PHILADELPHIA >> Each time Saint Joseph’s introduced another group of alums from its fabled basketball past Saturday, a list including, among others Mike Hauer and Rodney Blake of Monsignor Bonner, the student section at Hagan Arena responded with its traditional “The Hawk will never die” refrain.
On this night it also was the mantra of the current and much younger Hawks, if only by a heartbeat.
A runner by Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble with 14 seconds left and a stop at the other end just before the buzzer gave the Hawks a 73-72 Atlantic 10 win over La Salle in front of a sellout crowd of 4,200.
The Hawks (10-10, 3-5) had made so many of the same mistakes they had in losing four of their previous five games that even coach Phil Martelli was mildly surprised.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Martelli said. “I’m really appreciative of the crowd. I just told the team we’re the home team and that’s why the ball didn’t go in (for the Explorers) on the last play.”
Jordan Price took the last shot for the hard-luck Explorers (11-8, 5-3), who lost their third straight game. Working the baseline, he couldn’t get enough spin on the shot to beat the double-team of Nick Robinson and James Demery, who alertly swatted the rebound out of play at the buzzer.
“They doubled him at the end,” Kimble said. “JD did a great job of grabbing the rebound after the miss. All of those small plays helped us win the game.”
Kimble, the sophomore out of Neumann-Goretti, shocked the Hawks with the game-winner. It dropped even though he was as off-balance as he was making just 5 of 15 shots from the field on the night.
This, however, was one of those games Kimble takes personally.
“He hasn’t made that shot,” Martelli said. “He is a kid that loves the Philadelphia games, though. If you go over his year and a half he loves the Philadelphia games. His leadership ... He’s well received by his teammates and I’m glad he has the keys to the house, so to speak.”
The Hawks jumped out to a solid start behind Chris Clover, who on the offensive end is beginning to look like the St. Joe’s Prep product who was Catholic League MVP two years ago.
Clover put 16 points on the board in the first half, most right around the arc, as the Hawks cruised to a 37-29 lead by the intermission. His previous career-best was 13 points.
Clover finished with 21 points, five assists and five personal fouls, the latter of which bothered Martelli.
“At the one end of the floor he was good,” Martelli said. “At the other end of the floor he was their best player. There was confidence. He’s been practicing better. But you’ve got to play. Now we get to the next part with him, his defense. But he shot with confidence.”
The Explorers, meanwhile, got just five points in the first half out of Price, their second-leading scorer. He played just 10 minutes after collecting two fouls.
The Explorers’ frustrations were summed up on the final possession of the first half. With Price back subbing back into the lineup, the visitors couldn’t get a last shot after spending 25 seconds trying to set it up.
“I don’t know if it was symbolic or not but our half was not very good,” Explorers coach John Giannini said. “I thought we were atrocious in the first half. I thought we played one-on-one. I thought we had defensive problems. I thought the second half we really played well but you have to understand what goes into winning a close game. And I’m very upset at some of our turnovers in crunch time.”
The tough-luck shooting Hawks made 25 of 52 attempts from the field, which was above their season average. They made 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. On the night the Hawks made just 14 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe, which Martelli called “awful.
“When you shoot 56 percent,” Martelli added, “you should lose a Division I game.”
The Explorers mounted their comeback behind Price, who found the range early in the second half and finished with 21 points. Amar Stukes had 16 points, B.J. Johnson 14 for a squad that missed point guard Pookie Powell, out with a knee injury.
The Explorers made the game competitive when Tony Washington made two free throws to give them a 50-49 lead with 11:52 left.
The lead see-sawed between the teams, Price swishing a three-pointer for a four-point advantage, only to be answered by Hawks freshman Charlie Brown, who drained a trey on his way to 15 points.
The back and forth set the stage for a photo finish featuring Kimble, the 6-0 point guard.
“Coach came up with a play to kind of get the defense moving with a pick and roll for me,” Kimble said. “I just tried to get to my spot. I think I was able to get the defender off balance a little and it fell down for me. There’s definitely flaws I need to fix around the mid-range area but I guess today I really wanted to will that shot in. And that’s the approach I took. For us to turn it around and come up with a win in a tight game against a good team, that was a great win.”
For the Explorers, who came up short in their last start to Penn, there was angst. Price, who was all but unstoppable in the second half, got the look he wanted, just not the result.
“A one-foot shot? I like a one-foot shot,” Giannini said of Price’s miss. “I’m really disappointed with some of the mental errors but our effort was great. We lost the game because of some poorly timed turnovers and fouls.”