Boys fall to Blue Raiders
A win against Tamaqua in Friday's district consolation game would have qualified Salisbury for the PIAA tournament for the second time in three years.
After the first quarter of play, things seemed to be going to plan for the Falcons. Three three-pointers from guard Chad Cooperman helped get the Falcons to a seven-point lead in the opening frame. The Raiders were forced to back out of their zone defense and play man-to-man the rest of the way, a scheme the Falcons saw plenty of success against throughout the season.
That defensive change, however, worked against the Falcons for the remainder of the game.
Tamaqua, which held Salisbury to two points in the second quarter, took a 21-16 lead into halftime and never trailed from that point on. The Falcons tied it up in the early moments of the third, but free throw shooting down the stretch was the difference in the Raiders' 53-47 win in the District 11 Class AAA consolation game at Freedom High School's Joseph J. McIntyre Gymnasium.
"I thought we did a great job early on," head coach Jason Weaver said. "We got them out of the zone, which to be honest with you we sort of struggle against zone. So I'm thinking, 'alright we get them into man-to-man.'"
After four three-pointers to begin the game, the Falcons shot 1-for-8 over the final 24 minutes.
While many of the Falcons' shots were uncontested in the first period, those looks weren't as open when Tamaqua went man-to-man. With Dasheen Reid, their best playmaker on offense, out with injury, the Falcons couldn't capitalize on the one-on-one matchups.
"We're more comfortable man-to-man," Weaver said. "Maybe I'm thinking back to when Dasheen is playing, too, and his ability to attack and get to the basket a little bit. We see a lot more man in the league."
The Falcons shot 1-for-4 in that second-quarter drought and committed four of their eight turnovers.
"I just thought their intensity on defense, their pressure and their physicality, we didn't respond to it in the second quarter," said Weaver. "It's tough to keep harping on that, but I think that's huge. You have to be able to work for good shots, you have to be able to set good screens, and you have to be able to get guys open."
Trailing 21-16 at halftime, the Falcons opened up the second half with five straight points. Dylan Belletiere's rebound and putback quickly tied the score at 25-25.
After Derek Brown hit a trey with 16 seconds left in the third period to bring the Falcons back to within three, Bo Rottet, who scored a game-high 21 points, sank a three-pointer for Tamaqua that gave them some breathing room into the final eight minutes.
The Falcons got as close as four points in the fourth on Belletiere's layup in transition, but Salisbury could never fully recover from that second quarter spell.
"That sort of seems that's been our theme the last couple of weeks, that we are down at half," Weaver said. "When you get into the playoffs, you can't always be down at the half and expect to come back."
Belletiere led the Falcons with 13 points, while Cooperman added 11.
Brett Kosciolek also finished in double figures for the Raiders, scoring 19 in the win.
The Falcons will graduate six seniors from this team in Brendan Reichenbach, Reid, Brown, Bryce Fairclough, Christian Tiao and Charley Rogers. With a starting lineup consisting of five new pieces this season, the Falcons capped off an extremely successful campaign.
"It's the second-most wins I've had here, 21 wins," Weaver said. "I told them I don't think there was anybody outside this locker room that would have thought last year at this time that this team was going to win 21 games. It's a credit to their work all season."