Boston High School: Isaiah Robinson

Recap: St. John's Prep 64, Charlestown 50

December, 23, 2012
CHARLESTOWN, Mass. -– If there was any doubt going into the weekend on whether or not St. John’s Prep had the experience to win this year, consider those doubts halted.

Behind 18 points from senior captain Tyler Dooley, Prep knocked off a streaking Charlestown squad on the road on Saturday, 64-50, to move to 5-0 on the season.

Charlestown (2-3) looked as if it had overcome their offensive woes of their first two games of the season, especially after picking up two wins earlier this week over Brighton and East Boston. However, Prep was able to shut down star Townie guard Taris Wilson (five points) and forward Alijah Robinson (10), and forced Charlestown to make rushed decisions and take quick shots.

“We were just going to try to keep them in the halfcourt,” said head coach Sean Connolly. “We didn’t want to let them get too many transition buckets because they’re so athletic and they’re so talented.”

The Eagles led Charlestown 33-26 going into the half, thanks to the impressive first half performance from Dooley and the Eagles’ defensive effort.

The Townies made quite a run early in the third quarter, forward Freddy Oliviera scored six straight points to bring Charlestown within a point, at 38-37. At a pivotal point for Prep, their slew of guards came up big in the dribble-drive offense, slamming the door shut down the stretch.

Eagles reload: It was unclear how good the Eagles would be after losing several talented players from last year’s team. Marcos Echevarria was supposed to be the Prep’s starting point guard before transferring to St. Mark’s, and 6-foot-5 forward Isaiah Robinson also left for prep school -– making his move to Salisbury School, in Connecticut. Prep also graduated several lead contributors off of last year’s team, including thousand-point scorer Steve Haladyna, sharpshooter Mike Carbone, and 6-foot-4 swingman Freddy Shove.

Six-foot-4 guard Ben Judson, just a sophomore, is one of the MIAA’s most promising talents. A lefty with deep range on his jumpshot and an ability to take most any defender to the rim off the dribble, he scored seven points down the stretch to help the Eagles seal the game. Max Burt (13 points) and Drex Costello (12 points) both hit big shots to lengthen Prep’s lead in the fourth quarter. After the game, Connolly praised his captains -- Costello, Dooley, and Josh Syska -- for their leadership.

“With Tyler, Drex, Josh, we’ve got some great leaders this year,” he said, “They play hard and set the tempo for us every day.”

Dooley comes up big: Tyler Dooley was Prep’s best player on Saturday, playing with an incredible amount of toughness and tenacity, a style of play that was clearly contagious to his teammates. Dooley attempted 13 free throws, converting 10 of them, and took some of the Townies hardest fouls -– getting up each time and continuing his playmaking ways. Showing a versatile game and an ability to run Connolly’s offense well, he also finished the game with 6 assists.

“He controlled the tempo for us, he does such a good job running the offense and obviously he’s our best ballhandler, he’s the guy that makes us go,” Connelly said.

Slowing it down: Prep was 4-0 coming into the day, but had yet to face a team as talented as Charlestown. Connolly spent plenty of time game planning for the talented, athletic Townies, making an emphasis to his team to slow the game down, set up their offense, and maximize possessions.

“We were just trying to get some movement, cutting through the zone to try and spread them out. We’ve got some pretty good guards, so were kind of trying to spread them out, get guys getting into the gaps and kicking and getting open shots,” he said of their four-out offense that they put in to get open shots for their shooters.

Defensively, the Eagles got up in the face of Charlestown’s guards and forced them to make a play one-on-one, and the plan was successful, as the Townies generally struggled in the halfcourt.

“It’s a very good win, this is our toughest test by far so far this year,” Connoly said, “This is a very good win for us, beating a very talented Charlestown team. I’m very proud of the way the kids played.”

Recap: No. 2 CM 56, No. 16 SJP 55

January, 31, 2012
DANVERS, Mass. -- It was one of those games where you could tell early on that it was going to come down to the wire.

Both teams made runs at various points in the games, and answered back when their opponent made theirs. Ultimately, it was No. 2 Catholic Memorial that came out on top 56-55 over No. 16 St. John’s Prep Tuesday night.

