Defense is Hockaday's big play for La Salle High


So, you look at La Salle High's basketball scoring totals for the 2009-10 season and see Troy Hockaday leads the way with 313 points.

And then you talk to him and these are some of the first words that come cascading out of his mouth: "I'm a defensive player. That's what I do. That's my favorite part of the game."

Hmmmmm . . . 

Guess it's time to debunk the theory that no one in today's modern game cares about dedicating himself to eye-catching production at both ends of the court.

For the first time since the Tom Gola Era in 1950 (admittedly, chances to win one did not exist from 1981 through 2008), La Salle owns a City Title. It was captured Saturday, in the AAAA classification, at Abraham Lincoln as the Explorers edged John Bartram, 42-40, and Hockaday played a prominent, two-pronged role.

Aside from shooting 6-for-9 from the floor while tallying 15 points of his own, the recent West Chester-commit did a Snuggie-Blanket, sew-the-sleeves-shut job on the No. 3 career scorer in city history, wing guard Tyrone Garland, holding him to eight points (2,184 career).

Garland drained two early treys before coach Joe Dempsey opted for a box-and-one. Garland missed his final nine shots, including a late, top-slightly-left trey as Hockaday counted his fillings.

Admittedly, the Virginia Tech-signee did not exhibit anything close to his usual spirit after incurring a technical foul late in the first quarter.

"As the game evolved, I could tell he was getting frustrated. He didn't have the same mind-set," Hockaday said. "Our approach was working. I was getting more and more motivation. We had to know where he was at all times. Had to contain him."

Hockaday said the Explorers did not fine-tune a box-and-one in practice, but that he covered frosh sub Amar Stukes, who did his best to imitate Garland, and that he had a sense special game attention would be needed.

"Coach believes in me, and I believe in him," Hockaday said. "I wasn't going to let my team down. I had to get the job done.

"I've had to stick a lot of great players. I just looked at him as another one. I had to move my feet well and stay with him. We knew he could score up to 30 points. Since he only had eight . . . "

Meanwhile, the only folks who love Hockaday more than Dempsey are those who share his blood.

"Troy has unbendable character," the coach said. "He always wants to guard the best player.

"Since his sophomore year, he has gotten better because he has always been willing to do anything we've asked. One of those things is defense. He doesn't care. He'll run all over, even though it sometimes takes away from his offense. But holding a kid like Tyrone Garland to eight points, that's as good as scoring 20 more for us, right?"

Bartram faced other issues aside from Garland's lack of production. Two starters, tri-star guard Zaahir Allen and inside dirty-worker Dijon Wright, were unavailable. Coach James Brown said Allen did a disconnect after the loss to Imhotep Charter in the Public League final, and that Wright was sidetracked by an issue at the Bartram annex he attends.

Wright could return for the upcoming state playoffs, Brown said; he added that Allen is finished.

With 1 minute left, after making a halfcourt steal and getting fouled on a layup attempt, Bartram's Darrell Robinson missed two free throws and La Salle's Joe Brown rebounded. At 18.1, after absorbing an arm slap on a foul-line jumper, 6-8 junior Steve Collins knocked down two freebies to put the Explorers on top, 41-40; the second followed a try-to-freeze-him timeout.

Brown added one more free throw at 1.1 after Garland's last trey did not connect.

Collins went 4-for-7 and 4-for-4 for 12 points. Brown grabbed nine boards and Michael Poncia buried two treys. Quasim Jones scored 12 points for the Braves while Darrell Lane (10) and Devin Moore (nine) hit the glass.

When asked why he'd chosen West Chester, Hockaday offered a response that at first was commonplace, then revealing.

After saying he likes the proximity and academics, he added, "And I like how they run their offense and defense."

And defense. How many kids would say that? *