BOSTON -– The saying is defense wins championships and St. John’s Prep is well on their way to a Catholic Conference title because of their defense, especially in Tuesday night’s road win at BC High.
No. 5 St. John’s Prep (12-0) limited No. 8 BC High (8-3) to just 19 second half points in their 57-43 romp, moving them to 12-0 overall, and in complete control of the Catholic Conference.
“We did a good job pressuring the ball and had good help side rotation,” said Prep coach Sean Connolly. “Guys are stepping up and stopping penetration, and we held them to one shot for the most part. We work on defense probably 75 percent of our practice so tonight it definitely showed. Some nights it doesn’t show, but they did a good job defensively tonight.”
The game was knotted up at 24 at the half, but because of tenacious defense and poor shooting from BC High, the Prep was able to pull away and run away with the win in the second half.
St. John’s went on a 13-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, but their run started midway thru the third quarter on sophomore Ben Judson’s back-to-back three-pointers.
His sharp shooting began a 23-6 run which spanned until their were just under four minutes left in the game when BC High scored their first points of the fourth quarter. They finished the quarter with just two made field goals.
“We were a little more aggressive in attacking their zone in the second half,” Connolly said. “We also did a good job defensively, especially in the third quarter along in the fourth where we got a lot of good stops defensively and hit some shots down the other end.”
BC High used their patented aggressive zone defense, which did work at times, forcing 21 Prep turnovers, but St. John's learned to stay patient and were able to attack when given the opportunity.
It was a back and forth first half with BC High leading by two at the end of one, and then scoring the final five points of the half to tie it up at 24 going into the break. From there on in it was all St. John’s, as they outscored BC High 33-19 in the second half.
Leading the way for the Prep was senior forward Josh Syska who had a team-high 15 points. Judson was the next leading scorer, finishing with 14, 12 of which came from behind the three-point line. He now has 23 three point field goals this year.
“He’s up and down because he is young, but when he is shooting well he is very tough to stop,” Connolly said. “He has a very smooth shot and is going to be a very good player. He is still coming into his own body and has gotten better everyday.”
Max Butterbrodt, a junior, had a solid all around game, finishing with 11 points and made his presence felt in the paint all game long.
Senior Drex Costello came into the game as the Prep’s leading scorer, but was limited to just seven points, all of them coming in the second half. This didn’t come back to hurt the team, as other players stepped up, something which has a lot to do with the Prep’s unbeaten record.
“That’s why we’re having such a good year -- everyone is stepping up,” said Connolly. “We have eight or nine guys that are stepping up and giving us good minutes night in and night out so there isn’t one guy you can focus on with us as we spread it out which is important.”
BC High was led by its senior backcourt of Jameilen Jones and Charles Collins who finished with 18 and 12 points respectively, but needed other players to step up and contribute as the rest of the team only managed 13 points.
The win completes a season sweep for the Prep over BC High as just over two weeks ago St. John’s edged BC High 67-58 back at their place.
Although the Prep is 12-0, and very close to wrapping up a Catholic Conference title, they are still taking it one game at a time and not looking too far ahead.
“The coaches have done a good job of keeping us focused and working at the task at hand,” commented senior captain Tyler Dooley, who finished with seven points. “We’re trying to win the Catholic Conference title right now -- that’s our first step. Then, we’re on to the state tournament where we want to win a state title. We have two more tough games in this conference.
"We need to beat Catholic Memorial, who is really tough at their place and then we have to beat Malden Catholic as well. So yes, it is nice to be 12-0, but the coaches are doing a good job of keeping us focused and we’re looking forward to finishing up this conference and moving onto the tournament.”
FREE THROWS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Free throws were a major story in the game as St. John’s was able to get to the line a lot more than BC High, and when they got there they shot the ball at a much better clip.
“We wanted to attack their zone,” said Connolly. “We were trying to rotate into the gaps to try and get their zone moving and then attack it. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that and then we got to the line which is what we wanted to do.”
The Prep got to the free throw line 28 times, going 22-28, for a 79 percent clip. On the other hand, BC High only got to the line 19 times, and made just 12, which equates to shooting 63 percent.
St. John’s made their final nine free throws of the game, not giving BC High any chance of mounting a come back.