Seton-La Salle High School boys basketball coach Mark Walsh had a choice.
Play tight defense on Washington’s Josh Wise and probably watch Wise score 20 or 25 points anyway.
Or make a legitimate effort, take away any secondary scoring and hope the decision doesn’t burn you.
This gamble paid off.
The Rebels didn’t run two and three defenders at Wise the way other teams have done this season, instead electing to wipe out his supporting cast. Still, Wash High didn’t get enough secondary scoring to balance out a 25-point effort from Wise during a 51-45 home loss Tuesday night.
“You pick your poison,” Walsh said. “You either say, ‘OK, we’re going to try to all-out deny him and make everyone else beat us.’ Or, we said, ‘We’re going to try to put a hand up on him and just try to contain him, then try to keep everyone else out of sync.’”
Jaylin Kelly finished with 11 points and Rikwon Moore had five, but nobody else had more than two.
“All our guys on the floor, they know their roles,” Prexies coach Mark Gaither said. “We know Josh has to get his; that’s why we’ve been doing well. But other guys have to score.”
The loss drops Wash High to 4-1 in Section 4-AA and 10-2 overall ahead of Saturday’s home non-section game against Peters Township. Seton-La Salle, meanwhile, improved to 4-0, 10-2.
Dale Clancy led the Rebels with 18 points and used his speed to slash through the Prexies’ defense. Perhaps most frustrating: Ryan Norkus and Luke Brumbaugh combined for 12 points off the bench.
“Wash High plays that man-to-man defense, and we knew they weren’t going to help in the gaps a lot,” Walsh said. “So we knew if we would try to move it around a lot we would be able to use our speed at certain positions. We were able to isolate Clancy a little bit.”
Wise pulled the Prexies to within one at 43-42 with 3:03 left in the game after he had a steal on the defensive end, went coast-to-coast and turned it into a three-point play.
The Rebels, though, responded with five consecutive points – which turned out to be a consistent theme. Wash High closed to within two, three and four points on separate occasions in the second half. Each time the Rebels pushed back.
“We would hit some big shots, then they would come back down and hit some big shots for themselves, too,” Kelly said.
Wise scored all seven of Wash High’s points in the first quarter, as the Prexies trailed, 13-7.
Moore keyed a 10-3 run in the second period with a steal and a layup, pulling Wash High to within four, 23-19, after trailing by 11 midway through the period.
Wise put together a 9-2 run all by himself in the fourth quarter – which included a rare, four-point play – though the last of those nine points left the Prexies trailing, 43-42.
It was a deficit they would never erase.
“I think they played me a little bit looser than some other teams,” Wise said. “They didn’t pressure me as much. The thing that helped them was their speed. They have a lot of speed and athleticism. They felt they didn’t have to key on me. They trusted their speed.”
Despite returning all five starters, Gaither insists his team is growing and learning how to get scoring from sources other than Wise.
“I’m proud that we kept fighting,” Gaither said. “We’re still getting better. Even though we’re a veteran team, we’re still getting better. I like our chances moving forward.”