It was a rematch between between two Catholic Conference foes who met Jan. 13. Catholic Memorial took home the 89-64 victory.

Prep came out strong, determined to show the teams’ first game was a fluke, and was helped by CM’s early shot selection. While CM coach Denis Tobin was clamoring for ball movement and involving players in the post, his team was settling for perimeter shots that were not falling.

After calling a timeout, his team appeared to settle down and closed the gap on Prep. The Knights’ full-court press flummoxed the Prep offense, forcing them into making errant passes and into turnovers. At the end of the first, CM held a 13-12 lead.

“I have super athletes who can really really harass the ball,” said Tobin. “Then I have (Dan) Powers (15 points) and (Matt) Droney (17 points) who have played four years in the system and really know where to rotate to when the ball is in the air.

"So you take Chris Siggers, Aamahne Santos (11 points), and Armani Reeves (4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) pressuring the ball and you have two 1,000 scorer veterans who know where the pass is most likely going to go. Then you have big Gerard Adams in the back if they do happen to break it, so it can be pretty effective.”

The two teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the first half, with no team ever taking a lead of more than four points.

Catholic Memorial took a 25-21 lead into the half, but came out in the third and quickly stretched its lead to nine. As was the case all night, Prep answered back and cut the score to 37-33 heading into the fourth.

Again sticking to the theme of the game, CM started the quarter strong and brought the lead back up to 9 points behind two three-pointers by Powers and Droney. This time, it took Prep a few minutes longer to answer back.

With 2:23 left in the game, CM took a 52-41 lead. After only scoring one basket over the next minute and 45 seconds, Owen Marchetti hit two quick three-pointers to make it 53-50. Because it was so late in the game, Prep was forced into foul-mode, which put Droney at the free-throw line.

It was a spot the newest member of CM's 1,000-point club had been in before. He sank both free throws, making it a two-possession game with about 15 seconds to go.

As the final seconds ticked down, Marchetti heaved the ball from just over halfcourt. It banked off the backboard and went in as time expired, allowing CM to come away with the one-point victory.

“Those free throws at the end mattered a lot,” said Tobin. “We didn’t make all of them, but we made the front ends of one-and-ones with a lot of pressure on. The kids stepped up and did a great job at the line and that just goes to show you that the game isn’t over until the horn goes off.”

Kinks in the press break: In an attempt to beat the CM press, Prep employed Isaiah Robinson in the center of the floor, flanked by Steve Haladyna and Freddy Shove. The idea was to facilitate quick side-to-side ball movement with the three veteran players, preventing the defense from collapsing on one player, while Prep moved the ball over halfcourt.

That was not always the case, however. On multiple occasions Tuesday night, Robinson had the ball in his hands with a light defensive presence around him. Because he is not normally relied on to dribble the basketball much on offense, he committed more than one traveling violation.

On other possessions, the ball pressure from Siggers, Santos, and Reeves was so immense that they were either able to steal the ball or jump in front of Prep’s passes, allowing them to take the ball the other way.

“We weren’t really looking to go back to him (Isaiah) and I think guys were a little timid and not attacking and being aggressive, so they went back to him,” said Prep coach Sean Connolly. “They forced us into a lot of turnovers , and that hurt with (Mike) Carbone out too. He’s another guy that could make better decisions with the ball.”

Carbone sidelined: Carbone, a normal Prep starter, was dressed in street clothes for the game as the result of a concussion. He has been out of action for about a week and a half. This put Drex Costello into the starting lineup and rely on his bench to increase its production.

“Mike’s our best shooter so defenses don’t extend out as much,” said Connolly. “When he’s out, we have other guys who aren’t as consistent shooting the ball so the defense can pack it in a little more. That hurts us I think, especially when we have Isaiah and Haladyna trying to post up.”

Battling the boards: Although it did not come away with the victory, Prep flexed its muscles on the boards the whole game. Two of its players had double-doubles (Haladyna -- 22 points, 12 rebounds; Robinson -- 12 points, 15 rebounds) and a third with double-digit rebounds (Shove, with 15). The leading Knights rebounder was Armani Reeves with 6.

“Overall, we defended and we rebounded, that’s what we were looking to do,” said Connolly. “We haven’t been doing those two things, so I was fairly pleased with that.”

