skip navigation

La Salle MBB closes Tom Gola Arena era with win over George Washington

03/02/2024, 8:20pm EST
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

OLNEY — The crowd at Tom Gola Arena let out one last roar Saturday afternoon.

Daeshon Shepherd’s highlight-reel put-back slam helped put away a 72-66 win for the La Salle men’s basketball and bring the Explorers fans to their feet in the final game at the venue they’ve called home since 1998.

“He came out of nowhere,” senior Jhamir Brickus said of the dunk. “Once I saw it, he was hanging on the rim. That dunk was electrifying.”

Tom Gola Arena became the home of the Explorers’ men’s and women’s basketball teams when they renovated Hayman Hall in 1998. It opened Feb. 21, 1998 with a win against Virginia Tech, and the last game will go down as a victory as well. The building will undergo renovations this offseason and reopen as John Glaser Arena

The Explorers had a quartet of double-figure scorers, led by senior Anwar Gill and junior Khalil Brantley with 15 apiece. Sophomore forward Rocius Jocius followed with 13, and Shepherd added 12. Even on a tough shooting night (2 of 14), Brickus’ nine points were big ones.

Plenty of La Salle alumni and those with special memories of the building were in attendance. Former women’s (1984-86) and men’s (1986-2001) coach Speedy Morris, a local legend, and Tyreek Duren and Ty Garland, two of the members of the 2013 Sweet 16 team, were among those recognized on the court during a timeout in the second half. Sitting courtside during the game was Caroline Gola, the widow of the building’s current namesake.

Daeshon Shepherd finished with 12 points, highlighted by a put-back slam late, to seal Saturday's final win at Tom Gola Arena. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL file)

“I was particularly struck by seeing Caroline Gola, Tom Gola’s wife,” La Salle coach  Fran Dunphy said. “She was into it and she was great today, as she always is.

“There’s a lot of history and tradition here. I’m grateful for that and grateful to be a very small part of that.”

Tom Gola, who died in 2014, is one of the most recognizable names in Philadelphia college basketball. The former player and coach led the program to its only national title in 1954. An 8-foot statue of him was unveiled outside the arena earlier this season to continue to honor his memory even after the building switches names. John Glaser was 1962 alumnus whose posthumous donation in 2013 spearheaded the fundraising effort and put a clock on the time frame for the renovation. 

“If there was one person who wouldn’t have worried too much about it, it was Tom Gola,” said Dunphy, who played for Gola with the Explorers. “He was as selfless a human being as I have ever met in my lifetime. I’ve hoped that I’ve learned many lessons from him. That being No. 1.

“If he’s celebrated, he’s OK with it, but if he’s not celebrated, he’ll be OK as well. But he’ll never be forgotten. This place will always have him. That statue that’s out front is, I think, extraordinary, and I look at it every day coming into the building. I’m just grateful that I had the chance to interact with him for the many years after I played for him, but the two years I played for him was remarkable.”

La Salle built a 13-point lead in the first half and led 38-30 at the break behind 13 points from Gill, but the Revolutionaries trimmed that down to five 30 seconds into the second half. George Washington’s Trey Autry banked in a 3-pointer to make it 41-38 La Salle with 17:32 left. Back-to-back 3s from James Bishop IV put George Washington up 48-46 with 13:44 to play. Darren Buchanan Jr. led GW with 21, and Bishop followed with 18.

A Shepherd triple put the Explorers back ahead with 10:33 to play. The lead changed hands four straight times until Brickus put La Salle up 58-56 on a step-back 3 with nine minutes left that elicited a loud “POW” courtside from Explorers’ play-by-play man Kale Beers.

The La Salle lead stayed between two and four until the final minute. After Brickus hit a step-back near the free-throw line at the 1:28 to make it 66-62 La Salle, Shepherd skied for an offensive rebound and thunderous put-back to clean up a miss and help secure an Explorers’ victory.

“When he’s on one side of the floor and somebody shoots a jumper on the other side, I’m hoping that he’s gonna be in the neighborhood to throw balls back in the basket like he did today,” Dunphy said. “It's fun to watch him when he’s got his stuff going on. He made a big 3 in that second half as well, so I was proud of him for that; and he had a tough assignment throughout most of the game trying to guard Buchanan, who’s a great basketball player.”

Even with the victory, the Explorers are likely to play on the first day of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 12. They are a game and a half behind ninth place.

La Salle would be the No. 11 seed if the tournament started Sunday. That’s the same spot the Explorers ended last season when they won a pair of games before falling to Fordham in the quarterfinals

“The crowd was lovely because not so many of our games are like that, having that atmosphere like that and everybody cheering for us,” Brickus said. “We’re definitely looking forward to seeing if we can have some of that in Brooklyn. I think it will help us a lot.”

D-I Coverage:

Small-College News:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Owen McCue  College  Division I  La Salle