Falcons can’t close out Bombers
The opportunity was there, but too many mistakes kept the Salisbury boys’ basketball team from capturing that signature win of its season.
Despite erasing a 13-point third-quarter deficit against one of the Colonial League’s top teams, and even leading in the final seconds, Salisbury couldn’t hammer the final nail down.
Palmerton’s Tyler Stuck hit two free throws late, and a last-second jumper from Salisbury’s Patrick Foley was off target in a 49-48 loss on Monday night on the Falcons’ home court.
“If you’re going to be a competitive team and a playoff team, you have to beat teams like that on your home court,” head coach Jason Weaver said. “We lost to Palmerton in overtime [the first time] and we lose to them by one here.”
The Blue Bombers improved to 10-4 in league play and currently hold the No. 3 seed in the league playoffs.
Salisbury (10-9 overall; 7-7 in Colonial League) faced a five-point deficit with three minutes to play, but was able to go in front with 13 seconds remaining on a steal and layup from Quintin Stephens in transition. The Falcons, however, accidentally fouled Stuck on the ensuing inbound pass.
Stuck was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line, and Palmerton went 13-for-17 as a team. Salisbury, on the other hand, struggled once again from the charity stripe.
The Falcons also missed a number of layups late in the game that could have changed the outcome.
“We had too many mental errors,” Weaver said. “It’s as simple as that. We played hard but too many mental errors.
“I think we were up two and we missed a layup. We missed some foul shots. We shot 3-for-11 from the line and we lost by one. There’s the difference.”
Despite a subpar first half in which Salisbury shot 7-for-24 from the field and had 15 points at the break, it was able to erase a 13-point deficit in the third quarter in large part to three 3-pointers late.
Trailing 31-18 after Palmerton’s Justin Hosier hit a 3-pointer for three of his game-high 22 points, Salisbury started its comeback. Trey Weber scored 11 points in the third quarter alone, none bigger than a 3-pointer that cut the Blue Bombers’ lead to 33-27.
After a bucket from Quinn Warmkessel, Chad Parton and Kenyo Herrera hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner that tied the game at 35-35.
“We settled, and I guess the difference in the third quarter was we were hitting shots,” Weaver said. “We struggled to get to the rim and get easy looks. Everything was a jumper. We only had 15 points at halftime, and it was all contested jump shots.”
Patrick Foley got on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, a shot that gave the hosts their first lead of the game at 41-39.
Hosier, however, scored five straight points to give the Blue Bombers their lead back. And Kody Kratzer, despite being held in check for most of the game, came up with a clutch rebound and putback shot that put Palmerton in front 46-41 with 3:17 to play.
“I think we did a pretty solid job on Kratzer. We ran at him and forced a lot of tough shots,” Weaver said. “But we got beat on the boards. We forced on offense. And we shot 3-for-11 from the line.”
Weber hit another 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to cement his 14-point night, and a setup from Stephens to Warmkessel got Salisbury within a point late. Seconds later, the Falcon defense was able to come up with a turnover and score in transition to regain the lead.
Unfortunately for Salisbury, there was still 13 seconds left on the clock and the Blue Bombers took advantage.
The Falcons are one of three teams sitting at 7-7 and fighting for the final playoff spot in the Colonial League tournament.
Up next for Salisbury is a matchup against Palisades on Thursday. Game time is set for 6:45 p.m. on the Pirates’ home court. The Falcons host Northwestern Friday night and finish the 2019-20 regular season Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Southern Lehigh.