Falcons fall in D-11 quarterfinal
Salisbury spent the days of practice heading up to Friday’s District 11 Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinal game against Wilson working on an unfamiliar defensive scheme.
The decision by head coach Jason Weaver seemed to have paid off, as the Warriors hit just three 3-pointers in the game.
The last one though, a contested shot from Wilson’s Derelle McKinney, gave the Warriors back the lead and took the wind out of Salisbury’s sails for good. No. 4 seed Wilson went on a 10-0 run to end the game to close out a 54-45 win at Northern Lehigh High School over the No. 4 seeded Falcons.
“It was good defense, and [McKinney] wasn’t hitting much,” Weaver said. “He hit that 3-pointer that put them up, and that put us down two at that point.
“We came down and rushed. I think that’s natural for kids. We’re down and we’re pushing and stuff like that. You want to keep attacking, and we didn’t get good possessions late.”
McKinny hit Wilson’s first field goal of the game, which also came from beyond the arc. The Warriors’ only other 3-pointer came at the buzzer at the end of the opening frame from Shame Gibson that tied the game at 14-14.
It took about 21 minutes of game time for Wilson to hit another from long range, but it came at the most crucial time.
After Quintin Stephens hit one of two free throws to put Salisbury in front 45-44, McKinney’s deep shot put the Warriors ahead by two moments later. The Falcons then committed three straight turnovers that aided that 10-0 spurt, and Warrior guard Sam Brown scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the frame.
“We did a defense we haven’t played much all year,” Weaver said. “We played a 2-3, and I thought that it was pretty active and effective, considering we haven’t done it much.
“I thought last time when we went 3-2 zone against them we gave up too many easy shots in the corner. I figured now, let’s make them make some contested wing jump shots.”
Salisbury scored the game’s first six points in a back-and-forth opening quarter before the teams found themselves deadlocked at 14-14 through eight minutes.
Wilson, however, separated itself a bit in the second. A steal and layup from Brown resulted in a three-point play on the other end, giving the Warriors a 23-16 advantage. That lead grew to 24-16 moments later on a free throw.
“He’s going to put his head down and drive every time,” Weaver said. “He beat us a couple of times where he got the baseline, and we can’t give that up. And sometimes Quinn [Warmkessel] would come over to step up, and he’d dish to [Jihad] Range. He had a solid game for them.”
But then it was Salisbury’s turn. Stephens hit a 3-pointer to open the second half that got the Falcons within a point. Trey Weber then gave the Falcons back the lead after hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing and connecting on the free throw for the four-point play.
Range, who finished with 15 points for Wilson, scored on a rebound and put back shortly after to cap a 6-0 spurt before the Warriors took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. No team led by more than four points in the final frame until Wilson went on to score the game’s final 10 points.
“I was happy with our defense,” Weaver said. “We said we have to hold people to under 50, and we were right there with about 2:30 to go. We just lost our composure a little bit. That’s a word we had up on the board. I think we played with composure for about 30 of the 32 minutes.”
Warmkessel led the Falcons with 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Weber had 12 points and Stephens’ 10 rounded out Salisbury’s double figure scorers.
The season may have come to an end, but the Falcons were able to end a two-year playoff drought. They were competitive in nearly every game this winter as well. And most importantly, they got back to their roots of playing solid defense on a nightly basis.
“Every game since Notre Dame, which was back on January 3, we’ve been in every game,” Weaver said. “We battled and we played hard. That’s what I told the seniors. I think that is sort of their legacy. They got us to the playoffs for the first time in three years, and had that focus of playing hard. When you play hard and play good defense, it gives you a chance in every game.”
Patrick Foley, Joe Panariello, Donovan Zong and Weber are the four seniors that will graduate. The returners, led by starters Warmkessel and Stephens, will lead a group looking to return to the playoffs in 2020-21.