in crunch time, and it’s been different guys, which is kind of cool,” Haley said. “We’re defending, holding teams down.”
The Sals (10-5) have moved back into The News Journal’s Top 10 at No. 8, and it all started when they pulled away for a surprisingly easy, 56-39 win at St. Mark’s. Proceeds from the game went to pediatric cancer, a fact Haley used in his pregame message to a team suddenly playing without its star center.
“We just had a good talk before the game about perspective, and how we’re blessed, and just play the game hard,” Haley said. “Don’t worry about the things that have happened, because there are a lot worse things going on.”
The Sals lost 36-30 at Sanford, but caught a break in nipping St. Elizabeth 56-55 on a last-second shot that even Haley admitted was a tick beyond the buzzer. Then they got past Appoquinimink 48-46 before knocking off Mount Pleasant.
“We talked about how we’re a different style now, and everybody is going to have to step up because it’s a huge piece that is now not there,” Haley said. “We’re just going to need a little more out of everybody.”
Senior guard Michael Kempski and junior forward Paul Brown have picked up offensively, and senior guard Duncan Trerotola hit 4 of 5 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 16 points against the Green Knights.
Ingraham didn’t miss a beat, already transferring to Ranney School in Tinton Falls, N.J., which is 15-2 and ranked 17th in that fiercely competitive state. But Salesianum has carried on and even flourished with more of a free-flowing, perimeter-oriented attack.
“Our plan with him was that we want to play an interior game,” Haley said. “But we just were having a hard time getting the results. We were a little more stationary than I hoped we would be. … When he was gone, it just became more imperative that the four guys on the outside have to be more aggressive.”
The Sals close the regular season with four of their last five games at home – against Brandywine, St. Mark’s, Wilmington Friends and Concord. The only road trip is to Sussex Tech on Feb. 18.
More Delaware high school senior athletes continue to make their college athletic decisions official, including Tower Hill’s Morgan Rollins (Temple soccer), Newark resident B’Ahmad Miller, who attends St. Frances Academy in Baltimore (Maryland football), Caesar Rodney’s Najee Whitted (Shepherd football), Appoquinimink’s Connor Feinour (Widener swimming), Indian River’s McClain Smith (Millersville soccer), St. Mark’s David Balint (Shippensburg football), St. Thomas More’s Kexxer Camarco (Delaware soccer), Tatnall’s Cameron Easton (Southern Connecticut State football), Daniel Murphy (Susquehanna baseball), Sully Saunders (Misericordia track and field) and Terry Li (St. Lawrence swimming); and Charter of Wilmington’s Leah Frerichs (Mount Aloysius soccer).
Rounding it up
— St. Thomas More guard Eric Montanez reached 1,000 career points with 26 in a 71-58 victory over St. Andrew’s on Friday. The Newark resident transferred to the Ravens from Chichester (Pa.) for his senior season.
— Charter of Wilmington took the team title at the Red Clay district wrestling championships on Saturday at Conrad. Elias Smith (106), Jessey Muaka (126), Johnny Garcia (138) and Kyle Lank (220) won individual titles for the Force. Other weight-class winners were Delaware Military Academy’s Dylan Peters (113), Zachary Martinez (120), Justin Morgan (152), Joey Scalia (182) and Hunter Balback (285); A.I. du Pont’s Azeem Bell (132), Jamier Schaener (145), Andrew Harp (170) and Kajie Li (195); and Conrad’s Elijah Walton (160).
— Wilmington Friends freshman soccer player Oryem Kilama has been selected to the Region 1 boys’ Olympic Development Program team. He will compete in the Mediterranean International Cup from April 11-16 in Spain.
— The Henlopen Conference Swimming Championships will be held Saturday at Sussex Academy, with action starting at 10 a.m. Tickets are $5.
— Wilmington Christian is seeking a head coach for girls volleyball. Email athletic director Pam Love at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 239-2121 ext. 3320 for details.
— A.I. du Pont is seeking a head coach for girls tennis. Email athletic director Mark Alley at email@example.com for details.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