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Salibsury boys have successful run in SportsFest

Even though the Salisbury boys' basketball team played in the Stellar Construction summer league and tournament nearly two weeks ago, the Falcons haven't had their full lineup for much of the summer.

Head coach Jason Weaver was able to see his full squad in action for the first time all summer in the recent SportsFest "A-Town Throwdown" tournament at Cedar Beach Park. In the grand scheme of things, Weaver was pleased with what he saw over the Falcons' two days of play and three games.

"[Chad] Cooperman has been missing some time with baseball, Tevon [Weber] with football, and vacations and stuff like that," Weaver said, "So those games this weekend were probably the only time we've had everybody there, which was nice. It was nice to see especially Tevon, Dylan [Belletiere] and Coop, the three guys who are our experience guys and senior leaders, together. Those three guys probably played two games all summer together before this weekend."

Salisbury went 2-1 in pool play, which began with a 55-26 romp over Upper Perk on Thursday. Two days later, the Falcons stayed unbeaten with a 38-37 win over Freire Charter on Saturday evening. It wasn't as convincing of a win as their first game, but there was no shortage of drama in the final moments.

"I thought overall it was a good tourament for us," Weaver said. "In the first game against Upper Perk, we played solid and everybody got a good chance to play.

"They [Freire Charter] were athletic and had a little bit of size. We won it on a three-pointer buzzer-beater from Ryan Slutsky. We showed a lot of mental toughness in that game. We got down and we kept scrapping. We must have missed eight or 10 layups in that game."

Those two victories set up a meeting with Parkland (winners of the last three SportsFest tournaments). The Trojans were also 2-0 after two games. The winner would advance to the 16-team, single-elimination tournament. The final ended up being a 63-46 victory for the Trojans, but Weaver was pleased with the Falcons' competitiveness against arguably the area's best squad. Parkland suited up two of its five regular starters, Devante Cross and Jack Dreisbach, against the Falcons.

"We wanted to play Parkland, but I think in the beginning we were a little intimidated," Weaver said. "We came out a little flat. We came out a little unagressive. You could tell on some of our shots we were rushing things because we were worried about our shots getting blocked.

"Parkland's bench I think would be a very competitive team in the Colonial League. Once we got comfortable playing, we were able to do some things. We were able to get the ball inside and score. We just had trouble stopping them; we struggled to get stops."

The return of Cooperman, who missed much of the summer due to playing baseball in the Blue Mountain League, was a welcome sight for Weaver and the Falcons' stuff.

"He is a guy that had to start at the end of the year last year when Dasheen [Reid] got hurt," Weaver said. "He played a lot of minutes off of the bench for us. I thought having Coop there really helped us with our defensive focus, and making sure guys are in the right spot. He plays really smart help defense."

Slutsky also continues to impress the Falcons' coach. His game-winner on Saturday put the Falcons in a position to advance to Sunday.

"I think Ryan keeps playing well," Weaver said. "He was down a little bit in the Freire game. He had missed a couple of outside shots. We were telling him to keep attacking the basket and he did. Then he came back and hit that big three."

The Falcons' summer continues this week with the Stellar summer league playoffs.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Salisbury's Ryan Slutsky gets by a defender at the A-town Throwdown basketball tournament.