Sallies and Howard, two schools that are familiar with post season basketball, matched up in the second semi-final of the evening at University of Delaware Thursday for the right to play Tower Hill for the state championship Saturday.
Howard looked to speed up the game earlier, full court pressing the Sallies squad that struggled at times to find consistent guard play.
Despite the pressure it was Sallies who would find themselves with an early 13-0 lead with 1:33 to go in the first quarter. Howard would get on the board with a minute to go but the Wildcats would need to slow things down offensively to get back into the game. 17-4 Sallies at the end of one.
Momentum shifted temporarily early in the second as the Wildcats came out with renewed sense of purpose but were only able to come with 5 points halfway through the quarter.
Sallies swingman Justin Molen gave Sallies the calming presence they needed to withstand the Howard pressure and helped Sallies maintain a double-digit lead through what was a poorly played quarter from both squads.
Sallies would take a 29-13 lead into halftime giving the game a much different feel than the last time they met a few weeks ago in a well-played Howard win.
Howard pressured the Sallies ball handlers and forced a number of turnovers early in the 3rd quarter but were rarely able to convert the possessions into points.
The two teams went back and forth throughout the quarter trading lay-ups at both ends with neither team developing any sort of consistency in the half court.
Sallies held an 18-point lead with 46.5 second to go in the quarter with tensions rising as fouls, turnovers and technical fouls set the tone in what must have been one of the longest 8 minute quarters in high school basketball history. 43-28 Sallies after three.
At the 4:40 mark of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats brought the game to within single digits since the Sallies led 9-0 at the beginning of the game.
Howard finally looked patient offensively which led to better shots and better offensive rebounding position directly under the basket.
However, Sallies would also improve their quality of play on the offensive end quickly making it a 15-point game in the next two minutes.
With two minutes to go and Justin Molen for Sallies out with a rolled ankle, the Wildcats called a timeout down 14 with both teams in the double bonus.
Sallies would go on to win 58-50 and secure another state finals appearance.
Despite their inspired play, Howard shot only 28% from the field and 13% from the 3-point line for the game, while Sallies shot 43% and 33% respectively.
There were a total of 46 turnovers combined which led to 41 total points off turnovers.
Sallies will now face Tower Hill on Saturday for the state championship.
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