After a sequence emblematic of La Salle’s 55-47 PIAA 6A Quarterfinal victory against Roman Catholic on Saturday afternoon, Konrad Kiszka finally found the moment he’d been waiting for all season.
Seconds earlier, Roman senior Seth Lundy knifed to the lane and elevated toward the rim. Lundy’s layup, however, lingered on the rim and missed. Freshman phenom Jalen Duren tried to grab and dunk the ball in the same motion, but his attempt also missed.
Kiszka, cut over his left eye, third jersey of the day barely moist, grabbed the rebound and was fouled immediately.
As the senior Princeton recruit strode to the foul line inside the packed gym at Archbishop Ryan, the usually stoic Kiszka threw his arms in the air toward the already jubilant La Salle student section, which responded with a thunderous cheer.
“I’ve been wanting to do that all season,” said Kiszka, with a laugh.
Later, he added: “That was pretty much the most exciting moment [of the season], getting the win over Roman.”
On Tuesday, District 12 No. 4-seeded La Salle will face District 1′s No. 4, Pennridge, at a site and time to be determined.
Roman previously handled La Salle twice this season, most recently, 64-50, in the Catholic League championship game Feb. 25 at the Palestra.
Saturday afternoon, however, the Explorers (26-3) handled adversity better than previous contests and made more plays when it mattered most, while the Cahillites let some opportunities slip through their fingers.
“I think we decided this game wasn’t going to be decided by X’s and O’s,” La Salle senior Zach Crisler said. “This was gonna be about who wants it more.”
Kiszka led the Explorers with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Seniors Allen Powell and Titus Beard added 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Fellow senior Jack Rothenberg added five points and important energy off the bench, as did senior Khalil Diarrah (three points).
Kiszka, who typically dons No. 10, was cut above his left eye, he said, early in the second quarter while banging with Duren down low.
Blood on his jersey forced him to switch to No. 31. When the cut opened anew late in the fourth, referees forced him from the game. He returned with No. 30 just before Lundy and Duren came up empty in front of the basket with just less than a minute left.
On the ensuing Roman possession, Lundy fouled out with six points. Hakim Hart led the back-to-back PCL champs with 18 points.
The Cahillites, the top seed in District 12, had struggled after jumping to an early 4-0 lead. The Explorers eventually tied the game at four and then took the lead for good after a fateful first-quarter sequence.
With 2 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first, senior point guard Louie Wild was whistled for a personal foul, followed almost immediately by a technical foul for apparently debating the initial call.
On a previous Roman possession, Lundy had been warned but was not given a technical foul for tossing the ball downcourt after he was whistled for a foul.
Allen Powell, as a result of the personal and technical fouls on Wild, made four straight free throws, giving La Salle an 8-4 edge.
Roman, which finished just 13 of 24 at the foul line, never regained the lead.
The Explorers took a 24-20 edge into intermission and led, 38-34, as the final frame began.
With 6:54 left and La Salle ahead, 38-34, Wild and Rothenberg briefly exchanged words after Roman was whistled for a foul.
Rothenberg stood at the top of the key, just inside the three-point line, awaiting his free throws as Wild walked past. The two briefly exchanged words as Wild continued walking toward the middle of the court. Their conversation had just concluded and the pair were no longer facing each other when a referee’s whistled blared.
The result was a double-technical foul on both players, meaning Wild’s second technical and an automatic ejection.
Roman was already without star junior point guard Lynn Greer III, who was ruled ineligible for the PIAA playoffs, per new transfer rules.
The Cahillites later fell behind by eight. When they cut it to six and showed signs of life, Rothenberg took a charge with 3:16 left that stymied Roman’s momentum.
“Every time they came with a punch, we came with two right back,” Kiszka said.
Asked why the outcome of this game was different from the previous two, Kiszka replied: “First of all, they already beat us twice, so we just had to get our revenge. I think this one was a character game. We knew this was going to be a hard game, but we never gave up, and I think that shows a lot about our character.”
La Salle 14 10 14 17 — 55
Roman 9 11 14 13 — 47
LS: Konrad Kiszka 16, Allen Powell 11, Titus Beard 10, Jake Timby 8, Jack Rothenberg 5, Khalil Diarrah 3, Zach Crisler 2.