MEDFORD, Mass. -- Back at the inaugural Shooting Touch Shootout three years ago, in Dorchester, revered Jersey City, N.J. power St. Anthony christened an over-capacity Kroc Center with a 42-point thumping of the then-defending MIAA Division 2 state champs.
Tonight, in the fourth and almost certainly final installment of this showcase event, before a packed crowd at Tufts University’s Cousens Gymnasium, 42 was once again the magic number. Three years after dismantling New Mission 68-25 behind a strong showing from All-American Kyle Anderson, the Friars turned in another suffocating defensive performance in a 77-35 defeat of Division 1 North contender St. John’s Prep.
“I know you may not believe this, but the personality of my team, the guys are really passive. So we have to try to jack the defense up so that they play outside of their personalities,” St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley said. “We have a lot of guys that are really type-B’s, so the trapping and everything that we’re doing is really trying to get them to be more assertive.”
In the world of Hurley, one of only three high school coaches inducted in the National Basketball Hall of Fame, only having one or two power conference recruits is considered a “down year”. In more dominant years, the Friars produce NBA-ready talent, from Bobby Hurley to Roshown McLeod to most recently Kyle Anderson. So, to put things in perspective, you can’t blame the ol’ ball coach for his “passive” characterization.
But in the world of St. John’s Prep, this was a full-out blitzkrieg they faced. The Eagles made only five field goals in the first half, and went nearly eight minutes without scoring in that same frame.
“We knew going into it they were going to be very good – talent wise, athleticism, length, and obviously very well-coached,” Eagles head coach John Dullea said. “I’m a little disappointed in our guys’ effort. I thought we could have played better at both ends of the floor. Especially on offense, I thought we played a little scared, we just didn’t have any confidence – a couple blocked shots, that’ll do it to you.
“Hopefully they learn from it. We’ve gotta make a decision now where we’ll head. Two days from now, we’ve got another very quality opponent [St. Clement, in the BABC Holiday Classic], so we’ve got to make things better in a short amount of time.”
The Friars led 19-5 after one quarter, then put on a show for the crowd in the second as they cruised to a 42-13 halftime lead. Junior forward Taurean Thompson (10 points) and Wichita State commit Markis McDuffie (nine) started off the run with two-handed flushes early in the frame.
But no single player got more pop in the building than Jagan Mosely, who brought the crowd to its feet late in the quarter when he took off from the foul line for a one-handed tomahawk slam that made it 36-11.
“We ran off the defense, and got off a couple of spurts,” Hurley said. “We’re deep, so we had some fresh troops in.”
Burt goes down: Prep senior forward Jake Burt, a Boston College football commit, went down with a high right ankle sprain in the second quarter following a Thompson dunk, and did not return. Dullea said the 6-foot-4 Burt -- who was seen elevating his ankle on the bench, wrapped heavily in ice and bandage -- is questionable for Monday’s big tilt with defending D4 state champ St. Clement at the BABC Holiday Classic at Boston Cathedral High School.
“He’s walking, so hopefully it’s better,” Dullea said. “We’re gonna need him. He put pressure on it, and he cramped going down the stairs, so hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked at first. Whether he plays Monday or not, I don’t know yet, but we have a week off after that. We’ll re-evaluate.”
End of an Era: Sunday's slate of games -- Brighton versus Christian Brothers Academy (N.J.), followed by St. Anthony versus Catholic Central (N.Y.) in the nightcap -- will close out the fourth annual Shooting Touch Shootout. And with it, an impressive four-year run has come to a close.
Shooting Touch President Justin Kittredge confirmed to ESPNBoston.com this afternoon that the nonprofit organization will be discontinuing this showcase event after this weekend, in an effort to condense its endeavors.
"We've been doing a lot of good things at Shooting Touch, but I think we need to do fewer things and do them great," Kittredge said. "I think we've gotten a little bit spread out too thin, and I think it's a lesson to all of us that...Honestly, everything we do, we do it the best as possible we can. We've just been spread really thin lately, that now we're trying to excel at everything."
In addition to its annual gala in September and sports conference in March, one of Shooting Touch's primary focuses has always been its annual sabbatical to Rwanda, where they aim to improve the lives of underprivileged youth. Funding for the sabbatical has increased every year; last summer, Shooting Touch constructed a basketball court in Rwanda in memory of late Bentley University and Cardinal Spellman High great Joey Glynn.
While he left the door open for possible high school tournaments in the future, Kittredge also said the organization also wants to increase its focus on girls basketball in the inner city.
"There's been a big decline, and we see that as a problem. That's a big focus that we think we can add a lot of value," Kittredge said.
In the Shooting Touch Shootout's four-year run, St. Anthony -- whose coach, Hurley, serves on Shooting Touch's Board of Directors -- has always been the main draw. The Friars produced several memorable games, none moreso than their 2012 battle with Central Catholic, escaping only in the last minute with a 54-50 win to keep their 70-game win streak intact.
The tournament has also drawn such prestigious powers as DeMatha Catholic (Md.), Christ The King (N.Y.), St. Joseph (N.J.) and Christian Brothers Academy (N.J.) over the years.
Most memorably, New Mission gave 7-foot-1 St. Joe's center Karl Towns some bulletin board material to absorb before their meeting last December. Forward Fred "Bam" Rivers told ESPNBoston.com of Towns, "I don't care who you are, I'm coming at you my hardest." Towns -- a Kentucky freshman who's projected as a lottery pick in next June's NBA Draft -- had a ridiculous night (20 points, 19 rebounds, 6 blocks), but also had blood draping down his jersey following the game as a result of the physical play. For his part, he held high praise for Mission in his post-game interviews.
New Mission went on to capture the MIAA Division 2 State Championship last March, the program's third state title in five seasons.
Hurley -- whose team also plays annually in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield during Martin Luther King Day weekend -- is a big fan of Boston. When he isn't lauding the MIAA's shot clock rules (New Jersey, believe it or not, has none), he's applauding the city of Boston and its culture. He also runs a four-day youth clinic each summer on the campus of Roxbury Latin School, in West Roxbury.
Asked about his inclination to coming back to Boston in the future, whether or not the Friars are attached to a tournament, Hurley said he would love to return.
"If we could come up during the holidays and be up here three days, play two games, that would be fabulous," Hurley said. "We've had nothing but good games up here -- even today, we had to battle to get control of this. The hospitality and reception we receive is always very good. The kids like it. It's a great place for us.
"We're gonna try to put on an eating performance Monday -- we're gonna find a deli and put on serious damage, all of us, the players and coaches. The whole experience is great."
Speculation has run around these parts the last few years as to whether we would see a third installment of the hotly-contested series between St. Anthony and Central Catholic, which reached the Division 1 state final for the third time in eight seasons last March. Hurley said he hasn't had any conversation with Central coach Rick Nault, though he'd be very willing to listen.
"We'd love to play them," Hurley said. "Back a long time ago, we played some great games with New Bedford. We've always had good games here. Maybe we play one in Providence then come up here for one, or maybe we play two up here. But it's a nice trip for us."
Hurley added, with a smile, "My appeal is out there, if anybody wants to bring us back."