CHELSEA, Mass. -- With just over five minutes remaining in last night's Class A Division title game of the BABC Holiday Classic, St. John's Prep star Steve Haladyna was forced to the bench for a moment when one of the referees noticed a tiny red stain on his No. 21 jersey.
Sean Lovett quickly hopped off the bench, pulled his own No. 24 jersey over his head and tossed it to his teammate, who had to wait through several possessions before a whistle allowed him to re-enter.
No matter what number Haladyna wore on his back, the Tufts-bound senior did plenty of damage, lighting up Bishop Guertin for 30 points and 13 rebounds as the third-ranked Eagles blew past the Cardinals for an 80-63 victory Thursday night at Chelsea High School.
"We thought we could get by them in the lanes and drive and make plays in the paint," Haladyna said. "We wanted to spread it out, run our motion offense, get in the lanes and make plays."
Four of those boards came off the offensive glass during the first half, and the Prep (5-0) grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in all.
"He’s a very good offensive rebounder, probably one of the best around," said SJP coach Sean Connolly in praise of Haladyna. "He keeps a lot of shots alive and gives us second and third chances. Its just huge having a kid like that, who’s been around for four years and knows what to expect in big games."
The Prep's Mike Carbone and Bishop Guertin's Joe McCarthy threatened to turn the first 16 minutes into a 3-point shooting contest. McCarthy scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half and hit six threes in the game to keep things close early on.
But it was Carbone's hot shooting that allowed the Eagles to open things up in the second quarter. After a McCarthy three put the Cardinals (4-1) within three points (23-20), Carbone drilled a pair of trifectas during a 17-7 spurt from which Guertin was never able to recover.
"Carbone’s been shooting really well the last week or so and he got some open looks," Connolly said. "The game was up and down, it wasn’t really great defensively either way but we shot very well today. There's something about this gym. We’ve shot very well the last couple of days."
Added Haladyna, "Mike was getting his threes because we were doing a good job of getting into the lane, kicking to him, and he was knocking those shots down. Mike’s been great for us all season."
The Cardinals managed to get the deficit back to 10 after back to back threes by McCarthy and Cooper Paul closed out the third and a bucket by Jeff Lunn (19 points) opened the fourth, but the Prep immediately squashed any hopes of a comeback thanks to a high-intensity full court press that forced four straight turnovers during a 10-2 run.
That one 3-pointer by McCarthy was only field goal of the second half, as the Eagles adjusted to him defensively.
"In the first half, we didn’t do a good job of switching out on screens on him and we gave him too much room," Connolly explained. "He’s too good of a shooter. In the second half we tried to face guard him a little more and not help off of him. Try and make him make plays going by us instead of on open threes."