La Salle showed it was good enough to sprint out to a commanding lead through one half against second-seeded Shenendehowa Saturday night. The real test was could the Cadets complete their upset bid against a program that won the last two Section II Class AA boys' basketball tournaments? The answer was yes.
La Salle's offense stumbled in the second half, yet the team's desire to prove themselves and several clutch plays at both ends allowed the No. 7 seed to complete a 54-48 victory over Shenendehowa at Hudson Valley Community College.
"Tonight, they were the better team," Shenendehowa coach Tony Dzikas said of La Salle. "They are advancing to the semifinals and (Sunday), we'll be meeting for our exit meetings and handing in our uniforms. That's the way it works."
"It is great to prove people wrong. We heard a lot of people saying we played in a weak council," said La Salle junior forward Joe DeLollo, referring to the Cadets being in the Colonial Council. "It is definitely good to prove the haters wrong. This wins says a lot about us. Shen made a run, but we stayed composed and finished it off."
"I am happy for the kids. They had great belief in one another," La Salle coach Steve Sgambelluri said. "Tonight, they showed great love for each other. They've been a great group all year. We had chemistry and we had leadership."
La Salle (16-6) will next take on No. 3 seed Bethlehem. The Eagles (19-3), a team that beat La Salle to win Christian Brothers Academy's tournament in December, defeated No. 11 Albany 55-49. The semifinal will be played Tuesday at Glens Falls Civic Center.
The Cadets showed Shenendehowa (15-5) it was ready from the outset, building leads of 20-11 through one quarter and 37-20 at halftime.
"The first half, we came out very anemic on offense. We couldn't get it going," Dzikas said.
La Salle only made four field goals in the second half. It proved to be just enough.
"We finally got it going a little bit, we just couldn't get over that hump," Dzikas said.
Bethlehem advanced as sophomore guard Michael Ortale, who had struggled with his shot, drained a huge 3-pointer with 55 seconds left to give the Eagles a 53-47 edge.
"Coach (A.G.) Irons told me to keep shooting. That one felt good," Ortale said. "Coach just kept telling me you're the best shooter on the team. When you get the open look, you've got to shoot it. That one definitely gave us momentum."
"This one is definitely satisfying," Bethlehem senior Matthew Riker said. "We wanted this one for coach Irons, who has never been to Glens Falls before."
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