WILMINGTON – St. Elizabeth trailed Salesianum, 35-29, entering the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s boys’ basketball matchup at the St. E Center, and the outlook got even bleaker when the Sals scored the first four points of the final stanza.
But consecutive three-pointers by Sheldon Sorrell and Mike Piekarski sparked the Vikings, who finally warmed up from the field and took advantage of poor shooting late by Salesianum to squeeze out a 50-46 win in front of a boisterous packed house.
The Vikings (8-6) battled back throughout the fourth quarter, finally tying the game at 46 on a short jumper by Andre Patton with 1:40 remaining. After a missed shot by the Sals’ Donte DiVincenzo, Patton hit two free throws after rebounding his own miss with 36 seconds left in the game. His freebies put St. Elizabeth up by two, their first lead since the game was 3-2 in the opening minutes.
Salesianum (11-3) would have two chances to tie the contest, but Nick Perugino and Casey Morgan each missed three-point shots, Morgan’s with just a few ticks left on the clock. A final free throw by Patton gave the Vikings the four-point final margin. St. Elizabeth students rushed the court at the final buzzer to celebrate the victory, their third straight.
Patton explained the difference in the fourth quarter. “We just had to play strong, play with a lot of intensity. We had a couple kids come to the bench with their heads down, but we had to keep them up. This is the same situation as on Monday when we were down six with like four minutes to go at St. Mark’s [a game the Vikings would win, 49-39]. We knew what we had to do and we got it done.”
Neither team shot well in the first half. After a dunk by DiVincenzo that opened the scoring, the Sals managed just two short field goals by Brian O’Neill and three free throws in the first quarter. O’Neill was not even a sure thing to suit up after hurting his knee last weekend against St. Mark’s, but the senior was a force throughout, leading his team with 10 points and grabbing at least that many rebounds.
The Vikings took a 25-23 lead into halftime, but Salesianum went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. Patton ended the run with a pair of free throws, but a basket by Brandon Gautier provided St. Elizabeth’s only other points in the third, setting up the fourth-quarter heroics. A key in the third quarter was O’Neill picking up his fourth foul, opening up the middle, where Patton did most of his damage on the evening.
Patton led the Vikings with 20 points, with Ryan Cason adding 11 and Sorrell 10.
St. E’s is back in action Tuesday at 7:15, when Archmere visits the St. E Center.
The Sals, who had their five-game win streak snapped, look to bounce back Saturday at home vs. Sussex Tech. Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m. After that, they embark on a four-game road trip.