vs. Avon Old Farms
|Date:||December 1, 2018|
Ingoglia, Oliveras, Thomas Lead 2nd-Half Surge as Knights Top Avon
With 3:40 left in the first half, everything was going Avon Old Farms’ way, and Salisbury couldn’t catch a break, as the Winged Beavers opened a 26-18 lead. The outlook was bleak. Hobbled by a foot injury, leading scorer Brandon Roughley had not dressed for the game. His teammates could not score in the paint, and every loose ball seemed to end up in an opponent’s hands.
How, then, to explain the Knights’ outscoring their guests, 41-20, over the next 19 minutes to claim a rousing 59-46 victory in front of a packed – and wildly enthusiastic – house at the Flood Center? “That was the best win I’ve seen our basketball team get in the past two seasons!” one of the Knight faithful was heard exclaiming to his friends afterward.
It would be difficult to find anyone to contest that statement after Sean Ingoglia (8 points), Justin Oliveras (a game-high 20 pts.), and Damani Thomas (19 pts.) simply refused to roll over as Avon steadily extended its lead over the game’s first 13 minutes. The trio outrebounded, outshot, outdefended, and outhustled the opponents after the intermission to hand head coach Kyle Dudley the first win of his career. “We played great team defense in the second half,” a jubilant Coach Dudley noted later, “after struggling with transition-defense in the first half. Our ball movement was much better, resulting in more assists than in last Wednesday’s opener.”
But it was arguably a substitution late in the first half that staunched the bleeding and gave the Knights momentum going into the halftime: Tyler Carpenter gave that critical spark off the bench. After Ingoglia sank a pair of free throws to bring Salisbury within 6 at 26-20, Carpenter scored the next 5 points on a three-pointer and a bold baseline drive-and-finish through heavy traffic as the first-half clock was about to expire. The 7-0 run made it a one-point game at the half, 26-25. Those would be Carpenter’s only points of the game, but no points were more critical.
The Knights had kept things close over the first five minutes, on the strength of some long-range accuracy. With Thomas hitting a pair of three-pointers, Parker Stone (7 pts.) adding another trifecta, and Oliveras hitting a 12-foot jumper, the score stood 11-all at 11:43. Almost all of Avon’s points, in contrast, came off drives to the basket. The Winged Beavers continued to pull away by controlling the paint on both ends, converting on the offensive end and stopping the Knights’ drives on the other end – at least until Carpenter fueled the late rally.
At 14:15 of the second half, Salisbury took its first lead since the opening minutes, 30-28, on a Thomas drive along the left baseline. Seconds later, an Ingoglia steal, breakaway, and Avon goal-tend made it 32-28 and whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy. With opportunities to extend their lead, Salisbury squandered its next two possessions, but the defensive intensity at the other end, led by Oliveras’ tenacious work underneath and sure-handed rebounding, kept the Beavers off the board. And one more thing: although Oliveras gave away five inches to 6’10” Keegan Sharp, he and his fellow defenders limited Avon’s big man to just 2 points on the night. The next two times down the court, Thomas connected on a jumper from just inside the top of the key and then a trey from the left corner for a 37-28 lead, ratcheting the crowd’s decibal-level up another notch.
Two Oliveras free-throws and an Ignoglia offensive board and put-back at 9:48 boosted the lead to 41-30 – a 16-4 run to open the second half. Avon used two defensive stops to pull within 7, 41-34, but back came Oliveras with a baseline bucket and Thomas with another acrobatic move along the baseline for a 45-34 advantage. The Knights went cold for the next two minutes, having nothing to show for three possessions as Avon edged back to 45-38 with 4:33 left in the game.
But the Knight offense righted itself. The Beavers went into foul-mode to slow down the clock, but Oliveras, Ignoglia, and Thomas converted 7-of-11 free throws down the stretch to thwart any Avon comeback hopes. With 38 seconds left, Ignoglia and Oliveras combined on the piece-de-resistance: an Ignoglia steal at half-court, followed by a drive to the hoop and no-look dish to a trailing Oliveras for the finish – and the game’s final points.
While three players’ contributions dominated the stat-sheet and highlight reel, a number of other players added to Avon’s woes by using their court smarts to overcome the Winged Beavers’ size advantage. In addition to those already noted, Ford Cousin, Will Farrell, Dean Fratt, Seth Gelwarg, Winston Jules, and Carlos Pena all contributed key minutes throughout the game.