DANVERS, Mass. -- Inconsistent effort and urgency has plagued No. 6 St. John’s Prep for most of the season.
In its 81-74 victory over No. 16 BC High, it was no different.
Prep (8-3) fell behind in the opening minutes of the game, but came back to even the score by the end of the first quarter. In the second, it outscored BC High 16-6 to take a 11-point lead into halftime.
It appeared the home team might run away with the game. Kareem Davis (32 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) was having one of those nights where every time he shot the ball, it felt like it was going to go in.
“Lately, I’ve been on a roll,” said Davis. “Whatever the defense has been giving me, I’ve just been taking it. Picking and choosing when to pass, when to hit shots. I’ve been on a roll. Hot streak.”
Then in the third quarter, BC High (5-5) battled back to shrink the double-digit deficit to two. BC High’s Jack Loughnane (21 points) was able to do whatever he wanted offensively. After not finding much success in the first half, he was able to drive to the basket at will and draw contact. He was 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Down low, junior Nick Gill (19 points, 11 rebounds) was able to outmaneuver the Prep defense to make it 55-53 heading into the fourth.
“We came out flat and weren’t ready to play,” said St. John’s Prep coach John Dullea. “That’s been an ongoing theme for us. We’ve been able to overcome most of that, but we can’t keep doing that or we’re going to eventually end up losing. We’ve got to work on getting out to a better start, having more energy, having more enthusiasm. We usually tend to pick it up. In the second quarter, we played much better.”
“We held them to six points in the second quarter and then they had 28 points in the third quarter. When we play defense like we can play, like we did in the second quarter, we’re a good team. When we don’t, we’re not that much better than anybody else.”
The two teams battled it out in the fourth. BC High took a 62-60 lead with five minutes to go, but Prep took it right back seconds later after Davis hit all three free throws after being fouled shooting beyond the arc.
The home team held on to the lead for the remaining minutes of the game, hitting crucial free throws down the stretch to seal the 7-point victory.
Harry Houdini: Kareem Davis draws a lot of attention from opposing coaches and defenders, and rightfully so. The Lowell native can create scoring opportunities in a multitude of ways and score in bunches. His 32-point, five-rebound, three-steal performance raised many eyebrows Friday, but it was Harry O’Neil that was the catalyst of the Prep offense.
The 6-foot-5 junior was able to post up on the low block against BC High’s bigs and control the game. His physicality allowed him to get short and simple shots at the hoop and occasionally draw fouls. He finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“Kareem, Ben, Spencer, they all do a great job giving me the ball when I have position,” O'Neil said. "They trust me, have that confidence in me, and that gives me the confidence in myself to really make a strong move to the rim. Conversely, if I'm scoring, it opens up the lanes for Kareem and he's going to knock that down all day."
A consistent post game is the perfect compliment to the other elements of Prep’s lineup. Davis, Ben Judson (8 points), and Spencer Danforth (11 points, 6 rebounds) are three players who can each attack the basket off the dribble or shoot from the outside. Jake Burt (4 points, 7 rebounds), the Boston College football commit, is a bruiser around the basket. When O’Neil is able to own the paint offensively, it makes the entire offense that much more difficult to defend.
“It really helps us with spacing when you have guys like Spencer and Ben,” said Davis. “When you have shooters like that on the floor, it’s easy to feed him. Eventually, they’re going to have to double him because this man is just a beast. Then he just has to kick it out and it really opens up everything.”
Injuries rundown: Neither team left the game unscathed. Players on both teams suffered injuries of various extents. In the first half, O’Neil had to leave the game due to a gash above his right eye. He was hit with an inadvertent elbow from a teammate when they were both trying to come away with a rebound.
“I just caught an elbow,” he said. “Jake (Burt) was coming down with the board and he just caught me. It was just one of those things that happens in the heat of the moment.”
He came back in the game later and played with a large bandage above his right eyebrow and was going to get stitched up after leaving the gymnasium.
BC High’s Henry Ennen (2 points, 7 rebounds) went to the ground with four minutes left in the game with an apparent right leg injury. He was in so much pain he made no attempt to get up until assisted by trainers. He spent the rest of the game on the bench with an ice pack wrapped around his knee. The severity of the injury was not known immediately after the game.