La Salle, Saint Joseph's: Don't ask questions, just play

Temple's Juan Fernandez confronts La Salle's Steve Weingarten in earlier meeting.
Temple's Juan Fernandez confronts La Salle's Steve Weingarten in earlier meeting.
Posted: March 10, 2011

WHEN YOUR NEXT loss is your last game, what happened in November, December, January and February no longer matters. It is just about the chance to keep playing basketball games. And who doesn't want to play?

How else do you explain La Salle and Saint Joseph's on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament? The Explorers were finishing just as the Hawks were starting. La Salle led by 11 and trailed by 11 in the first half at St. Bonaventure, then won in two overtimes. St. Joe's never trailed at George Washington and needed an overtime to win.

The Bonnies shot 51.7 percent in the first half, 21.7 percent in the second. Still, they had the ball and a 64-57 lead with 50 seconds left in overtime. Had to be game over. Only it wasn't. La Salle kept stealing the ball and scoring.

La Salle trailed by two points in the second OT with not quite 30 seconds left. Steve Weingarten, a true student-athlete, the Atlantic 10's student-athlete of the year and the player La Salle coach John Giannini has long said is his all-time favorite, lined up a three. He had taken 26 on the season and missed 20. Naturally, it went in.

"I respect the great majority of players I coached and I respect a lot of them a ton," Giannini said. "None of them have overcome the odds Steve has and none of them have worked harder than Steve and none of them have been a better student than Steve."

Weingarten, a senior, came from Division III Connecticut College as a walk-on. He is now on scholarship, something he has earned in every way.

In the final seconds, St. Bonaventure missed two shots that would have won it. Then, they missed two free throws that would have won it. And La Salle somehow survived, advanced and took a bus back home through the night.

No. 10 seed La Salle (15-17) gets No. 2 Temple (24-6) for a third time this season tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in Atlantic City. The Owls won the other two, but both were close.

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli will be going for his 300th win tomorrow afternoon in Atlantic City. All those who believed the Hawks coach had a chance to get the milestone this season please raise their hands.

Seeing no hands and wondering what is going on, Martelli is asking no questions. He is just happy his team is getting a few more practices and, at least, one more game.

How many thought St. Joe's would win in OT on Tuesday? The Hawks led 43-29 with 11 minutes left and scored six points the rest of regulation. It did not look promising when GW had the last shot to win. Naturally, it did not go in.

Still, it really did not look promising for OT with such a young team giving up such a big lead. Naturally, the Hawks scored the first 12 points of OT and won going away. St. Joe's had five players in double figures, shot 52.3 percent and made 18 of 20 free throws in OT.

"We scored more points [22] in 5 minutes of overtime than we did in the second half [19]," Martelli said.

No. 12 seed St. Joe's (10-21) won at Charlotte by a point on the last day of the regular season just to get into the tournament. Now, the Hawks take on No. 4 Duquesne (18-11) tomorrow at 2:30 in Boardwalk Hall. Duquesne won the lone meeting between the teams 2 months ago, 75-63, at Hagan Arena.

Martelli figured he got an hour's sleep after the team returned from Washington. He already had watched two Duquesne tapes and been to church on Ash Wednesday before 10 a.m.

"I'm supposed to read to some school kids, just don't know how I'm going to do it," Martelli said.

Time is not something coaches have at this time of year when there is at least one more game to play.

Randall update

Scootie Randall, Temple's starting swingman, remains questionable. He has missed the last five games with a foot injury. The Owls, who have lost starting forward Micheal Eric for the season with a knee injury, have gone 4-1 without him. The loss was at Duke on Feb. 23. The 6-6 junior is the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points a game and 5.1 rebounds in 32 minutes. According to a spokesperson, coach Fran Dunphy has not ruled out using him, but his status is day-to-day.

Also, Temple's Lavoy Allen has been invited to participate in the NABC All-Star Game in Houston as part of the Final Four and he has been invited to take part in the 2011 Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational. *

Daily News sports writer Mike Kern contributed to this report.

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