(Salem) It was a classic even before it was played with enough plots, subplots, and teases to entice even nonsports fans.
And what a crowd it drew – an estimated 3000+ spectators to Salem High School on Tuesday night.
And what a game they saw, as St. John’s Prep (21-2) rallied in the last quarter to defeat Lynn English (21-2), 79-78, in the Division 1 North semifinals.
In simple math terms, Lynn English dominated St. John’s in the second and third quarters by a combined 46-27. In the first and final quarter, St. John’s had a 52-32 advantage.
The back-and-forth of things gave both sides plenty to cheer about and trust me the standing cheering sections from both schools were very active throughout. St. John’s asked about “SAT scores,” and Lynn English countered with “free tuition.” And so it went.
The official stats from the game were shaky to say the least. In the four sources that I checked (Lynn Item, Salem News, Boston Herald, Boston Globe) the final numbers varied. That’s why I keep my own stats and report them as “unofficial” at the end of the blog bottom.
Stephen Haladyna led all scorers with 28(?) points. His game was all about slashing to the basket or in numerous cases being on the scoring end of a press break. I’ll guess it was a career game for the 6-4 sophomore.
The Bulldogs limited the open court for the Eagles usual top scorer (Pat Connaughton) and he ended up with sixteen points getting just six of them in the second half.
Jarell Byrd (21 points) paced the Bulldogs but in my opinion, he didn’t get the ball nearly enough. The Eagles defense was in trouble during the infrequent times he actually had the ball in the frontcourt because he has range and can rip to the rim.
The Prep had a four-minute breakout in the first quarter with a 17-2 segment that changed a 5-4 deficit into a 21-7 advantage with two minutes left. The damage was from in close except for one Mike Carbone trey. The Prep led 23-11 at quarter’s end.
In the second period, the Bulldogs continued to look to be in serious trouble trailing 31-17 with 3 ½ minutes left. Suddenly LE found a stretch of offense (17-4) that carried them to a 34-31 halftime spread. Inside stuff, free throws (six), and an Irving Vizciano trey did the damage for the comebacking LE team.
Having seen both teams play well (and poorly) for a quarter, what we’d see in the second half was anybody’s guess.
LE made their move at the end of the third quarter, closing it with ten unanswered points. Sophomore Keandre Stanton’s dunk and tip-in were Bulldog crowd-pleasers in the last minute. LE led 57-50 after three periods.
The rest at the end of the third quarter seemed to settle the Eagles as they came out on a 13-2 tear in the first 2:25 to sit comfortably at 63-51. Three straight inside scores by Stephen Haladyna and a trey from Mike Carbone did most of the damage.
That lead was eight (76-68) with two minutes to go before the “fun” began. A Jarell Byrd trey, an Irving Vizciano free throw, and a Jarell Byrd layup while the Eagles had four empty possessions set the score at 76-74 with thirty seconds left. Anyone’s game, for sure.
Tripp Doherty was fouled in the backcourt and made one free throws with 24 seconds left. Again plenty of time for LE.
This time the, “Where are you, Ryan Woumn?” thoughts had to be dancing through many from the LE side. However, suspended and sitting in the front row he wasn’t available. And what happened was that LE went through 19 seconds looking for a slash to the basket that never occurred. Jordan Rogers got off a desperate trey late that Mike Carbone rebounded. With five seconds left, Mike made both free throws to close the door on LE, 79-74. LE’s four points in the last few seconds did not alter the outcome.
Sophomore Mike Carbone (14) had four 3’s but his two free throws in the last five seconds were the game-sealers for St. John’s.
St. John’s gets to move on to face Central Catholic on Friday night at the TD North Garden. CC won an earlier matchup by four points in Lawrence.
LE functioned without head coach Buzzy Barden and top player Ryan Woumn. St. John’s started juniors and sophomores yet played like a team of seniors.
Is it too early to suggest that Sean Connolly will not always be coaching at The Prep? What a job he has done with a young team.
( All stats are unofficial. )