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Top-ranked Sals take control early, defeat No. 7 Mount Pleasant, 56-43

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WILMINGTON – Brian O’Neill continued his strong play, leading a balanced scoring attack for Salesianum as the Sals defeated Mount Pleasant, 56-42, Thursday night in Wilmington. The 6-7 forward powered his way to 17 points, one of three Sals in double figures, as the team won its fifth in a row to improve to 14-2 this season.

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Salesianum broke open a close game midway through the first quarter, turning an 8-7 lead into 17-7, with much of the credit going to O’Neill, who scored eight points in the stanza. The Sals also got a boost from junior guard Shane Clark, who hit a three-point shot 10 seconds into the game and then started the nine-point run with another trey.

Clark said he was just following instructions when he fired up the opening shot.

“It all starts with coach (Brendan Haley). Last time, we played A.I. and came out flat, and he said we needed a jump shot. He said if you got an open shot, just take it, take good shots. And that’s what I did, took a good shot,” he said.

The Sals, Delaware’s new No. 1 team, also showed their defensive prowess throughout the game. Donte DiVincenzo, usually known more for his scoring, blocked shots on Mount Pleasant’s first two offensive possessions and finished with an unofficial total of seven. Salesianum also received multiple rejections from O’Neill, J.T. Harrar and others.

Salesianum took a 20-9 lead into the second quarter, but the seventh-ranked Green Knights (10-5) clawed back to within six at 22-16 with a 7-2 run to open the quarter. Sophomore Raheim Burnett started it with a three-pointer, with the other four coming on free throws. The Salesianum personal fouls included O’Neill’s second, giving Mount Pleasant an opportunity to cut further into the lead. The Sals, however, received several valuable minutes from the 6-9 Harrar. In addition to his defensive presence, the senior scored seven points in the second as the Sals held a 31-21 lead at intermission.

The offense opened up again in the third. The Green Knights received an offensive boost from Dashaun Holland, who finished with a team-high 16, but Salesianum was just too much. The quarter included a steal by DiVincenzo that he took coast-to-coast and punctuated with a dunk, then a block by the junior guard, who found O’Neill ahead of the pack with an outlet pass. O’Neill ended that possession with another powerful slam.

Mount Pleasant closed to within six in the final quarter, but the Sals scored the final seven points of the game to seal the win.

Clark and DiVincenzo joined O’Neill in double figures with 12 and 11, respectively.

Salesianum has one day off to prepare for its next game, Saturday at No. 5 Concord at 2:30 p.m. Clark said the three games in four days will not be a problem. He added that he doesn’t know too much about Concord.

“I hear they’re a good team, a good guard team, and we just have to prepare for them tomorrow and get the win,” he said.

Mount Pleasant played its last road game of the season. The Green Knights are home for their final five, beginning Saturday at 1 p.m. vs. Wilmington Christian.

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