De La Salle's regular season came to an end Tuesday night inside the Bill Fox Gymnasium. The Pilots (8-3) lost to Brother Rice, 58-56, in a Catholic League Tournament semifinal matchup.
The Purple and Gold got off to a hot start, with a 9-1 lead that caused the Warriors, whom the Pilots defeated, 59-42, on Feb. 13, to burn an early timeout. However, after that, the contest became a back-and-forth affair, marked by physical play on both sides -- a common theme of Catholic League play.
The Warriors took a 29-28 lead into halftime. But, the Pilots kept "punching" back, and led by five, 50-45, with 5:30 to play in the fourth quarter. DLS went cold after that, though, and didn't make another field goal until a layup from senior guard Linden Holder with 20 seconds left.
DLS head coach Gjon Djokaj attributed his team's loss to what he labeled as a lack of late-game "maturity."
"I think we compounded mistakes by not moving on from the last one," Djokaj said after the game. "You've got to have a short memory in this game. You make a mistake, your teammate makes a mistake, you've got to support and move on to the next play. And I don't think we did a good enough job of that at times tonight."
The Pilots turned the ball over four times during its field goal-less stretch in the fourth quarter.
Djokaj added, "It was a game of runs, and I think we kind of got stuck in the last run, instead of moving on to the next run -- something that as a young team, we kind of just have to go through."
Djokaj hopes his squad will be able to take the experience it's garnered in late-game situations, such as Tuesday against Brother Rice, and use it to its advantage going into the MHSAA state playoffs.
"I hope the experience of being in tight situations will be something that we can use to our advantage in the state playoffs," Djokaj commented. "And, I hope tonight will serve as a valuable lesson to us on how to properly handle situational basketball, such as reading defenses and offensive matchups."
Holder didn't continue his run of 30-point games -- he finished with 30 points in back-to-back games against U-D Jesuit and Detroit Edison Public School Academy last week -- but still managed to produce a team-high 16 points.
Caleb Reese, Nino Smith, and Triston Nichols all also finished in double figures -- Reese with 15, Smith with 13 and Nichols with 10.
The Purple and Gold have a first-round bye to open up the state tournament, and subsequently will next take the floor Thursday, March 25, against the winner of Warren Mott-Warren Cousino. Game time is set for 5 p.m. at Warren Woods Tower (subject to change).