With a heavy heat, La Salle's Isiah Deas is valiant in defeat

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La Salle's # 10 Isiah Deas pumps his fist after he was fouled in the 1st half of the VCU at La Salle University mens basketball game at La Salle's Gola Arena on January 6, 2018. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The outcome was disappointing but deep down La Salle sophomore Isiah Deas found a sense of pride in performing for a person he truly idolized.

La Salle scored the first 15 points of the game but couldn’t sustain the momentum in Saturday’s 80-74 basketball loss to VCU in an Atlantic 10 game at Tom Gola Arena.

It was a game Deas wanted to play like no other, dedicating the effort to his late grandmother Margaret “Mag” Deas.

On Friday, Isiah Deas attended his grandmother’s viewing in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Deas flew to South Carolina accompanied by La Salle assistant coaches Sean Neal and Horace Owens.

“It was probably the hardest game I ever played in my life with that sitting in the back of your mind, it’s tough,” Deas said. “I tried to come out and put on my best performance for her and those who were watching back home.”

A 6-foot-6 sophomore, Deas scored 14 points, hitting 7 of 14 shots from the field and added four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes.

What made the performance more impressive is that the trio decided to drive home instead of flying due to the fact that many flights were delayed or canceled.

He estimates the drive took more than 10 hours and Deas said he arrived home before 4 a.m. on Saturday. He said it was all worth it to pay honor to his grandmother.

“She believed in me more than I believed in myself at times,” he said. “She never questioned my ability on the court and told me to stay focused and be true to yourself …”

The game marked the return of A-10 leading scorer B.J. Johnson, who missed La Salle’s previous three contests with an ankle injury. The 6-7 Johnson, who had not practiced since his injury, totaled 15 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes, but didn’t play down the stretch because coach John Giannini said Johnson simply ran out of gas.

“He just literally had nothing in the second half and that isn’t his fault, that is my fault for not factoring into my decision making,” said Giannini, whose team fell to 7-9 (1-2 in Atlantic 10).

Trailing, 40-32, at halftime, VCU (10-6, 2-1) came out on fire, led by 6-4 sophomore Malik Crowfield, who hit five threes in the first six minutes of the second half. Scoreless at halftime, he finished with 17 points, while De’Riante Jenkins led the Rams with 20 points.

La Salle, which trailed by as many as 10, got to within 76-74 when Pookie Powell scored on a driving layup with 44 seconds left. The Explorers then forced a turnover, but Powell missed a 6-footer in the lane. The Rams’ Jonathan Williams then hit both free throws with 14.7 seconds left, making it 78-74. Powell, who scored a game-high 24 points, then missed a three, and VCU held on.

For Deas it was the end of an emotional week, but he knew he played his best in his grandmother’s memory.

“I could hear her now, you have got to toughen up and play,” Deas said. “She wanted me to go out and be tough and not hang my head and play basketball.”

In this instance, he certainly accomplished that goal.