Compared to most local gyms, the baskets at the Bob Carpenter Center appear to just hang in the air, with tons of empty space behind them.
It’s a backdrop that gives many prep players fits, but Sanford’s Sabri Thompson had no problems Thursday. The senior hit four 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points as the Warriors rolled past Salesianum 60-40 in the semifinals of the DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament.
Top-seeded Sanford (19-4) will go for an unprecedented fourth consecutive state title against second-seeded Howard at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bob.
Some of the Warriors have played as many as 10 games at the Bob during the last four years. All of the Sals were making their first appearance.
“I’ve been here for three years, so I feel like I’ve adjusted to the court,” Thompson said. “The key for us tonight was to control the tempo and play defense. That’s what we wanted to do.”
That’s what the Warriors did, holding Salesianum to 14 of 52 (26.9 percent) from the field. The Sals hit only 4 of 20 3-point attempts. Sanford poured in 5 of 11 from long range.
“I don’t think it was the backdrop,” Sallies coach Brendan Haley said. “Mostly, it was [Sanford]. I think we got a taste of what it takes when you get here. You’ve got to deal with some pretty good pressure from a real good team that is well coached. … Sanford just got up on us and rushed us.”
The Warriors rushed out to a 16-6 lead, scoring 12 straight points before the Sals’ Donte DiVincenzo beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer from half court.
The long shot fired up the crowd of 4,687, but it didn’t faze Sanford. Anthony Mosley opened the second quarter with five straight points, and the Warriors were on their way with a 21-9 lead.
Junior Todd Hughes took over for Sanford in the second half, scoring 13 of his 15 points and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds.
“My teammates told me to just keep my head up, no matter what,” Hughes said. “I wasn’t really focused on making shots. I was just trying to do whatever it took to win.”
DiVincenzo scored 12 and Nick Perugino added 10 for Salesianum (19-4). But Thompson was the star, spacing his 3-pointers with one from each corner in the first quarter, one from the top of the key in the third quarter and one from the left corner that opened the fourth and made it 48-29.
“I’ve said it all along, Sabri is one of the best players in the state,” Sanford coach Stan Waterman said. “In our system, he does exactly what we need him to do. If he was anywhere else, he’d probably score 25 or 30 a game.”