Connolly feels that if he can duplicate that production and get his whole team back and healthy, it could make a run as the end of the season approaches.

“Only if we rebound and defense like we did tonight,” he said. “Those are the two things that have been a glaring weakness. We’ve been stressing those, and I think the kids responded. Obviously our offensive execution was not very good, so to beat teams like this we have to get better on the offensi

ESPNBoston's Hoops Finals Picks

March, 18, 2011
We've got you covered from the first tip-off to the final buzzer tomorrow at Worcester's DCU Center, home of six MIAA basketball state championships. But for now, to whet your appetite, here's high school editor Brendan Hall's picks for each of the six games.

The Lowdown: In a season of relative unknowns in Division 3, the Wildcats of Lee dominated Western Mass again, albeit to nobody's surprise. Puncutated by wins over Division 1 finalist Amherst and Division 3 juggernaut Sabis (which was averaging nearly 70 points per game before falling in the D3 West final to Lee), the Wildcats are at it again with that famously dogged press of theirs. Always undersized yet always relentless, they blitzed Pentucket a year ago on the DCU floor en route to their sixth state title in 20 years, and could be up to their same old tricks tomorrow morning. St. Mary's, meanwhile, has size all over the place, led by the senior "Twin Towers" of 6-foot-2 center Tori Faieta and 5-foot-11 forward Cassi Amenta. The Spartans beat Lee a month ago, 71-60, in a tournament just before the start of the MIAA playoffs.
Hall's Pick: History says to never take Lee lightly -- no matter what shape or size it comes in. But unfortunately, there is just too much size to be accounted for on St. Mary's side of things. Not that they're unbeatable, but I just think the Spartans will control the glass. St. Mary's, 50-45.

The Lowdown: Another matchup that on paper looks uneven, the Whitinsville Christian Crusaders boast plenty of size behind 6-foot-9 Hans Miersma, who dominated Lenox in Wednesday night's Central/West semifinal. Meanwhile, Watertown's tallest player is 6-foot-3 senior forward Connor Stockdale -- whom head coach Steve Harrington likens to another point guard on the floor -- and Marco Coppola, one of the state's leading scorers with 25 points per game. Whitinsville excels in the 2-3 zone but isn't afraid to quickly drop it and play straight man should they get into early trouble. But this is Harrington's Raiders, which means you're likely to see four things: weakside post, four out, pick and roll, perimeter shots. In other words, don't take the Raiders lightly, especially if they don't try to challenge Miersma immediately at the rim.
Hall's Pick: The tale of the tape favors Whitinsville, just based on the size it wields in the frontcourt. But Steve Harrington is one of the best coaches in New England, and you can guarantee he's going to draw up a hell of a game plan to try and neutralize the size advantage. Whitinsville Christian, 65-64.

The Lowdown: The Arlington Catholic Cougars -- led by Emma Roberson, Nicole Catizone, and sisters Rachel and Maura Buckley -- can be viewed as a green bunch with all of their youth abound. But on Monday night at TD Garden, they pulled off one of the more impressive feats in recent EMass Finals history, clawing back from 18 down with six minutes left in the first half to take a halftime lead over Hopkinton and hold it up. Meanwhile, Millbury has burned opponents in the transition game all season long, beating opponents in the playoffs so far by an average of 16.5 points per game. Out on the break, seniors Julie Frankian (19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Sydney Bloomstein (9.5, 6.1) have been as formidable duo as we've seen in Division 2.
Hall's Pick: Sorry, AC. That was an amazing comeback you pulled over Hopkinton over the Garden. But this is Julie Frankian's moment in the sun. Millbury, 60-48.

