DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Maybe the most effective way to slow down No. 1 St. John’s Prep is to play a zone defense, because that is what No. 9 BC High did Tuesday night, and came away with a 53-47 victory.
When Prep’s crisp ball movement was giving the BC High (4-2) defense fits early in the first quarter, BC High coach Bill Loughnane called a timeout.
From that point, his team played a zone defense that double-teamed the Prep (5-1)perimeter players whenever they caught the ball in the corner. This left a player open for a cross-court pass. When Prep tried those, the passes were in the air for so long it allowed BC High to rotate back to that side of the floor. To combat the defensive rotations, the Prep player would try to quickly throw the ball inside to either Isaiah Robinson or Owen Marchetti in the post.
There, they were often met by either BC High’s Justin Roberts, Oderah Obukwelu, or Pete Timmins, who had 8 blocks between the three of them.
“Their zone and their length really bothered us,” said Prep coach Sean Connolly. “We had trouble finishing in and around the hoop because they’re so long. We didn’t do a very good job reversing it against their zone. I thought BC High did a very good job of keeping us to one side and not being able to get ball reversals.”
Prep fell down 43-33 midway through the fourth quarter, but they would not go away quietly. After a Mike Carbone 3-pointer and a Steve Haladyna and-one, the lead was quickly cut down.
It a 45-42 game with one minute left, but Prep could not seem to get that basket they needed to tie the game up. With time running out, Connolly called out for his players to foul to stop the clock.
That put the game in the hands Jameilen Jones and Charles Collins at the free throw line. Jones was a perfect 4-of-4 in the final minute, while Collins was 3-of-4.
While the two appeared poised at the line and ultimately put the game away, the same could not be said for the BC High sideline.
“We were very happy to his those free throws, believe me,” said Loughnane. “We were biting our nails on the bench hoping they would go in.”
Regardless of how unsettling it may have been down the stretch, Loughnane felt it was a good win for his team.
“I thought they played better than us this game, but I thought one of the things we had to show was that we could play with a team such as St. John’s,” he said. “It’s just competing every play and finishing every play, and I thought, after a shaky start, that our guys did a nice job getting on that.”
Prep poor from the line: One aspect of the game that did not help Prep’s at all was their ineffectiveness from the free throw line. As a team, they were 10-of-22. Another problem was their inability to hit from beyond the 3-point arc. Sharpshooters Freddy Shove, Haladyna (15 points), and Carbone (eight) hit only five 3-pointers all game. Shove in particular had a quiet game. He had only one field goal in the game and was 2-of-7 from the free throw line.
“As a team, we were settling for way too many 3’s instead of attacking more,” said Connolly. “But you have to give BC High credit. They did a very good job. We didn’t shoot it well from the free-throw line, but that wasn’t really the issue. I think they out toughed us and they deserved to win tonight.”
“The biggest key for us defensively was keeping them off the free-throw line,” said Jameilen Jones (16 points). “Because Coach told us prior to that, they went 35-of-38 from the line [last week, against New Mission]. So we didn’t want them to get to the free-throw line.”
Swarming D: BC High’s defensive effort was one that other teams around the MIAA ought to take notice of. It had eight steals and 12 blocks, which helped set the tone throughout the game.
“We have to take advantage [of the teams’ height difference],” said Jones. “They were definitely confident coming into the game and ready to go. We play really aggressive defense and Justin [Roberts] and Oderah [Obukwelu] have great chemistry, so down in the post, they’re fine.”
The game-defining block came in the last minute of play. With Prep trying to close the deficit, Haladyna took a pass in the left corner and attempted to launch a 3-pointer. Seeing this, Obukwelu leaked out and jumped up just in time to block the shot and sent it out of bounds preserving the lead.
Ambitious schedule paying off: BC High might have two losses on the season, but it knows its best basketball is ahead of it. Especially when those two losses are against an undefeated team (Acton-Boxborough) and a one-loss team (Charlestown).
“We’re definitely confident, beating a No. 1 team,” said Jones. “I don’t think we’re going to go forward being nervous or anything like that. We’ve played pretty good teams coming up to this, so we should be fine.”