WARREN, Mich. (FEBRUARY 7, 2020) — When your senior leader can't make it out for Senior Night you have to know something's going around.
Missing leading scorer Josef Gjonaj - who was home recovering from the flu - De La Salle Collegiate struggled to find its groove Friday night, falling to Catholic League rival Detroit Catholic Central, 45-42, at the Bill Fox Gymnasium.
The Pilots did have their moments, as they led after each of the first three-quarters of the game. Despite feeling some flu-like effects throughout the week, junior Will Smythe knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and had eight points in the first half to help stake his team to a 25-19 halftime lead. The second of those 3s gave his team a 19-18 lead. Sophomore Caleb Reese then scored on a pair of drives to the basket, and fellow sophomore A.J. Whitehead also scored an inside bucket to give his team a seven-point cushion.
Despite a hot start to the third quarter by the Shamrocks, freshman Triston Nichols answered back with a pair of baskets to keep them at bay. With 1:14 left to play in the third, junior Linden Holder found senior Ryan Buszka inside for an easy basket. Then, after Catholic Central head coach Brandon Sinawi was called for a technical foul, Smythe knocked down a pair of free throws to give his team a 35-29 lead at the end of the third.
It was at that point things took a turn for the worst for the hosts. After building a seven-point lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Catholic Central (5-8 overall, 1-6 Catholic League) used a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 39-37 with just under five to play. Two possessions later, Reese knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner to restore order for De La Salle, giving his team a five-point lead with 4:26 to play.
But those were the last points the Pilots would score. Led by Cooper Craggs' six points over the final four minutes, the Shamrocks would end the game on an 8-0 run to secure the victory. Craggs led all scorers with 17.
Smythe had a team-best 12 points, while Reese had nine and senior Nick Troszak eight for the Pilots (9-4, 2-4).
Despite the loss, the Pilots honored all five of its senior players as well as senior manager Rico Enoex before the game. Grant Toutant is a four-year letter winner, while Gjonaj has been a significant contributor in each of the past three seasons. Dominic Manion, Troszak and Buszka have each spent the past two seasons helping the Pilots win a combined 22 ball games.
De La Salle will spend the weekend getting healthy before returning to the court on Tuesday when it will host state-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary's at 7 p.m.