Falcon boys get bye to open tourney
As the end of the regular season approaches, one of Salisbury's main goals down the stretch has been to secure a first-round bye for the Colonial League tournament.
Being the lone unbeaten team in conference play, the Falcons were in prime position to accomplish that feat heading into last week.
By the time the weekend was over, the Falcons had secured that coveted game off.
A 54-45 win over Palmerton on Tuesday began the week. On Friday, the Falcons picked up win No. 14 in the Colonial League, and Salisbury (18-2 overall; 15-0 in Colonial League) cemented itself as one of the top two league finishers after Saturday's dramatic 52-51 victory over Saucon Valley.
"We talked about that in the locker room [Tuesday]-we want to have the bye," head coach Jason Weaver said following the Palmerton game. "We want to be sitting up there scouting that game. We don't want to be riding the bus in our uniforms down to play it. We do talk about that.
"With six teams in the playoffs, having that bye is huge. Before you just go in and you're playing the games, and everybody was on equal footing. In this league with so many balanced good teams at the top, having to play one less game in my mind is huge."
Brendan Reichenbach sank a deep three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer to lift the Falcons over the Panthers and officially secure the bye.
But the week began with a hard-fought win over Palmerton, a team that was fighting for a district berth.
After leading 42-21 late in the third quarter, the Blue Bombers scored 12 of the next 13 points to get to within 43-35 with 3:20 to play. The Falcons, however, got a clutch three-pointer from Dasheen Reid a little more than a minute later and were able to hold off Palmerton over the final two minutes.
"They need three more games to get into districts," said Reid, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "We know they're going to play hard during this stretch. They started playing hard and more physical at the end, but we just gutted one out."
Reid scored 11 of the Falcons' 28 first-half points in helping Salisbury jump out to an early 7-0 advantage and a 28-15 lead at intermission.
While the offense shot a solid 10-for-19 (53 percent) from the field in the opening 16 minutes, it was the Falcons' defense that had a much bigger impact. Palmerton shot 6-for-16 (38 percent) in the first half and committed 11 turnovers. The Blue Bombers were held scoreless for the first 3:48 before Mark Quinn's field goal.
"I think obviously our defense was huge in the beginning," Weaver said. "We withstood some sloppiness down the stretch.
"We didn't play our best. We were a little sloppy, but we did what we needed to do. We hit our foul shots, and our defense carried us again."
Reid, who hit four three-pointers, opened up the third quarter with one to push the Falcons' lead to 31-15. Ryan Slutsky's three-pointer with 1:14 remaining in the period gave Salisbury it's biggest lead at 21 points before the Blue Bombers went on their spurt.
"I didn't practice for a few days," said Reid, citing the weather-related school closings as the reason. "I was staying healthy and working out at my house. I was staying in shape for this game."
Reichenbach finished with seven points for Salisbury, while Slutsky, Dylan Belletiere and Tevon Weber all scored six each.
Quinn led the Blue Bombers with 13. Spencer Hay (11 points, nine rebounds) and Mike Stasko (10 points, nine rebounds) also finished in double figures.
A win for the Falcons in either of their final two games will clinch the top seed in the tournament.
Results from Tuesday's game at Northwestern were not available at time of press. Salisbury closes out the regular season on Thursday night against Southern Lehigh. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Salisbury High School.