Game One vs Grandview Prep (L- 64-63)
To open up the first day of the tournament, the Explorers were to take on a Florida 2A powerhouse in Grandview Prep. Grandview won the 2A state title two years ago, and made it back to the title game last year as well. The game started extremely well for the Explorers and they found themselves up five at the half. The lead increased 12 with just under five minutes remaining in the final quarter. Grandview's best players Jamal Palmer and Shawn Occeus both fouled out, so things were looking bright for the Explorers. Everything collapsed very quickly and I'm not really sure what happened. The Explorers fouled a lot, and eventually found themselves down one with under 10 seconds remaining. Junior Shane Stark found himself with the ball under the basket and was fouled. Stark went to the line and missed both free throws, senior Shawn Witherspoon got the rebound with two seconds, but his off balance attempt was no good. The Explorers fell in a tough game. Senior forward David Krmpotich led the Explorers with 24 points while senior guard Najee Walls added 15.
Game Two vs Western High (W- 50-34)
With the hope of a championship wiped away, the Explorers still looked to make the most out of the trip. Their second game of the bracket was against Western High School. Thankfully, the Explorers made easy work of the weak Western team. There was nobody to contest Krmpotich down low as he finished with a team leading 14 points. Coach Dempsey took advantage of the weaker team to get everyone involved, as all 15 players got in the game and eight different Explorers scored. A great defensive effort on the Explorers' end shut down any Western offensive threat, and La Salle advanced into their final game of the tournament with ease.
Game Three vs South Miami (W- 65-67)
After a day break in between games, the Explorers headed into their final game in Florida against a very athletic South Miami Cobras team. The Cobras made it to the final four in the 7A state bracket last year, and also were in the championship two years ago. The Explorers started very, very slow. The off day seemed to have an impact on them, and they found themselves down 30-27 after being down 30-18 moment before the half ended. The third quarter was where the Explorers, led by senior guard Shawn Witherspoon, took off. Witherspoon took advantage of the loose Cobra defense and cut to the basket, found open players, and finished at the rim. Witherspoon finished with a game high 24 points and played one of the best games of his career. Dave Krmpotich also added in 15 points and 10 boards for his first double-double of the season. Down the stretch, the Explorers frustrated South Miami on the defensive end and played as aggressive as they have all season. The Cobras feature a super sophomore in 6'8 Latravian Glover is ranked no. 23 in his class nationally. After letting him take control of the first half, the combined force of seniors Matt Dessner and David Krmpotich shut him down the second half. Coach Dempsey and company described this game as one of the best wins they have ever been a part of.
Overall, the experience was extremely beneficial for the Explorers. They competed against some top-notch talent, and, had it not been for the fall in the first game, would have made quite the contention for the championship. Senior guard Najee Walls (right) was named to the all-tournament team as well.
The Explorers will take a quick break and then head off to the Triple Threat Invitational in Washington DC to take on Riverdale Baptist in the first round. Coverage will be limited for those games, so be sure to follow @LaSalle_Sports for updates!
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