Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boston Cathedral uses speed to down No. 10 St. John's Prep 63-41 at BABC Holiday Tournament

By Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7)

Boston - Five days before they began to play host to the annual Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) Holiday Tournament, the Panthers of Cathedral suffered a blowout loss at Boston College High. 

But the tough-minded Cathedral players listened to their coach, buckled down, and made the proper adjustments to defeat a talented Bishop Stang team, 84-67, before carrying that momentum into another matchup with a program from the power Catholic Conference.

This time, it was the Panthers handing out the punishment in a blowout win, as they dominated St. John’s Prep from start to finish in a decisive 63-41 victory on Wednesday afternoon. 

“It was a tough loss, but we knew we gave it our best shot,” Cathedral head coach said about his team’s last loss. “BC High was a very big team and we knew that we had to go back to the drawing board and really prepare for the BABC Holiday Tournament. We’re still going to struggle at times, because we’re an undersized big team, but when we focus on the little things and really work hard we can be successful.”

The smaller Panthers (5-2) certainly seemed to work harder than the sizable Eagles (4-1). They actually out-rebounded St. John’s Prep 36 to 32 and won the turnover battle by a huge margin, creating 14 takeaways in the first half alone to build a 38-24 lead at intermission.  

With full court pressure and a team-oriented defensive scheme involving fronting and double teams, the Panthers were able to overcome their lack of size on the low block and limit Eagles star forwards Tommy O’Neil (0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Matt Relihan (11 points, 10 rebounds).

“The game plan was to emphasize team play and team rebounding,” explained Merritt. “We knew that one individual was not going to win the game for us and we had to sacrifice the ‘I’ for the ‘We.’” 

He continued, “We were able to do that today to take [O’Neil] and [Relihan] out of the game by really applying ball pressure and really, really making an effort to get out in transition offensively.”

Leading the charge on both ends of the floor for the Panthers was senior guard Calvin Cheek, who poured in a game-high 22 points with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and an astonishing 12 steals in a winning effort.

Cheek repeatedly broke down the Prep defense and found sharpshooting teammates such as Khalil Blair (10 points) and Trevor Lynch (15 points, 3 blocks) for open looks, while fellow guards Julian Howell (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) and Victor Owens (5 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) created more issues for the Eagles when the Panthers ran their “five-out” sets offensively. 

“Calvin [Cheek] has become a true lead guard,” Merritt effused. “From last year to this year he’s become much more disciplined and a great floor leader. He’s an extension of myself out there and he’s making things happen not just for himself, but for the team. He’s making other players better.”

The Eagles simply had no answers for the team speed on the other side of the ball and now they’ll have to go back to the drawing board, as they prepare to open conference play at surging Malden Catholic next weekend.

For the Panthers, learning how to use their speed to trump size should help this Division 4 program make waves down the line in the State Tournament.

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