WEST ROXBURY, Mass. -- St. Mark’s practically has a small army at its disposal, which is why it was able to jump out to an early lead in last night's NEPSAC Class AA semifinal and dominate St. Andrew’s School throughout the game, winning 67-47 at The Roxbury Latin School.
With the win over St. A's (23-9), the Lions (28-2) advance to the Class AA championship game on Sunday, 3 p.m. at Endicott College against Tilton. But the boys haven't been dominating recently.
“Our last two games were really tough,” said St. Mark’s coach Dave Lubick. He specifically referenced the double-overtime victory his squad stole from Northfield Mount Hermon 82-74 last Friday. “We were down six with 20 seconds left and coming back to win that game gave our guys the idea that, ‘You don’t quit.”
Tonight, St. Mark’s took a double digit lead midway through the first half but played like they were down by two the rest of the game. They were up by 16 at the end of the first half, and St. Andrew’s came in the second with a full court press, but St. Mark’s moved easily through and around it.
“We have pretty smart players,” added Lubick. “Nik Stauskas (15 points) and Alex Murphy (14 points, seven rebounds), they’re big guys who can handle the ball and actually see over people. We’re a pretty tough team to press.”
Once the ball made it over half court, you have one big and one...growing option. The leading scorer for the game was 6-foot-2 freshman guard Kevin Zabo, with 19 points and 10 assists.
“Lot of poise, good shot, pretty good for a freshman, huh?,” asked Lubick about Zabo.
Although Lubick admits that Zabo entered camp with the skills necessary to command a team, he has developed since coming to St. Mark’s this year.
“His decision-making has gotten better and better, like all young point guards who have a lot of skill,” said Lubick. “That kid’s got big time ability to change speeds and we like to run. We allow him to get the ball out of his hands, get it back and create plays. I was a little worried thinking he’d be nervous, but he wasn’t.”
The big option is 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, who was donning his white and red Beats by Dre headphones in the hallway outside of the team’s locker room.
To start the second half, Tarczewski (14 points, seven rebounds) threw down a couple of monster dunks that halted the momentum St. Andrew’s came out with.
“That’s what we talked about in the locker room,” Tarczewski said of Lubick commanding him to play simple and slam the ball through the hoop -- hard. “If you come out strong when they’re down, they’re going to quit.”
St. Andrew's coach Mike Hart is not one to quit, as he yelled at his team to run the set offensive plays throughout the match, but he ceded after the game that he didn’t expect much to improve, even if they did execute his game plan.
“I don’t think the outcome of the game would have changed because St. Mark’s is a good club,” Hart said. “We’ve been struggling this year getting other guys in double figures except for Michael Carter-Williams (17 points, seven rebounds, three steals). He had to force some stuff today, but our guys have got to move. We’ve been working on it, but there comes a time and a point where we need to get a shot off and if guys are standing around, you’re not going to win.”