Central Catholic to face St. Anthony (N.J.)

Shooting Touch, Inc. president and founder Justin Kittredge confirmed to ESPNBoston.com this afternoon three games for December's second annual Shooting Touch Shootout, at Emmanual College's Jean Yawkey Center. The most significant of the matchups pits Central Catholic against Jersey City, N.J. national powerhouse St. Anthony, on December 28, in the finale of the two-day invitational.

St. Anthony finished last season a perfect 32-0 and No. 3 in ESPNHS' "FAB 50" poll. Central has won two of the last five MIAA Division 1 state titles, and is a favorite to start the 2012-13 season at No. 1 in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll, what with the return of ESPN Boston All-State guard Tyler Nelson, alongside guard Lucas Hammel, forwards Joel Berroa and Nick Cambio, and center Doug Gemmell.

"It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity as a coach and program for us to go against a team like St. Anthony," Central head coach Rick Nault said. "I know they’ve had some great success against Massachusetts teams in recent years. They played really well against New Mission last year [in the first Shootout].

"When Justin presented it to me four or five months back, we didn't really have any space because of the schedule change with North Andover coming into league. We didn't have room for it, but we made a last-minute adjustment to make it happen."

Over its storied program history, St. Anthony has never lost to an MIAA team, dating back to their series of much-hyped matchups with New Bedford in the early 1990's. The Friars beat New Mission in last year's Shootout, and in 2010 beat both Newton North and Catholic Memorial in the Garden City Classic.

St. Anthony is also an annual participant in the Hoophall Classic, held each Martin Luther King weekend at Springfield College's Blake Arena. Their 2010 loss to Los Angeles power Westchester High is the Friars' last loss in a Massachusetts venue.

"Games like this help sharpen us into who we are," said St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley this afternoon from the gym at Roxbury Latin School, where he is conducting a youth clinic this week with Shooting Touch. "The more you play, the more you find out about your team. This will be a good test for us. The goal for us is to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season, so games like these will help us in that respect."

Two other games confirmed for the tournament will be New Mission against Queens, N.Y. power Christ the King, and the aforementioned Friars against Winter Park (Fla.), which features Doc Rivers' youngest son Spencer.

Other confirmed squads will be Mansfield, Amityville (N.Y.) and Iolani (Hawaii). One more local MIAA team, unconfirmed at this time, is expected to complete the eight-team field.

"When we had the opportunity to bring up coach [Hurley] and a team with not only his legacy, but one that hasn't lost in two years, a top-5 team in the nation, you couldn't have asked for [better] beginning pieces," Kittredge said. "And then it was really about trying to get some rivalries between in-state and out of state teams, kind of like the old 'Boston Shootout' but bringing that to the next level with some of the teams we're bringing in."