Sals hold off pesky Middletown, 66-55, to advance to quarterfinals


For The Dialog


WILMINGTON — Salesianum, No. 1-seeded team in the boys’ state basketball tournament, advanced to the quarterfinal round Sunday at the Bob Carpenter Center, but the Sals had to hold off a pesky Middletown team Friday night, 66-55, at a sold-out Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium.

The Sals took advantage of the height of 6-7 forward Brian O’Neill all night. The senior scored 13 of his team’s 16 points in the first quarter and finished with 30 on the night. He helped Salesianum bounce back after the Cavaliers jumped out to a 7-2 lead. O’Neill scored an old-fashioned three-point play, followed by another basket to tie the score.

He would outscore Middletown, 6-5, in the next few minutes to give the Sals a 13-12 lead, and a Donte DiVincenzo three-pointer made the score 16-12 after one.

The offenses cooled off for much of the second quarter as neither team could hit a shot, and both committed multiple turnovers. DiVincenzo was missing from the scene for part of the quarter after he picked up his second personal foul.

Trailing, 22-18, Middletown stole the ball and was heading for a layup, but DiVincenzo hustled back to block the shot. Joe McCusker then nailed a three-point shot as time wound down to give Salesianum a 25-18 halftime lead.

The home team threatened to put the game away with an 8-0 run that made it 36-23, but the Cavaliers responded with an 11-1 run of their own, and heading into the final quarter, the Sals held a 37-34 lead.

Bot teams lit up the scoreboard in the fourth. For the Sals, O’Neill dominated inside and scored 11 points. DiVincenzo added six, including a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. Shane Clark scored all six of his points during the last quarter, three of which came off a steal and put the lead back in double digits. The Sals outscored the Cavaliers in the fourth, 29-21.

Salesianum improved to 19-2 and will face St. Elizabeth on Sunday in the last of the four quarterfinal games at the Bob Carpenter Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The Sals defeated the Vikings twice this year, but O’Neill said, “It will be a challenge for us. I am glad we had to fight for this win and work hard.

St. Elizabeth snuck into the tournament as the 24th seed, but the Vikings did not play like the final team in Friday night at Caesar Rodney. The Vikings laid the wood on the No. 8 Riders, 73-48. St. E is now 10-12.

St. Mark’s, the No. 5 team, also will play at the Bob following a 32-26 win over No. 12 Archmere. The Spartans, with a 14-6 record, are scheduled for a 5 p.m. tip against fourth-seeded Concord. Archmere finishes its season 17-5.

In the other two quarterfinal-round matchups, No. 6 Howard meets No. 14 Cape Henlopen at 2 p.m., followed by No. 2 Sanford vs. No. 10 St. Georges.