Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg)
Inclement weather delayed the opening of the Catholic League slate for Father Judge and La Salle College High School. Once the two teams got underway 19 hours after the original start time, it was all Explorers.
La Salle built a 29-11 halftime lead and coasted to a 58-41 victory against the Crusaders on Saturday afternoon at La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pa.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” La Salle coach Joe Dempsey said. “I was very concerned because we didn’t get a chance to practice so I was very nervous. [Judge] is a dangerous team, they’re only going to get better.”
Four Explorers players scored in double-figures, with sophomore guard Chuck Champion and junior guard Najee Walls leading the way with 12 points apiece.
Senior forward Jalen Herdsman and junior guard Shawn Witherspoon each contributed 10 points as well.
“You’re harder to defend,” Dempsey said about the balanced attack. “Last year we were a little bit one dimensional because when Amar [Stukes] didn’t score, sometimes it was tough to find a bucket.”
The Father Judge zone defense gave the Explorers a little bit of trouble in the first quarter, resulting in an 11-5 lead for La Salle (9-1, 1-0 PCL) at the first break.
What followed was an 11-0 run, which featured three-pointer’s from Champion and Witherspoon, and a three-point-play from junior forward David Krmpotich, to start the second quarte, giving the Explorers a 22-5 advantage. They never looked back.
During that run, the Crusaders went ice-cold. Judge (3-7, 0-1 PCL) closed the first quarter and opened the second missing 14 straight shots. They went a whole quarter without scoring until freshman point guard Marc Rodriguez ended an 18-0 run with his only two points of the game with 2:55 remaining on the second quarter clock.
Father Judge was playing a bit shorthanded for most of the game as its leading scorer, 6-foot-5 sophomore Jamir Coleman, was battling a back injury and played just nine minutes. Rodriguez also left the game in the second quarter after suffering an injury.
It also couldn’t have helped that the Crusaders turned the ball over ten times in the opening half.
“I thought we hung in there,” Father Judge coach Sean Tait said. “When two guys who have been scoring points from you go down, it’s a tough thing to rebound from.”
La Salle got a substantial rebounding effort from Herdsman, who collected 10 boards for a double-double. The Explorers owned the glass, out-rebounding Father Judge 26-15 for the game.
Walls scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter, including two three-pointers, to help put the game away.
The Crusaders were led by 12 points from sophomore guard Quincy Reed and 11 points from junior guard Will Brazukas. Sophomore forward Justin Fleming chipped in eight points.
Each team faces a tough task in its next matchup. Father Judge will take on Roman Catholic on Monday night, while La Salle faces off with PCL powerhouse Neumann-Goretti on Tuesday night.
La Salle ended Neumann’s consecutive win streak in the PCL last year and will look for another upset bid on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a tall-task,” Dempsey said about Tuesday night. “We’ll try to practice and try to see what we can do. I have a lot of respect for [Neumann]. Until somebody says otherwise they’re still the lead dog.”