The Lowdown: Mission was the odds-on favorite in Division 2 headed into the season, and hasn't done a whole lot to convince otherwise. Led by three Northeast-10 ready senior guards in Samir McDaniels, Kachi Nzerem and Darius Davis; as well as Charles Gunter, Leroy Hamilton, and Isshiah Coleman on the blocks; the Titans have begun to find that scoring touch around the rim that was missing for stretches this season. They also like to wear opponents out with a smothering, physical man-to-man defense -- as head coach Cory McCarthy often tells reporters, "The uglier, the better." Good news for the Titans: Northbridge relishes in that style, too. Eight of its players were on the Rams squad that won a Division 2 football Central Mass Super Bowl this past fall, and have brought that aggressive mentality to the floor with forwards (and brothers) Thomas and Harrison Murphy. Also watch out for Corey Pryor, who burned Sabis on Wednesday night with a series of uncontest layups en route to 24 points.
Hall's Pick: Cory McCarthy is known to fill up a reporter's notebook fairly quickly with his endless arsenal of money quotes. But the one that still resonates above the rest is the one he gave our correspondent Adam Kurkjian back in December: "I love these kids. I would do anything for these kids. And I feel like they will eat glass for me." Remember that one if this is close in the waning minutes. Mission, 58-47.

The Lowdown: Amherst, written off the in preseason after the transfer of Mariah Lesure to Tabor Academy, has rolled through Western Mass, and arrives in Worcester after a thrilling overtime defeat of Algonquin in Tuesday's Central/West state semifinal. Much of the Hurricanes' emergence has to do with the maturation of their junior class led by Brianna Leonard (11.1 points), Morbasaw Nkambeo (10.0) and Kristen Ferrola (9.3). The Golden Warriors, meanwhile, were one of several heavy favorites in Division 1 headed into the season, and save a lone regular-season blip to Central Catholic have done nothing to deter that thinking. Much has been made of Andover's Division 1-ready backcourt led by Marist-bound senior Natalie Gomez-Martinez and BC-bound junior Nicole Boudreau, the state's newly-anointed Gatorade Player of the Year. But the Warriors excel on the boards, too, behind junior Ally Fazio and sophomore Devon Caveney.
Hall's Pick: At the risk of jinxing this...should Andover win, I don't think it's out of the realm to think the Warriors have a shot next season at making it the first Division 1 girls three-peat since Haverhill in the mid-90's. Long Live The MVC. Andover, 70-60.

The Lowdown: After the loss of Ryan Kelley (ACL tear) and stalemate of a Central Final defeat of Fitchburg (40-38), some questioned whether Shrewsbury was ripe for the picking. The Pioneers put an end to that doubt on Wednesday night, handling a talented Northampton squad with physical defense and clutch shooting from Matt Harrington. Head coach Bob Foley is known for his Princeton-ish offense, this year led by forward pivots Matt Palecki and Richard Rodgers, but we've seen the Pioneers transition teams to death in state championships past (Lynn English, 2009, anyone?). This marks the fourth straight D1 final appearance for SJS, while Prep is making its first appearance since 1974. The matchup of the day might be Pat Connaughton versus Rodgers (we'll just assume that's what Prep head coach Sean Connolly will do for now), but the Eagles have prided themselves all year long on the work of their role players. Every game, it's a different kid stepping up, between Steve Haladyna, Freddy Shove, Mike Carbone, Owen Marchetti and Isaiah Robinson.
Hall's Pick: It's going to be a rockfight on the court, and both student sections are going to be rocking out. And I do mean rocking. I literally can't wait. By the way, every high school fan ever, you've got your work cut out for you after Northampton's "Full Metal Jacket" routine the other night at DCU. Prep, 45-41.

Prep finishes strong, punches ticket to D1 final

March, 16, 2011

BOSTON -- Mansfield scored seven points in the first quarter, all by senior Jeff Hill. In the second quarter when the St. John’s Prep Eagles’ section in the TD Garden chanted “sin-gle dig-it!”, there is a chance that may have been in response to Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan being quoted this week as saying that defense could be deemed a “weakness” of the Prep.

Although they were able to avoid a total thrashing, the St. John’s Prep defense put on a clinic and stunned the Hornets who were unable to score consistently, finally dropping in a 64-55 decision that put the Eastern Mass Division 1 title on a course to the Spring Street campus.

“I guess I misspoke a little,” said Vaughan. “I meant if they had a weakness, that was where it was at.”

Mansfield’s usual offensive leader scorer, Michael Lofton, was kept to 10 points, five of those coming in the fourth quarter.

“Coach prepared [us] for them, but he didn’t really talk about them being that good at defense, just offensive wise,” said Lofton. “He knew that our defense would be able to beat their offense, but unfortunately their defense was pretty good tonight.”

