(Danvers) The best player on the floor may have been Lynn Classical’s Uche Nwokeji but in a team game that isn’t usually enough as St. John’s Prep defeated the visiting Rams, 61-42, on Thursday night.
Uche dropped in a game-leading twenty points and all of them were from in close. He rebounded well and played good defense with only one foul. But he wasn’t enough on his own to challenge the defending Division 1 champs on this night.
St. John’s is in the post-Pat (Connaughton) era and the biggest challenge will be replacing the Notre Dame freshman’s 20+ points per game.
Steve Haladyna paced the Eagles with seventeen points but it took him a lot of shots to get that many against Lynn Classical. He had some pretty good looks.
In my opinion, the key Eagle in this game was Freddy Shove. In a contest where finesse seemed lacking, he thrived with his aggressive approach on both ends. The lefty has enough of a 3-point shot to require outside attention and he definitely has the will to get to the rim if covered closely outside. Freddy tallied thirteen points.
Pat may be gone but the Eagle’s defense is still the same – every inch of the floor is contested heavily. And that defense is going to win a lot of games. If the Rams had an offensive pattern I never saw it. They were kept on the outside as the Eagles were determined that every pass was caught going away from the basket.
It wasn’t much easier for St. John’s down the other end because of the raw athleticism of LC but the Eagles had slashers who could get to the rim on occasion. For LC it happened very infrequently.
St. John’s (2-0) got the breakout they needed in the first period as a 5-4 advantage after three minutes turned into 16-5 by the end of the period. Freddy Shove had a trey and a layup.
The Rams (0-2) cut that deficit to 23-15 in the second period when Moise Builou (9 points) nailed a fall away long one with 3 ½ minutes to go until halftime. The rest of the half belonged to the Eagles. Steve Haladyna cashed in a couple of layups late and St. John’s was up 29-15 when the period ended.
The Eagles’ scoring run continued to 33-15 before Uche led a Ram rally to 35-21. But back again came the St. John’s offense, this time with nine unanswered points, including a three by Mike Carbone, to get their biggest lead of the night – 43-21.
LC was able to cut into the twenty-one point lead but never came close to putting an Eagle win in danger by getting with double-digits of them the rest of the way.
Lynn Classical coach Tom Grassa was forced to spend some game time mellowing out Ram spectators behind his bench. In a game with offensive fouls and skin-to-skin defense, there were calls that met with mixed reviews from both sides.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the much lighter color to the gym floor. It had been sanded. My camera was never real happy with the combo of the white St. John’s uniforms and that very clean floor.
Uche Nwokeji missed every free throw he attempted (five). At halftime he came out and practiced a couple more and missed those as well.
Coach Tommy Doyle (Salem) was on hand to check out Lynn Classical.
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