St. Elizabeth tried its best to get Polytech to lose its composure – and the game – but somehow the Panthers consistently remained cool under fire.
Seventh-seeded Polytech managed to hold off the misfiring No. 10-seed Vikings in the closing minute and held on for an exciting 68-62 triumph in the second round of the DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament on Saturday night.
Sophomore center Devaughn Mallory scored 22 points, including 14 in the second half, and senior forward Anthony DePina knocked down 20 points for Polytech (18-3 overall). It was a team effort for the Panthers as Juwan Gray scored six points and Christian Black added three points in the fourth – their only points of the game.
Polytech is the last remaining team from the Henlopen Conference in the tournament and advances to face Howard in the quarterfinals at Salesianum on Tuesday night at 8.
“That took a lot of heart,” DePina said. “We had to gut it out. Our whole strategy was based around one player – [St. E’s Andre] Patton. We felt if we could pretty much stop him that we’d win the game.
“We always try to put downstate [teams] on our back and hopefully this year we can get to the [championship].”
Patton, a senior forward, did manage to score a game-high 23 points while junior guard Brandon Gautier chipped in 17 points, with 14 coming in the second half, for St. Elizabeth (14-8).
It appeared early on as if Polytech would have its way with the Vikings. Richard Hicks sank a left-hander to give the Panthers an 8-7 lead in the first quarter that, somehow, they would never relinquish.
Polytech went on to score the final 11 points of the opening quarter, getting a pair of free throws from John Williams with 1 second left, to take a 17-7 lead.
The Panthers then began the second quarter with a 10-2 run and extended their lead to 27-9 on Harry Johnson’s basket in the paint with 3:57 left until halftime.
Just when it appeared as if the rout was on, St. Elizabeth erupted for an 11-2 spurt, getting 3-pointers from Sheldon Sorrell, Gautier and Ryan Cason, and pulled to within 29-20 on Mike Piekarski’s putback with 1:19 left until the half. Polytech held a 32-22 lead at halftime.
The Vikings slowly crept close in the second half, answering Polytech’s tough defense with some tight defense of their own, and pulled to within 48-44 heading into the final frame.
St. Elizabeth eventually narrowed the gap to just 58-57 on Patton’s short jumper with 3:04 to go. But Polytech answered by getting back-to-back baskets from DePina.
After Cason drained a 3-pointer to bring the Vikings to within 62-60 with 1:23 left, Polytech took over.
The Panthers went 6 for 9 from the free-throw line over the final 1:10, while St. Elizabeth missed five of its last six shots from the field.
“We just wanted to play good defense, work as a team, get easy transition buckets and just move on,” Mallory said. “We knew even if they had the open lanes, we weren’t going to make it easy for them.”
Mallory likes the way Polytech looks heading into the rest of the tourney.
“I think our chances are a lot better than last year,” he said. “Because we’re a lot more of a team, and we can take it in the paint more. I think we have a good chance.”