St. John’s Prep (24-1) coach Sean Connolly prescribes to the "Understanding by Design" method used by teachers: choose your desired outcome first, and then implement the necessary exercises to produce the desired result.

“We wanted to work him (Lofton) the full court all day and pressure him… try to wear him out a little bit,” said Connolly. “Connor Macomber did a very good job on him throughout the game.”

The leading scorer for Mansfield (24-3) was Hill with 20 points. In the fourth, with 5:59 left, Hill scored off of a Joseph Gracia assist to cut the Prep's lead to 44-41. Connolly called a timeout, but the Prep players had internal conversations before he addressed the huddle, according to Notre Dame-bound senior forward Pat Connaughton (23 rebounds, 15 points, five steals, five assists).

“Before coach started talking, everyone paused and I think everyone thought the same thought,” said Connaughton. “That was really like a time check. ‘We got here, are we satisfied with just getting here or are we trying to do what we’ve been saying we’re going to try to do all season?’”

Although Lofton got another steal and Hill scored on a drive to the hoop off of the outlet pass to make the game 44-43 with just over five minutes to go, the score slowly spaced out from that point. With 2:45 to go, Steve Haladayna (20 points, six rebounds) scored on a Connaughton assist to make the game 52-47. On the next trip to the basket, Connaughton drained two free throws to spread the lead out to 7.

Mansfield would come closer, within six on a Lofton score with 1:03 left to make it 57-51, but sophomore Kevin Conner and senior Daniel Dion would be the sole Hornets to score in the last minute; the rest of the team was stifled by the Prep’s swarming defense. Connaughton felt that although Mansfield worked their way back into the game, his team was not sticking to their game and that contributed to the potential comeback.

“We were just trying to hold the lead, but that’s not how we play,” said Connaughton. “We play to try to extend the lead, we play aggressively and that’s how we built the lead in the first place, so why not go back to that?”

Sophomore Isiah Robinson had eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block for the Prep. He was not a staple in the lineup in the beginning of the season, but as time has passed, so he has grown.

“He’s getting better and better everyday,” Connolly said. “He’s a big body, he rebounds well, got good post moves, so it’s just a matter of him finding his rhythm. We’ll probably be running a lot of offense through him next year.

“I felt like I should step up and make some plays out there,” said Robinson. “I know that I am a sophomore, but I felt I could go out there and do it; coach believes in me and the team believes in me.”

Freddy Shove also scored seven points and had three steals for the Eagles.

“He’s just all over the place,” said Connolly. “He works hard, he sprints after rebounds, he defends, he boxes out, he’s a very physical kid. He does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet a lot.”

“They’re deep, they’re talented and they give you a lot of different options,” added Vaughan, saying that there is a good reason why the Eagles were predicted to win the state title during the preseason. “They don’t sub to weaken, they sub to reload and tonight was no different.”

SJP survives thrilling finish to upset CC

February, 24, 2011

DANVERS, Mass. -- Freddy Shove clutched the basketball he had just wrestled away seconds ago and punched the air as he went to the line with 0.7 seconds left, his St. John's Prep squad ahead by two over No. 1 Central Catholic, and the navy-clad student section to the left of him screaming in euphoria.

For the first time in his career, and his head coach Sean Connolly's tenure at the Prep, the Eagles came away with a win over the Merrimack Valley powerhouse, gutting out a 72-70 win after the Raiders crawled back from a seven-point deficit with under three minutes left to take a brief lead with 50 ticks left. With the win, the Eagles (19-1) now await the result of tomorrow night's clash between Madison Park and No. 3 Cambridge (17-1), to find out whether they'll get the No. 1 overall seed in Division 1 North when the MIAA Tournament seedings are unveiled Friday morning.

Make no mistake, had 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaiah Robinson not deflected Jaycob Morales' inbounds pass with 3.8 seconds to go, unleashing a scrum that led to Shove scooping up the ball and drawing a foul, this could be an entirely different narrative.

"We were trying not to let an easy shot get off," said Robinson (eight rebounds). "I took to the pass when it came in, and it's history from there."

But don't get it twisted, either -- simply put, in the final 30 seconds of the game, Pat Connaughton happened.

