In a season that already featured many disappointments, a loss in the last home game for La Salle seniors B.J. Johnson, Johnnie Shuler, Amar Stukes and Tony Washington wasn’t something the Explorers could stomach.
Also, with the Atlantic 10 Tournament starting next week in Washington, they were looking to generate some momentum.
Johnson made sure the Explorers got everything they wanted. Playing in his final game at Tom Gola Arena, he scored 27 points to lead La Salle to a 71-53 win over Dayton on Wednesday.
For Johnson, the Lower Merion High graduate who transferred after two seasons at Syracuse, it was his 17th game of at least 20 points in 25 games this season. He also had six rebounds.
La Salle (13-17, 7-10 A-10) finishes the regular season with a Big Five and A-10 game at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Winning for the third time in four games, the Explorers have a chance to avoid an opening-round game in an A-10 Tournament.
All of the seniors contributed to the win over the Flyers (13-16, 7-10).
Washington made his 64th start in 102 career games for the Explorers. The 6-10 center from Detroit had 14 points and five rebounds.
Stukes, a graduate student from La Salle College High with an accounting degree, made his 30th start of the season and 100th of his career. He had five points, seven assists, and four steals while moving past Steve Zack, Rodney Green, and Doug Overton into sixth place with 124 career games played for the Explorers.
Shuler, who came to La Salle from Theodore Roosevelt High in Washington, got the traditional senior start – his second of the season. Because junior Pookie Powell was out with a head injury sustained last Saturday at Fordham, he played a season-high 29 minutes.
Shuler assisted on the game’s first basket – a three-pointer by Saul Phiri – and kept on dishing dimes until he had a career-high 11 assists.
“It’s been a long and fun four years here,” Shuler said. “There have been ups and downs. It was a very special night for me.”
Johnson, who scored his 1,000th point for the Explorers on Saturday against Fordham, put on a show for several NBA scouts who were in attendance. The swingman shot 10 of 14 from the floor and made three of his six three-point shots.
During the Senior Night ceremony before the game, La Salle coach John Giannini announced that Johnson is one of the 64 seniors to be invited to the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational – the NBA’s first “mass” scouting event of the draft process.
Approximately 200 representatives from the NBA and international leagues attend the four-day event.
“He’s got a chance,” an NBA Eastern Conference team scout said of Johnson. “He’ll have to do it the hard way. Hopefully, he can play well in Portsmouth and then get invited to Chicago [the NBA’s scouting combine event].”