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Spruill's last-second shot lifts La Salle women past Drexel

11/15/2022, 5:00pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Kayla Spruill (above) scored a season-high 24 points in Tuesdy afternoon's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It’s been a different type of season thus far for Kayla Spruill.

The La Salle senior star wing hadn’t had a big game yet over the Explorers’ first three, averaging 9.0 ppg as Explorers head coach Mountain MacGillivray works through one of the deepest rotations around. She’d played well in La Salle’s last two games, both easy wins, but wasn’t counted on to play big minutes as MacGillivray went deep into his bench early and often.

Tuesday afternoon, in a day game matchup against city rival Drexel, the Explorers needed Spruill to step up — and indeed she did, hitting the game-winning bucket with 2.1 seconds to play as La Salle won its third straight game, 77-74. 

“An exciting finish, just the way I drew it up on the board there — no, it wasn’t,” MacGillivray deadpanned. “That’s Kayla Spruill making Kayla Spruill plays, really big, big shot, impressed with her.”

Spruill and the rest of the La Salle players were unavailable for comment after the win, the team boarding a bus to head to the airport, two games in Alaska waiting this weekend. MacGillivray said plenty for them.

“It’s been a rough stretch: we went Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, three games on the road, logged a ton of miles, and our kids are scrambling to go on a plane to Alaska,” MacGillivray said, “all of that combined with, this is a real rivalry, Drexel’s a great team [...] There was a lot of excuses [that] could have gone into the night.

“We found a way, so just really impressed with our mental toughness,” he continued. “With all that being said, we’re still not playing basketball the La Salle way, in almost every game we’ve turned the ball over more than our opponents, that’s the antithesis of what we’re trying to do. But when the ball goes in the basket, you can have some success, so that was fun to watch.”

Spruill finished with a season-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, leading an Explorers squad that shot 27-of-53 (50.9%) from the floor and 8-of-21 (38.1%) from deep, just enough to get past a Dragons side that was 28-62 (45.2%) overall and 3-of-14 (21.4%) from the 3-point line.

Claire Jacobs (above) converted several reverse layups down the stretch to help the Explorers win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Claire Jacobs added 14 points for La Salle (3-1), who entered the night with a dozen players averaging double-figure minutes over their first three games, only grad transfer Charity Shears (11 points, 3-6 3PT) averaging double-figure scoring. That’s deliberate by MacGillivray, who did two wholesale lineup changes in the opening five minutes against Drexel and played 11 deep, eight of whom saw 12-or-more minutes.

“It’s not something we’re stuck doing, but we’re going to do it to try to wear our opponent down and to develop more kids, as long as it’s not costing us,” MacGillivray said. “So tonight we thought maybe it was hurting us a little bit, so we tightened our rotation. Next game, maybe we do it the whole time.”

It was a back-and-forth contest that saw Drexel (1-1) lead by eight early in the second quarter before La Salle stormed back to take a six-point edge into the half, the home team going up by 10 early in the third. The Dragons used a 13-2 run to close the gap to single digits before the final stanza, finally pulling even with 4:48 remaining.

A series of ties followed, at 66, 68, 70 and 74 points, but a missed jumper by Drexel’s Hetta Saatman, who had a career-best 10 points, gave the Explorers the ball with 16.9s left, setting up Spruill’s final shot. Drexel was able to get the ball upcourt, but Crawford blocked a corner 3-pointer by Erin Sweeney, sealing the win.

The Explorers did a terrific job defensively on Dragons senior Keishana Washington, holding the star guard to 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting, making every one of her drives to the hoop contested and off-balance. Washington’s struggles were compounded by issues of her own doing; the 5-9 guard picked up an intentional foul in the second quarter and then her third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter, limiting her to 20 minutes of action.

“A little bit self-imposed,” Mallon admitted of her star’s struggles, “but that’s something that’s a reminder that only you can do that to yourself, the other team can’t.”


“You look at the overall box score and see your best player on the bench for 20 minutes, and you still have a shot, [one]-possession game,” Mallon added, “[...] to be in the game with your best player on the bench, it says something about this team’s potential.”


Lavelle lighting it up to open college career

Kylie Lavelle (above) had 31 points and nine rebounds in her second collegiate game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Kylie Lavelle’s debut in a Drexel uniform was special. Her follow-up act was even more impressive — and showed that the first effort was far from a fluke. 

The 6-foot-2 freshman from the northeast part of the Keystone State followed up her 20-point outing against Rider on Friday with a 31-point game against La Salle, keeping the Dragons in it against the Explorers even with Washington watching from the bench for half. 

Lavelle finished 12-of-19 from the floor, hitting two of her three 3-pointers and 5-of-6 from the line, adding in nine rebounds and a block while committing just two turnovers in 34 minutes. She hit seemingly every open shot she took, whether they were 17’ baseline jumpers or a couple floaters, coming up with a few second-chance points as well. 

“Wow,” MacGillivray said. “I mean, if she plays us every night, she’s going to be amazing — we had no answer. I honestly can not give you a great eval of her, all I know is she kept scoring the ball. 

“I also know she had quite a few wide-open shots, that’s part of being really good as a freshman but the kids don’t kind of believe it yet. People are going to believe it after her first two games, she’s legit.”

Lavelle, who went to Riverside High school in Moosic (Pa.), was a three-time All-State selection, leading the Vikings to back-to-back District 2 titles as a junior and senior, averaging 24.7 ppg and 10.0 rpg her last season of high school hoops. 

The Drexel staff had high hopes for her coming into the season, but she’s had perhaps the best debut of any Dragons’ player ever, more than former CAA Rookie of the Year Gabriela Marginean (38 points), or program standouts like Bailey Greenberg (21 points) or Kamile Nacickaite (21 points).

“The way she plays, her composure, she doesn’t look like a freshman when she’s on the floor,” Mallon said. “That was something that from the beginning, coaching her, you got a feel for right away. 

“I think she’s capable of (having big games), but to do that in the first two games [...] I think the thing that impresses me most is her composure on the floor.”


Mascantonio goes down with knee injury

With about four minutes left in the third quarter, La Salle starting point guard Molly Masciantonio went down as she made a pivot to pass, the Explorers’ trainer coming out to look at the Archbishop Carroll product’s right knee. Masciantonio had to be helped off, not able to put much weight on the leg; she spent most of the fourth quarter slowly riding an exercise bike behind the La Salle bench.

Afterwards, MacGillivray said that Masciantonio, who finished with three points and four assists in 20 minutes, seemed to have avoided major injury.

“I think she’s fine,” he said. The doctor said structurally she’s pretty good. She’s hurt — I mean, there’s pain there, for sure, but she’s a tough kid, she’s going to find her way to fight through it.”


Up Next

Drexel gets back in action on Saturday with a home game against Maryland-Eastern Shore (0-2). The two teams met last year at UMES, with Drexel picking up a 65-60 win behind a balanced effort.

La Salle plays Pepperdine (0-2) on Friday at the Great Alaska Shootout, with tipoff at 6:15 Pacific Standard Time (9:15 PM EST). The Explorers will then play either UC Riverside or Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday.

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