The Prep's Notre Dame-bound, ESPNU 100 superstar quietly put together his umpteenth double-double of the season (23 points, 16 rebounds), but he'll most be remembered from this game for two plays he made in the final three possessions to carry the Eagles to victory.

First, with 23 seconds to go, Connaughton went to the hole on a play that was initially designed for him to hit running mate Steve Haladyna coming off a back screen. Instead, Connaughton ended up leaping to snatch a lob pass away from Luis Puello, dribbled to the middle of the paint, gathered and floated it at the rim.

"It was more like a hop step to get in between Puello and [center] Jimmy [Zenevitch], and then I kinda of rose up and just tried to concentrate on hitting the glass, and that was it," Connaughton said.

Ten seconds later, at the other end of the floor, Connaughton swatted the 6-foot-8 Zenevitch (32 points, nine rebounds) as he went to the hole, sending the home crowd into an uproar. Puello (12 points) fumbled his dribble on the ensuing inbounds pass, and he tugged the the ball with Prep's Mike Carbone (21 points) for a jump ball that gave Central possession again, and Morales (10 points) with the inbound with 3.8 seconds left. Both Connolly and Central head coach Rick Nault used a timeout before Robinson came up with the deflection to seal the game.

"It don't want to say it was like a last wind, but it was more like 'Alright, last two minutes, this is where the game's decided'," said Connaughton, who took the duties of matching up with Zenevitch all night. "And it just kinda came down to that [block]."

Said Connolly, "Pat made some big plays at the end, I mean he really stepped up. He took the game over for us at the end. You expect that out of someone like him."

The teams were tied at 55 apiece headed into the final frame, but the Eagles jumped out to a seven-point lead with a series of free throws, Connaughton hitting the first of two free throws to give them their second-largest lead of the game at 69-62 with 2:43 left.

But things quickly went south for Prep, as the Raiders (19-2) deployed a full-court man-to-man press to cause some turnovers and create some baskets around the rim with swift entry passes. The turning point, though, came when Zenevitch made a swat on Haladyna that very nearly looked like a goaltending call; Connolly, infuriated, turned to the refs to protest but was immediately hit with a technical foul.

Freshman Tyler Nelson (10 points) hit the two free throws, and the Raiders took a 70-69 lead with 1:17 left on a nice feed from Puello to Zenevitch.

"I was kinda going like this," Connolly said, feigning a brushing motion. "And I touched him, and he said because I touched him he called the T. So...I don't know, but it looked like a goal tend to me."

Connaughton tied it up at 70 by hitting the first of two free throws with 56 seconds left, and then came through with the heroics a handful of seconds later.


Last week, following the Raiders' buzzer-beating win over archrival Andover, Luis Puello was asked by an ESPNBoston reporter whether he expected to be assigned to Connaughton tonight, to which he responded, "Of course. I don't care if he's 6-7, you know what I mean, I'll play him all night. We'll see what happens."

On the soccer pitch, they might call Puello's defense of Connaughton "marking". The junior, considered one of the state's best on-ball defenders, followed Connaughton all over the floor wherever he wandered when the Raiders went to man-to-man sets. And while Connaughton ended up with a double-double, it wasn't without its share of troubles.

"He's got very quick feet, probably one of the best on-ball defenders I've ever seen in high school," Connolly said. "He makes it tough. I mean, you've got to work to score on Puello. He does a good job denying you, he's physical, moves his feet better than anyone I've ever seen. So I mean, he makes you work."

Said Connaughton, "Puello plays tough 'D'. He's always moving, and it's really kinda hard to get used to. I mean, he did a great job the entire game. I got the best of him at the last one, but really he played the best of anyone who's defended me all year."


With the Eagles holding a 36-31 lead at the half, but some of their key players like Haladyna in foul trouble, they turned to junior Michael Carbone for some big buckets in the third quarter. And boy did he deliver, scoring 11 points (two 3-pointers), knocking down all his free throws and going 3 of 4 from the field.

"Mike had a very good game. He's a tough kid," Connolly said. "He stepped up and made some big shots for us. I mean, he's been playing well. He did a very good job defending Morales, made him work the whole time, so he did a great job for us."