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Falcons play well through tough stretch

Saturday’s game against rival Southern Lehigh ended the season’s toughest stretch to date for the Salisbury boys’ basketball team. Four of its last five games were against teams currently in the league playoffs or fighting for one of those spots.

The Falcons, while winning just one of those games, proved they could compete with the top teams in the Colonial League. That was shown during a close 56-49 loss to the unbeaten Spartans (11-1 overall; 9-0 in Colonial League) over the weekend.

Other than a 73-57 loss to Notre Dame (Green Pond) to end the previous week, Salisbury (7-7 overall; 5-5 in Colonial League) went down to the wire against Palmerton (50-44) and defeated Northwestern (47-44) and Bangor (55-42) last week.

“It’s been overall a good week,” head coach Jason Weaver said. “After the Notre Dame game, where we sort of lost our mental focus, to bounce back and get that win up at Northwestern was huge. That’s the first time in about three years that we won a road game against a team that was over .500, so that was a good thing. We proved we can play with these teams.”

Salisbury was also without leading scorer Patrick Foley against Southern Lehigh due to pink eye. A number of others, however, stepped up in his absence as the Falcons were within single digits for much of the fourth quarter.

The hosts, however, could not fully overcome a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. Southern Lehigh hit 10 of 13 free throws in the final quarter alone, including six from leading scorer Daryl Coleman, who finished with 28 on the day.

“We just had some mental lapses in really short periods of time, but it was really costly,” Weaver said. “A two- or three-minute span of mental lapses cost us six or seven points, and that changes things around.

“The start of the third quarter, they trapped the first pass and we turned it over. We come down and don’t get another shot again, and then they hit a 3-pointer.”

Despite giving up 23 points in the first quarter to the Spartans and trailing by seven points after eight minutes, Salisbury showed its resilience in the second quarter. Joe Panariello scored seven of his team-high 15 points in that frame, while the defense held the Spartans to six points on just 3-for-14 shooting.

The teams entered halftime tied at 29-29.

“Thursday night and today, Joe has been feeling it and knocking some shots down,” Weaver said. “Not having Patrick hurts us. He’s our leading scorer. He’s a senior, has some leadership skills and can handle the ball. He’s been knocking shots down. Not having him made a difference today.”

But mistakes surfaced early in the third quarter.

Salisbury committed four turnovers through the first 1:30 of the frame before even attempting a field goal. The Spartans took advantage with a barrage of 3-pointers from its two leading scorers. Coleman hit three early that gave the Spartans a 40-31 lead, and another from Chris Andrews put the visitors ahead by 12 on the next possession.

Andrews finished the game with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including two 3-pointers. He and Coleman combined for 48 of the Spartans’ 56.

“In the first half they had [Coleman] on the high post, and we were able to defend that,” Weaver said. “They weren’t getting it to him. Then they put him outside and we were just a little slow closing out…Two of those 3-pointers were really deep and the close out attempt was there.”

Chad Parton and Quinn Warmkessel each scored seven points for the Falcons, and Quintin Stephens finished with six.

The Falcons have seven league games remaining, five of which come against West Division opponents.

Results from Tuesday’s game against Catasauqua were not available at time of press. Up next is Thursday’s nonleague game against East Stroudsburg North at 6:45 p.m.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZSalisbury's Joe Panariello scored 15 points in a recent loss to Southern Lehigh.