The #4 Howard Wildcats visited #1 Salesianum High School Saturday evening for a highly anticipated boys’ basketball matchup that many experts believe could be a preview of the state finals in mid-March. Both teams came out ready to play in the first quarter with a ton of energy on the defensive end. Howard this season has thrived on their defensive intensity and the first eight minutes of the game was no different as they pressed and trapped Sallies ball handlers just across the half court line. The Wildcats also came to play on the offensive end, scoring 17 points in the quarter including 3 for 5 from deep. Despite all this Sallies ended the quarter with an 18-17 lead getting contributions from their two top players, Justin Molen and Isaiah Hinson.
Howard’s tough defense became more of an issue for Sallies ball handlers in the beginning of the second quarter. The home team found it difficult to get into any sort of rhythm offensively as most of their scoring opportunities came off of broken plays and cross court passes. The Wildcats on the other hand executed their half court sets and passed the ball around well but unlike the first quarter settled for deep three-point shots that they were unable to knock down. Isiaih Hinson for Sallies was the only player on the court who found consistent offense and added 8 points in the quarter to lead all scorers with 13 and guided Sallies to a 33-31 lead going into the locker room at half time.
The 3rd quarter started slow with neither team scoring a point until the 3:30 mark. Both teams struggled to take care of the basketball and attempted low percentage shots on most of their offensive possessions. The energy level finally picked up late as both squads traded baskets in a fast paced last 3 minutes of the quarter that culminated with a two-handed dunk by Howard on the baseline that electrified the crowd. The dunk brought Howard within 2 but Justin Molen was fouled on a 70-foot heave right at the end of quarter. Molen made both free throws to extend the lead to 44-40.
Howard came out in the 4th with the intensity level that they started the game with, taking their first lead since early in the first quarter. Jameer DeShields and Darius Brown for the Wildcats made multiple three-point shots and attacked the basket out of the fast break to put pressure on a back-peddling Sallies defense. The home team hung tough though as Molen and Hinson came up with timely baskets during the Howard run to keep Sallies close. The Wildcats held a 60-59 lead with 36 seconds left in the game. After a miss from three by Molen, Sallies had to foul with 5 seconds left, which sent Hollingsworth to the line for 2 shots. Hollingsworth would hit 1 of 2 giving the Wildcats a 62-59 lead. Sallies was unable to tie the game on the inbounds which secured a 62-59 win for Howard and most likely the number one seed in the DIAA state tournament that started on Tuesday, March 1st.
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