PHILADELPHIA– In front of a capacity crowd of 3,400 at Tom Gola Arena, the La Salle Explorers and head coach Ashley Howard were ready to make a statement in the Explorers first home game in the Ashely Howard era.
It was almost a perfect storm for the Explorers. It was Homecoming, two out of their starting five players, guards Traci Carter (Marquette) and David Beatty (South Carolina) were set to make their home debuts since transferring back to their hometowns. It was one of the loudest crowds I personally have ever heard at La Salle. So it was only fitting that the Explorers would beat Lafayette, right?
Lafayette, the team picked to finish second-to-last in the Patriot League Preseason Poll, came into Philadelphia and stole away a victory from the Explorers by a final score of 77-76.
“Tough loss, especially on homecoming with a great crowd here but I’m proud that our guys battled until the end,” Howard said. “They played hard, we got a young team that’s learning each other and the more opportunities we get to be apart of close, deciding games like this, I think the better it’s going to make our team.”
It seemed like it was a perfect storm in the second half where Lafayette was making everything and La Salle couldn’t buy a bucket. In the second half, the Leopards shot 47 percent from the field while the Explorers shot 31 percent in the second half.
“They made some tough shots and we missed some bunnies,” Howard said. “But at the end of the day, we take pride in just being able to close out games like that with our defense and rebounding and there were some key opportunities there to get some stops but we didn’t come up with them and I tip my hat to Lafayette, they played a great game.”
La Salle was abused on the glass, losing the rebounding margin -12 including allowing 11 offensive rebounds to the Leopards.
“I just distinctly remember the first half, us being in scramble position where we’re going for steals, stepping up, and then we weren’t matched up to get rebounds.” Howard said.
La Salle had a chance to win the game with 10 seconds left after an three-point play by Lafayette guard Alex Petrie put the Leopards up 77-76, but an elbow jumper from La Salle guard Pookie Powell was no good. Powell finished the game with 26 points and six rebounds.
“I thought Pookie was unbelievable,” Howard said. “I told him in late game situations, we’re going to run plays for you, not just to score but to also make decisions and for the most part, this game, he did a great job and that’s what you would expect for him in our first home game, to step up the way he did, I’m proud of how he played.”
Junior guard Isiah Deas finished with 16 points for the Explorers including four threes, and sophomore center Miles Brookins finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Up next for La Salle is a meeting with Florida down in Gainesville on Wednesday at 7 pm, then it’s back home where they’ll take on city foe Drexel on Saturday at 4 pm.
It would be a pretty big upset should the Explorers beat Florida but Howard will do his best to try and get his guys ready.
“I’m excited to get back to practice tomorrow,” Howard said. “I know our guys are excited to get back tomorrow, it’s just a process, there are some positives to take from this game and I just want our guys to stay encouraged and come back to practice to get ready to battle.”