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Friday, January 25, 2013
Recap: No. 17 St. John's (S) 55, No. 23 SPM 48

By Adam Kurkjian

SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Somehow, even when St. Peter-Marian's Anthony Manzello found his rhythm from beyond the arc in the third quarter, Friday night's game with St. John's of Shrewsbury never quite seemed on the verge of a blowout.

So despite falling behind by double-digits in the fourth quarter, St. John's found the strength to land the game's final counterpunch in a physical, back-and-forth affair that ended in a 55-48 comeback win for the Pioneers.

Down 43-32 after a Tim Berry putback early in the fourth, the Pioneers turned up the defensive pressure and allowed just one field goal the rest of the way to score 23 of the game's final 28 points. Leading the charge were freshman Adham Floyd, who scored all 17 of his points in the second half, and junior Alex Fisher, who grabbed 13 rebounds and dropped in 12 hard-earned points.

"We knew it was going to be a tight game. (St. John's coach Bob Foley) told us that going into it," said Fisher. "He just told us that we need to go out there and start with a fire. We can't just come out there soft and build our way up. We need to come out strong right away.

"And at the end of the game when we were tight, it was just all the big men, even the point guards, got in there for rebounds. We just all needed to pull it together and luckily we did."

Floyd made the play of the night with the Guardians (10-4, 3-1 in Central Mass.) up by a point late, as he made a steal at midcourt, collected the ball in the key, made a layup and got fouled with a minute to go. He hit the freebie to give St. John's a 49-47 lead with one minute to play.

St. Peter-Marian guard Kevin Riley missed a driving layup on the next possession and Fisher rebounded. After a St. John's (9-3, 4-1) timeout, sophomore guard Davon Jones drove the lane as the shot clock wound down. The ball was tipped away as he tried to shoot, but Fisher corralled it and laid it in to give his team the 51-47 lead with 10 second to play.

Berry (13 points, 14 rebounds) hit a free throw with five seconds to play but Floyd and Ken Harrington made four from the line in the final seconds following a foul and technical to help the Pioneers avenge an earlier loss to the Guardians this season.

"I just thought Alex Fisher played an outstanding game for us: defensively, rebounding, the big hoops early to really help us out," Foley said. "Davon Jones is that engine that makes us go. So if you look at a lot of the hoops that Adham Floyd got, he got off passes from Davon Jones. And Davon takes on all that pressure; they pressed us pretty much the whole game. Davon handles all that pressure and gets it to my other guys. He, to me, was my number one star for this game."

Behind a monster effort from Fisher on the offensive glass, St. John's jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead. But the Guardians dominated the second quarter, as two 3-pointers from Berry helped St. Peter's to a 21-17 halftime edge.

Manzella then put on shooting clinic in the third quarter. He buried four 3-pointers, most of which came from the right wing, to account for all of his points as the Guardians led 41-32 heading into the final stanza.

Floyd's 11 fourth-quarter points were impressive, but it was how he was able to get them that might have been even more noteworthy. An athletic, 6-foot-1 guard, he used his hands effectively on defense to tip balls away or come up with steals. The ball never quite seemed secure if Floyd was the one guarding you. A high-energy player, his jumper wasn't falling at times but he found it in the second half, burying a pair of line-drive 3-pointers in the third quarter.

"We've had some freshmen that have played pretty good here: Richard Rodgers as a freshman, David White as a freshman," Foley said. "No, we have a history of freshmen playing good for us."

With a young backcourt of Floyd and Jones, the Pioneers have a nice young nucleus to work with over the next few years. In fact, the entire St. John's starting five will be back next year provided no one transfers.

Manzello's shooting exhibition in the third quarter showed how dangerous the Guardians can be when he finds his range. Running around picks and screens, the 6-foot-2 senior found ways to get open with good looks at the basket and didn't miss if he had one. The Pioneers were able to do a better job at finding him in the final quarter, but without that they probably don't come away with the win.

"He's an excellent shooter, and it's our fault for letting him get loose like that," Foley said. "But he does a very good job of running all over the place and running off screens. So we knew he could do that and we hoped to stop him, but give him credit, he got free and made those."

In the first half it was Berry, the 6-foot-5 center, who shot his team into the lead. When he wasn't knocking down jumpers, he was aggressively attacking the glass in what seemed like a possession-by-possession war with Fisher for who could bring down the most rebounds.

In the end, while the Guardians couldn't come away victorious, the efforts of Manzello and Berry put their team on the doorstep before St. John's rallied in the fourth quarter.