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Warren De La Salle holds off U-D Jesuit to advance to Class A semifinals for first time since 2007

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

Warren De La Salle holds off U-D Jesuit to advance to Class A semifinals for first time since 2007

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donoher)

Detroit – Warren De La Salle lost its first three games to U-D Jesuit this season and twice the Pilots held a fourth-quarter lead.

But Tuesday's game, at Calihan Hall, would be different. The Pilots led 47-41 heading into the fourth quarter and wouldn’t surrender the lead, escaping with a 63-58 quarterfinal victory over U-D, snapping a string of 14 straight losses to the Cubs to advance to the Breslin Center for the Class A semifinals for the first time since 2007.

The Pilots (19-7) will face the defending state champion Clarkton (24-1) on Friday at noon in East Lansing.

De La Salle head coach Greg Esler said that he made it a point deepen his rotation before and during the fourth quarter to make sure his team didn’t run out of gas in the late stages, as it did twice to U-D and against New Haven in the season opener.

“It was a key,” he said. “We won on (Wednesday), when we beat Dakota, I went to bed and watched U of D when I found out that they won. I said to the team the next day when we got together and I said I’ve got to buy us some minutes for our subs, because if you track our games – losing to New Haven on this floor, down by one in the fourth quarter and they blow us out by 20, we’re up six with five minutes to go in the Catholic League Championship and we run out of gas and they beat us by nine. So we had to buy minutes and Flanigan, Sherman and Larson did a good job. They didn’t turn the ball over and when they got in there, the lead didn’t shrink and that was huge for us.”

Trailing 47-41 entering the fourth quarter, U-D would use a Daniel Friday 3-pointer and back-to-back baskets from Jordan Montgomery and Elijah Collins to cut the De La Salle lead to 52-50 near the four-minute mark.

The Pilots would respond with a 7-2 run highlighted by a Jordan Winowiecki putback that resulted in a 3-point play that pushed the De La Salle lead to 57-50.

“We knew that in the first three games we were up going into the fourth quarter,” he said. “Then we kind of just slowed down, our legs gave up on us. So we got our subs in there, got more minutes for them, that way we could rest a little bit and in the fourth quarter, we were able to just push through it.”

With De La Salle’s sights now set on the semifinals, Esler, who was the coach of the 2007 team that made it to the semifinals and won a state title with St. Clair Shores Lake Shore in 1994, is undoubtedly looking forward to Friday afternoon.

“We’ll find out tonight who we’re playing and the coaches will get together tonight and start getting some film work done,” he said. “Tomorrow will be kind of a – just get together, gather ourselves and watch some film and get the game plan ready. We’ll have a walk-through on Thursday and get ready for Friday.”