Here's a look at P.J. Lambara's double-overtime game-winner for St. John's Prep yesterday. https://t.co/KGDi796g4m— Scott Barboza (@ESPNScottB) May 1, 2015
BOSTON – Entering Thursday’s Catholc Conference game, BC High and St. John’s Prep had vastly different perspectives as to what exactly was on the line.
For BC High, a win over Prep would go an extra mile toward wrapping up a league championship. Whereas, for the Eagles of Danvers, a victory would be exactly that – a precious commodity as they entered the day below . 500 and in need of a strong finish to the year simply in order to make the state tournament.
As the game wore on into a second overtime period, it was clear neither side was about to give up on what was at stake and, ultimately, it was the side that was simply a bit more desperate to get a mere win – the one who needed it most – that got exactly that.
When P.J. Lambara ripped off the game-winning goal with 1:35 remaining in the second sudden-death session for a 7-6 final, there was a mixture of feelings on St. John’s sideline.
“We had an awful loss to [St. John’s] Shrewsbury at home on Tuesday and it was a tough loss to these guys the first time we played them,” Prep head coach John Roy said. “We’ve had a lot of tight games, and it felt good to come out on the other side of one of these games.”
Neither team was particularly crisp early on, after playing to scoreless first quarter. But both sides’ top offensive weapons rounded into familiar form before all was said and done.
Owen Rockett galvanized Prep’s attack, netting a hat trick and adding two assists, including one of Lambara’s game-winner.
“He’s our main guy, we look toward him mostly in times like this to feed and to score,” Lombara said of Rockett. “He played really well today and he did what we need him to do.”
Meanwhile, BC High’s Sam Friedman got untracked in the second half, tallying a hat trick of his own.
While neither side was expecting to run away, with so many Catholic Conference games being decided by a single goal this year (including the teams’ first meeting, a 12-11 BC High win on April 2), Prep (5-7, 3-3 Catholic Conference) found a bit of breathing room, creating a four-goal cushion midway through the third quarter on a Mitch Carpenter goal to make it 5-1.
BC High (10-2, 5-2) came back to tie the score after a string of four straight goals bridging the third and fourth quarters. With a steady contribution from the man-up unit, which netted two goals in the fourth, BC High claimed a 6-5 lead with 2:42 remaining on a A.J. Kucinski feed to Ryan Dowd.
Prep knotted the score once again just 16 seconds later on Carpenter’s second goal of the game.
Center of attention: With BC High keying on Rockett in the second half, Prep had to get creative to find other sources of scoring.
The sophomore attackman finds himself at ease moving off-ball within Prep’s offense and takes pride in his work as a feeder. But with the ball in Rockett’s stick to start Prep’s penultimate possession, it was time for Lambara to become the shot-taker.
“I just came off a pick from one of my teammates and I just ripped it,” Lambara said.
Of course, the play itself was set in motion by Rockett’s athleticism. A standout wide receiver and cornerback on Prep’s football team, opposing defenses have learned to stack their sets against the shifty attack.
“He’s so fast and quick,” Roy said of Rockett. “Pretty much since the first BC High game, you’ve noticed that teams are trying to lock him off. He’s trying to work of the ball, trying to help other players get open, so he gets his goals when he can.
“When we have the opportunity to start him with the ball, he makes the nice feed, gets the ball to P.J. and that was it.”
Long road back: Make no mistake about it, this Prep team realizes the work it needs to do in order to crawl its way back into the postseason.
But Thursday’s win can be more than just the first step in the right direction.
“We’ve got Needham on Saturday, which will be a good game, but this definitely helps us with momentum, our confidence, especially, getting the win here,” Lambara said. “It’s hard to coming here, getting off the bus for an away game like this, but a double-overtime win, that’s really big for us.”
Putting in the work: While Friedman started getting to the cage most consistently in the second half, Prep did just enough to keep the physical finisher from taking over the game entirely.
“In the second half, we went trying to lock off a little bit with the short stick with Pat [Foley] covering [Freidman] and then we had a shorty on him for a while in the fourth quarter and then into the overtimes,” Roy said. “But it’s just about playing straight up, hard man-to-man defense because they’re athletic and fast.”
That mentality was apparent through the hard-hitting contest, in particular in the first half when neither side was able to find much semblance of fluidity working through the midfield.
And that, in no small part, was due to the work of Prep’s defensive corps.
“[Goaltender] Hayden Brown played great for us and made some really big first-half saves,” Roy said. “Pat Foley is just an outstanding player for us. Liam O’Connell, Chris Detone, they did a great job staying with these guys because they do a good job of putting points on the board.”