LEWES, Del. -- At times, the seventh-ranked squad of Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel lives or dies by its ability to sink perimeter shots.
But in yesterday's 47-36 Tip-Off Classic victory over a taller Red Bank Regional squad from New Jersey, his Owls (7-3) used 18-for-21 free-throw shooting and gritty play in the paint to survive when their outside game went cold.
Junior Keith Jenifer scored 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and was 7-for-9 at the line. Junior Gil Goudrich scored 11 with four assists and made all seven free throws as the Owls ended a two-game losing streak.
The Owls earned a berth in Wednesday's 5: 45 p.m. game against the winner of Monday's 3 p.m. game between Brighton, Utah and Troy, Ohio in the ninth annual Slam Dunk To The Beach Tournament at Cape Henlopen High. The event features 39 teams from 13 states competing over five days in 45 games.
Senior Thabo Letsebe scored 12 points, had eight rebounds and blocked four shots, keying a third period when the Owls closed with a 10-0 run for an 11-point lead entering the fourth period.
Towson Catholic led 7-3 after a first period when it was 6-for-22 from the field and 14-11 at the half. It held an 18-12 advantage in halftime rebounds despite the presence of New Jersey's Maryland-bound 6-9 Tahj Holden (12 points, seven rebounds), 6-7 teammate Shawn Axani (nine, 14) and 6-6 Ryan Johnson (nine points).
"Thabo, big Anthony Thorton [seven rebounds] and even Ivan Griffin -- they clogged the middle well," Daniel said. "We rely a lot of our outside game, but we're trying to learn another way, and I thought today they did a good job."
Fifth-ranked Southern (2-2), making its first appearance in the tournament since winning the Power Series Division during the 1995-96 season, dropped a 62-51 decision to Philadelphia Catholic League Southern Division champ St. John Neumann (4-4) in the Delaware Challenge Cup Division.
The Bulldogs, next slated to play Patterson Catholic Monday at 1: 15 p.m., were led by 6-foot-7 Isaiah Johnson (16 points, eight rebounds), 6-3 Darshawn Lucky (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Darryl Dorsey (11 points).
Ahead only 26-25 at intermission, St. John Neumann scored the first eight points of the second half as part of a 17-2 run. Southern was outscored 20-5 in that third quarter and trailed 46-30 entering the fourth period.
The Bulldogs, however, pulled to 56-51 after Johnson nailed his second three-pointer of the final period with 30 seconds to play. The Pirates then closed out the game with six straight free throws.
"We didn't play with much intensity on defense and had to play catch-up," said Johnson. "Down by one, we came out kind of tight in the second half and I don't know why."
"I'm not shattered by it," said 17-year coach Meredith Smith. "We did some things well, other things not so well. We just have to put four quarters together."
Gibbons (3-8) lost, 74-62, in yesterday morning's Mayor's Cup Challenge Division game to the tournament host Cape Henlopen Vikings (3-2), despite having a 28-24 rebounding advantage.
Senior Dan Neus scored 15 points for Gibbons and the play of juniors Colin McBride (11 points) and 6-5 Ellis Hopkins (10 points) was outstanding.
The loss sends coach Bryan Moorhouse's Crusaders into Tuesday's consolation bracket contest against the loser of Monday's 8 a.m. game between St. John Neumann (Pa.) and Sussex Central (Del.).
Before that, however, the Crusaders tackle Salesianum (Del.) today at 8 a.m. as part of the tournament's Sunday Shootout.
Pub Date: 12/27/98