Explorer guard Najee
Walls out together a 13-point performance as part of
a 23-point win over Lower Merion. (Photo: Josh
Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
La Salle College High School isn’t quite known as a
The football team was crowned state champions in 2009
and, between 2008 and 2012, were Philadelphia Catholic
League champs for five consecutive years and District 12
champs for four.
The Explorers’ lacrosse team holds four Pennsylvania
state championships: 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2013. They’ve
also been crowned Catholic League champions seven of the
last nine years.
La Salle’s baseball team won the state championship
in 2012, a Catholic League title in 2013 and were
District 12 champs both of those seasons.
The basketball team hasn’t had as much postseason
success, but that’s rapidly changing. They continued a
program-defining playoff run with
a convincing 71-48 win over the defending AAAA state
champion Lower Merion Aces in the quarterfinals.
“It means a lot,” head coach Joe Dempsey
said following the Explorers’ victory. “It means a lot
to the community and, I’ll tell you what, La Salle wins
a lot in a lot of other sports and I’m just happy to do
it in basketball. All of the athletic teams are
well-coached and well-represented. But in basketball, we
haven’t won a title so this is kind of special for us.”
That victory leads to their first semifinal
appearance in school history and sets a date with the
Chester Clippers, another program with a strong
basketball tradition with eight state championships to
their name, their latest coming in 2012. The Clippers
were also the team to stop the last Explorer attempt at
the state semifinals, beating La Salle 68-50 in the
quarterfinals of the 2011 state playoffs.
Dempsey credits a tough Philadelphia Catholic League
for preparing the Explorers for this unprecedented run.
Of the 14 teams in one of the toughest leagues in the
state, only two (La Salle and league champion Neumann-Goretti)
are still playing basketball.
“I don’t know if we feel overshadowed, but for
basketball, it’s tough,” Dempsey said. “We’re fourth in
our division. So that’s a tribute to the kids. Every
game in our league is a war and I think you saw the
benefits of that tonight.”
This is the same league that has featured a team in
the either the AAA or AAAA final since 2009. Only
Neumann-Goretti, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Carroll
have been able to make it to the final game of the
season, going a combined 4-3 with Neumann winning three
of those games.
What makes the Explorers’ postseason run so much more
improbable is what they had to replace from last year’s
team. That team, which featured Division I players in
Amar Stukes (La Salle) and Steve Smith
(Fairfield), relied heavily on the six upperclassmen
that graduated last year.
Those Explorers didn’t make it out of the PCL
playoffs, losing to rival St. Joe’s Prep by 17 points in
the quarterfinals and finishing the season at 15-8.
La Salle, now 22-6 following the victory, is now two
wins away from bringing home the program’s first
basketball title. Forward Jalen Herdsman,
who put together a 13-point, 10-rebound performance
against Lower Merion, is ready to to prove that the
Explorers deserve to call themselves champions.
“A lot of people really didn’t expect us to go this
far, but we keep pushing. We think we’re the best team
in the state and we’re going to try and prove it out
there every time.”
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