The fourth ranked Middletown Cavaliers pulled a “mild” upset over #3 Salesianum 57-55 Thursday night. The Cavs led by as many as 7 points in the fourth quarter and still held a six point advantage with a minute left. Then the Sals dialed up mid court pressure, forcing several turnovers and sliced the lead to a single point at 56-55 following a Justin Hinds layup with :20 to go. It has been said that the little things go unnoticed. With :16 left, Eric Methenge tipped a missed foul shot off a Sals player to give possession to the Cavs. Then he was fouled – converted one of two free throws to give his team the 57-55 lead with less than :14 to go. With no timeouts left, Kareem Thomas took the inbounds pass, dribbled to mid court and passed to Luke Brown in the corner. By the time Thomas got the ball back in his hands there was a second to go. His desperation three point attempt bounced off the front of the rim starting a celebration by the Middletown players.
Middletown head coach Azeez Ali told us in the post game interview, “We tried to deny Thomas the ball, but he got it anyway.” “He’s too good from three and at the line, I checked the last five games and he was averaging like ten free throws a game at 90%.” “We just wanted to contest the shot and hopefully get the rebound.”
Salesianum led almost the entire first half by as many as seven points at 21-14. The Sals dominated the glass while Thomas was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line and paced the team with 12 points in the opening half. Their lead was 28-23 with 3:00 to go when Middletown stormed back as Methenge nailed two mid-range jumpers to give the Cavs the lead at half time 30-28.
The home team Cavaliers out scored Sallies 16-11 in the third quarter to take a 46-39 advantage into the final eight minutes. The closest Salesianum came in that quarter was 34-32 after Thomas made his third 3-pointer of the game. Zion Mifflin and Aizyon Matthews both hit long range jumpers and scored 5 points each in that third quarter to pace Middletown. Avyion Matthews chipped in with 6 points for the Cavs.
That set the stage for an exciting finish. The Cavaliers held a seven point lead with 3:47 left in the game, when the Sals dialed up mid court pressure. That pressure resulted in one of the highlights of the night when Isaiah Hynson passed to Justin Hinds for an “alley-oop” dunk that pulled Salesianum to within 54-48 with :96 to go. The Sals kept the pressure up and made a combined 5 of 7 from the foul line to cut the deficit to 55-53 with :34 to go. Then the final sequence occurred with Hinds layup, and Methenge’s heroics to end the game.
When asked about the late game pressure, coach Ali said “I thought we got a little timid in the final two minutes. We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.” “I’m proud of my team though. We have a term, GET OUT THE BUCKET”. “When you miss a shot or turn the ball over, don’t hang your head…Get out the Bucket.”
With the win the Cavaliers improved to 7-3 overall and 5-0 against in-state competition. The Cavs received balanced scoring as Mifflin finished with 12, Methenge and Jack Murdaugh added 10 each, while Clyde Frasier chipped in with 9 and Avyion Matthews scored 8 points.
Coach Taylor Trevisan’s team is now 6-7 with the loss. The Sals are 2-2 against in-state competition, losing to #1 ranked St Elizabeth and Middletown. Kareem Thomas scored 25 points and was our First State Ortho player-of-the-game. Thomas made four 3-point shots and was 11 for 15 from the foul line. His teammate Justin Hinds also scored in double figures with 14.
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