Haladyna takes center stage in Prep title run

WORCESTER, Mass. -- For every Batman, there’s a Robin. Every yin has its yang.

And to St. John’s Prep’s Pat Connaughton, there was Steve Haladyna.

While most in the capacity crowd at the DCU Center watching Saturday’s Division 1 state final between the Eagles and St. John’s of Shrewsbury paid their undivided attention on the clash of two heavyweights, Prep's other scorer went about his work. Connaughton, the Notre Dame signee, went tete-a-tete with the Pioneers’ Richard Rodgers (a D1 football recruit in his own right). But it was Haladyna whole stole the spotlight, doing what he does best – providing Prep’s counterpunch.

“When people key in on Pat, he’s tough,” Eagles head coach Sean Connolly said of his senior guard. “He has an array of shots. He can hit floaters, 10-footers, he can hit threes. He’s just a tough cover.”

Never had Haladyna proved his mettle than the third quarter, when the 6-foot-1 silky-shooter was nearly unstoppable. Haladyna tossed in 17 of his game-high 29 points during the third stanza and had the Eagles off and running while starting the half on a 9-0 run.

“It was their pace in the first half, we only had like 28 points and they wanted a low-scoring game,” Haladyna said of Prep’s halftime adjustments. “We wanted to get up-and-down, so that’s what we did. We didn’t think they could keep up with us in the full court. We just pushed it on them and got fastbreak points.”

Aside from his offensive prowess, Haladyna also harassed Pioneer ball-handlers, playing at the top of the Eagles trap.

“He caused them some problems,” Connolly said, “and he does that well.”

Setting the tone both offensively and defensively, Haladyna reflected on the path the Eagles blazed. Following their loss to Central Catholic in last year’s Division 1 North title game at the Garden, Haladyna and his teammates pledged to put in whatever kind of work it would take to make sure 2011 ended on a positive note at the DCU Center.

As Connolly likes to instill with his running-intensive practices, the Eagles are always the best-conditioned team on the court any given night. And Prep showed their athleticism while pushing the tempo throughout, combating the Pioneers height advantage down low, between Rodgers and junior center Matt Palecki.

“We think we’re in better shape than everybody we play,” Haladyna said. “That’s where all the hard work in practices comes in. Now, it’s all paid off.”

He added, “It feels awesome to put in so much hard work and win. It’s just awesome.”