BY JOE FEDOROWICZ
Senior night is special for more than just the athletes. It is a time when fans can give applause to players’ parents, the managers and just celebrate the year that was for those that will not return the following year. Tonight, however, with most of the stands empty and the students on break, La Salle was unable to hold the lead and fell to George Mason, 59-57.
“We lost to a good team,” John Giannini said about the Patriots, then pivoting to his team. “I love these guys win or lose.”
It was another close game for La Salle, who found themselves down by one with under a minute to play. The Explorers came out and ran a set play. Garland received the ball on a curl and spun through the lane, putting up a floater that would hit. The lead would be short-lived however, as Marko Gujanicic would put back a missed shot to regain the lead.
Struggling to get the ball in on the next possession, a Duren jumper would fall short as would the Explorers’ chances on senior night.
“7-1 in close games last year, 1-4 in close games this year,” Giannini stated, highlighting La Salle’s failures this season. “That is not by luck, that is not by accident. You cannot lose focus.”
It was the seniors that carried the scoring burden for La Salle, as Tyrone Garland, Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills scored a combined 41 points for the Explorers. Garland led the way with 16 points, while Duren and Mills added 13 and 12, respectively. Overall, La Salle shot just 34-percent from the floor and was just 31-percent for the second half. Duren and Garland were 9-30, or 30-percent.
“Our shooting. That is on me,” Giannini continued about his team this year. “I was grossly over-optimistic about our ability to shoot the ball.”
I may have been the most blind coach in the world to think that we would be a good shooting team.
La Salle started out fantastic, running up a 9-0 lead to start the game. The Patriots, however, would claw back and draw the lead to two heading into the break, 29-27. Both teams would struggle from the field, as La Salle’s 37-percent shooting was overshadowed by George Mason’s 29-percent. The Explorers, bolstered by four three-pointers, was able to get past seven turnovers to cling to a lead.
In the second half, the Patriots gained control with a 6-0 lead to start. La Salle struggled offensively, but was able to keep the game within six points and eventually regained the lead at 53-52. The two teams would bounce back and forth until the final series highlighted above. The game was different than before, but the story ended the same way it has before. The Explorers could not stop the opposing team at the rim.
“We probably should have went zone,” Giannini admitted. “I’ll tell whoever we play. If the game is on the line, we’re going to go zone.”
The La Salle players were visibly shaken after the loss and a couple shed a tear following possibly their last home game. While this season follows one of great jubilance, it did not live up to expectations of either the fans or the program.
“The difference between winning and losing is incredibly tiny. It was incredibly tiny here tonight,” Giannini finished his thought on why the team struggles. “There is a mentality when it comes to winning these games. It is a personality, a relentlessness. An approach. It is subtle. It is a tiny difference, but it is all the difference.”
Reaching 1000: With a foul shot, Mills reached 1000 points on his senior night. He is the 54th player in La Salle history to accomplish that feat.
“It means a lot,” Mills said about reaching the milestone. “Being here four years, working hard with my teammates. I was just glad to get it tonight.”
Up Next: The Explorers will travel to St. Joseph’s for the regular season finale on Sunday. Philahoops will have live coverage.