TAMPA — As Jesuit senior guard Kyle Sahlsten and coach Neal Goldman entered the visitors’ locker room following the Tigers’ 67-45 romp over rival Tampa Catholic, the two shared a longer-than-usual hug.
For Sahlsten, those few seconds were the only time all night someone held him in check.
Sahlsten put on a memorable shooting display in front of a packed Crusaders’ gym, hitting four straight open 3-pointers in the first quarter to push Jesuit (12-6) ahead early. He was 6-of-9 from 3 and led all scorers with 18 points.
“Once you hit the first couple, it becomes easy,” Sahlsten said. “My teammates kept setting me up because Tampa Catholic was trying to press and left the corners wide open.”
Sahlsten was so confident, he launched a 3 from nearly 30 feet in the third quarter and hit nothing but net.
“I was feeling good, so if you’re open, you’ve got to shoot it,” he said.
Jesuit led 20-15 after the first quarter and extended the lead to 12 points after back-to-back-to-back 3s by Daniel Darst (15 points), Sahlsten and Ryan Fleming in the second.
“We really wanted to come out and shoot the 3 tonight. We thought we could get some,” Goldman said. “I’m really proud of our guys for stepping up and knocking them down with confidence.”
Tampa Catholic (12-7), conversely, missed 10 of 11 3s in the first half and were 3-for-22 in the game.
“Our guys were very aware of where their shooters were and just really committed to not giving them too much room,” Goldman said. “I thought they executed that perfectly.”
Jesuit led by 11 at halftime and pushed it to 19 by the end of the third after Christian Whidden’s (16 points) old-fashioned 3-point play preceded Sahlsten’s long-range bomb.
Tampa Catholic went on a 9-2 run midway through the fourth to get within 55-43 but didn’t score again until two seconds remained. Jesuit hit 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth.
Chivarsky Corbett had 11 points and eight rebounds and Sam Harris added nine points for Tampa Catholic. Jesuit has won five straight in the annual series.
“It’s a tremendous victory,” Goldman said. “We have all new starters, and they have some pretty experienced guys on the other team.”