Salesianum coach Brendan Haley knew a defensive change-up by Philadelphia’s Constitution High with 17 seconds remaining was going to make the play he had drawn up difficult to execute.
But with no timeouts left, the Sals suffered a heartbreaking 62-61 loss to the Generals on Monday night in the Concord Classic basketball tournament.
“I just told the guys, that’s my fault,” Haley said. “That last play was my fault, but we’re very proud of our effort and of a lot of things we did today. It’s a tough loss, but we’ll learn a lot from it.”
Salesianum’s Donte DiVincenzo, who led the team with 27 points, said the loss will help reinvigorate the team.
“Winning all the time sometimes takes away from the team aspect,” DiVincenzo said. “A loss brings everybody together. Tomorrow we’ll get back to work.”
The second-ranked Sals (9-2) trailed 60-58 with 17.21 seconds remaining, but on the inbounds play, Constitution changed their zone defense.
“They had been zone underneath all day on their inbounds,” Haley said. “We geared a play just to get it in and run something. And when they were in man, we didn’t have any timeouts left. They should have been prepared if it was man.”
Still, Salesianum’s Brian O’Neill thought he had an opening.
“The only thing that really gave us trouble was the guy right in my face,” O’Neill said. “He was really tall, and he was jumping up and down. … I just thought I had an open guy and threw it as hard as I could.”
The Sals turned the ball over, and the Generals (15-2) scored on their own inbounds play to open a four-point lead. Salesianum’s Matthew Sgro hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, but it wasn’t enough.
“We’re going to take the positive out of this,” O’Neill said. “I guarantee there’s going to be some time down the road where we’re going to be in a situation like that and it just gives us experience of what to do and what not to do.”
Constitution gave Salesianum trouble early, opening a 16-6 lead after the first quarter, but the Sals tightened up their defense and took advantage of free throws to close the gap to 29-27 at halftime. The Sals finished the game 28 for 33 from the line.
“Defensively, we always try to hang our hat on our defense and that came up pretty big,” Haley said. “… I thought our half-court D did a real good job holding up against them. They’re a real good team.”
O’Neill, who added 15 points for the Sals, sees this type of loss as paying off down the road.
“We knew coming in this was going to be a tough matchup,” he said. “We just showed the heart of our team and how we fought to the very end.
“Although it’s a shame we didn’t come out on top, you want to play those types of games early in the season for games that are not early, for example the state tournament.”