LA SALLE 38, ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 33
After being embarrassed two weeks ago by archrival St. Joseph's Prep, Dave Krmpotich and La Salle had a score to settle in Saturday afternoon's Catholic League boys' basketball playoff quarterfinal.
"Falling behind by so much early on and losing the way we did, it really sparked a fire in us," Krmpotich said. "There was no way we were going to let that happen again."
This time, the host Explorers, with terrific man-to-man defense in the late going, reversed their previous woes against the Hawks with a 38-33 triumph in Wyndmoor.
"We changed our strategy," La Salle coach Joe Dempsey said. "We decided not to press them and just play them in half-court sets."
The Prep, which had jumped out to a 24-6 advantage in its 58-47 win over the Explorers, shot 11 for 45 from the field. The Hawks were 2 for 11 (0 for 5 in the first half) from beyond the arc.
After taking a 26-23 lead on Chris Clover's inside bucket late in the third quarter, the visitors went 9 minutes, 43 seconds without scoring. They went 10:45 without a field goal.
The Prep (16-7) was missing its top three-point threat. Senior guard Tom Fox, who suffered a left sprained anterior cruciate ligament last Sunday against Archbishop Wood, showed up wearing crutches.
"I don't want to make any excuses," Hawks boss Speedy Morris said of Fox's absence. "Give La Salle the credit. They did a great job defensively."
In a 7 p.m. semifinal Wednesday at the Palestra, the fourth-seeded Explorers (18-5) will take on top-seeded Roman Catholic. The other semifinal, at about 8:45, will pit Archbishop Carroll vs. five-time defending champ Neumann-Goretti.
Against the Prep, Krmpotich, a 6-foot-7, 170-pound junior forward with a scholarship offer from Lafayette, produced 16 points, four rebounds, and two blocked shots. He shot 4 for 7 from the field and 8 for 12 from the line.
Clover, the Hawks' junior catalyst, netted 17 points on 5-for-16 marksmanship. He was guarded down the stretch by Jalen Herdsman. Earlier, Sean Witherspoon and sub Sean Greenberg were assigned the task.
"We were basically playing help defense on him, especially when he tried to drive," Krmpotich said. "We couldn't let him have a big game."
Trailing by 24-19 midway through the third stanza, La Salle, which was 16 for 26 from the line (the Prep went 7 for 9), was in front, 32-26, with 1 1/2 minutes to play.
Explorers guard Najee Walls pitched in nine points, six boards, and two steals; Herdsman posted six boards and two blocks; and reserve Dan Corr nailed a first-quarter trey.
The Prep's Ricky Slusarczyk, a 6-3 center who collected eight boards, fouled out with 1:34 remaining.
In the second quarter, Krmpotich's put-back slam gave La Salle, wich was 10 for 17 from the stripe in the final eight minutes, a 17-14 advantage.
St. Joseph's Prep 12 8 6 7-33
La Salle 13 6 7 12-38
SJP: Alex Stewart 3, Kyle Thompson 7, Ricky Slusarczyk 2, Ryan Wall 4, Chris Clover 17.
L: Najee Walls 9, Dave Krmpotich 16, Jalen Herdsman 5, Sean Weatherspoon 3, Sean Greenberg 2, Dan Corr 3.