SALEM, Mass. -- They only won by 16 points.
No. 1 St. John’s Prep improved to 3-0, winning by their lowest margin of victory yet, defeating No. 9 East Boston, 67-51, last night at Salem State University.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” said Prep coach Sean Connolly. “You’ve got to credit them [East Boston], they do a great job of pressuring you. This was our first real test of the year. The guys didn’t know what to expect, so they’ve seen what it takes to beat a good team.”
Pat Connaughton, the Eagles’ usual scoring leader, had a tough day at the office, first bringing the ball up Ray Allen-style, becoming the leading assist man (6), as well as fighting double teams, so he was “only” able to score 12 points, including two three pointers.
Fellow junior Steve Haladyna felt bad for Connaughton being so confined, and wanted to do his part to keep Prep on top, so he pitched in 16 points and 6 rebounds. Haladyna admitted after the game that he likes the role he is in, and would not want trade with Connaughton, at all.
“I like Pat being the first option, so he can dish it off to us,” said Haladyna. “He’s not a selfish player. He lets us get ours, then he gets his. We’re a balanced team.”
Isn’t that nice?
Everybody gets some, so the best is yet to come.
The leader scorer on the day, Mike Carbone, racked up 24 points, 14 in the second half, and added eight rebounds to his resume’ on the day. Finding his way to open spots using screens, and going 5-5 from the free throw line, Carbone was more than happy to relieve some pressure from Connaughton as well.
“They were taking Pat away, so someone needed to step up and I thought that I could do it.”
Carbone found something inside of himself, which seemed to be contagious for the Eagles, to take down missed shots like he was a center, even though he is not quite six feet.
“I think it’s just hustle… you’ve just got to go as hard as you can, and I did.”
Coach Malcolm Smith of East Boston (2-2) wished his team had caught the same bug that infected Prep.
“I thought my young guys worked hard,” said Smith, pointing to junior Andre Senior, who grabbed six rebounds and dished out five dime. “Some guys took possessions off. You can’t take possessions off in big games like this.”
The East Boston full court press made the Eagles work hard for most of the game, although Smith noted seven possessions where he thought some of his guys were lacking the defensive tenacity that not only presses a team in the back court, but should also stem easy shots if they pass the circle.
“We broke down on about seven possessions that absolutely killed us. Five out of the seven possessions that we did break down in were long threes, so that really hurt us.”
Haladyna also played the passing lane well, getting three steals, keeping the fast paced East Boston cool and unable to keep a sustained run at the lead St. John’s Prep held for most of the game.
“We had to prepare a lot for Eastie because they’re a fast team,” added Haladyna. “And we tried to stop Amazon (17 points) because he’s a good player.”
On Monday, Prep will face a New Mission team that plays the same kind of knuckle up defense that Eastie does, and will face Charlestown later this year, at Charlestown, so that type of play does affect Haladyna, although he admitted it is tough.
“We’re going to see this type of pressure all year.”