Salesianum’s defense did its job in the first overtime, and the offense did just enough in the second.
No. 8 Sallies survived a furious comeback by St. Mark’s, staying perfect at home with a 34-32, double-overtime victory on Friday.
After the Spartans outscored Sallies 22-9 in the second half, the shots stopped falling for both teams during a seldom-seen scoreless extra session.
“I give (St. Mark’s) a ton of credit; they played an amazing second half,” Salesianum head coach Brendan Haley said. “When you get that far behind, normally you get out of what you’re doing, but they stayed true to what they do and suddenly the shots started going in. We struggled to hit the basket, but I give our guys a ton of credit for giving a little grit when the second half wasn’t going well.”
The way things were going, Nicholas Leski’s 3-pointer for St. Mark’s 35 seconds into the second overtime could have been the game-winner, but Duncan Trerotola sank a trey of his own a minute later.
Mike Kempski, whose 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter forced overtime, then supplied the winning points with a pair of free throws at the 1:44 mark. Salesianum got to the line twice more before time ran out, but missed all four shots.
“You just got to tell yourself, it’s just like practice,” Kempski said about his winning foul shots. “Your hear the fans screaming, but it happens. You practice foul shots all your life, and that’s what it comes down to.”
Both teams employed stiff zone defense schemes throughout the game, forcing the other team to beat it from a distance. That team was Salesianum (12-5) in the first half, as Trerotola hit back-to-back triples early, and the hosts jumped out to a comfortable 20-7 lead by halftime.
The Spartans (11-5) shot just 3-for-20 from the field in the first half, including 0-for-7 from long range.
St. Mark’s came surging back in the third quarter, allowing Sallies to possess the ball just once in the first 3:55 of the period. The Spartans held their opponents to just two points in third, cutting their lead to 22-17.
St. Mark’s senior Zach Palmer carried the offense in the fourth quarter, sinking three treys, the last of which gave his team its first lead, 28-26, with less than two minutes to go. He then added a free throw, giving him a game-high 15 points, all of which came in the second half.
As the clock fell under a minute, Kempski brought the ball down the court, shook off his defender and tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top.
“I made a move, stepped back and thankfully, the shot dropped,” he said. “St. Mark’s played great ‘D’ the whole game, which we knew they would.”
St. Mark’s took a timeout with 13.5 seconds left to draw up a potential game-winning play, but Chris Ludman’s layup attempt went wide to the left.
Trerotola and Kempski each scored 10 points to lead Sallies, who are building their case for a high seed in the state tournament.
“What it comes down to is we earned three points tonight,” Haley said. “That’s what we’ve been doing lately, just piling up points.”