Friday, December 29, 2017

St. John's Prep Rallies to Top Lawrence in OT

By Matt Feld (@mattyfeld612)

Methuen, Mass. - As quickly as St. John’s Prep appeared to have lost the game, the Eagles stole it right back.

The Prep trailed Lawrence by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, and was down eight with three minutes to play, but a 17-9 SJP spurt forced overtime and, in the extra period, Tommy O’Neil scored four of his 26 points as St. John’s Prep defeated Lawrence, 97-92, on Friday night in the Commonwealth Classic Semi-final at Methuen High School.

O’Neil had seven rebounds to go with his 26 points, while Prep senior guard Nate Hobbs led all scorers with 30 points.

St. John’s (2-1) lost their starting point guard Jarnel Snow-Guzman when he fouled out early in the fourth quarter, but freshman Will Batchelder stepped up scoring 13 points.

Lawrence (4-1) senior guard Juan Felix Rodriguez showcased his talents throughout the contest, scoring 32 points on 12-for-22 shooting.

“I can’t say enough about Will Batchelder playing the way he did as a freshman,” said St. John’s Prep head coach John Dullea. “We had some inexperienced guards due to Jarnell (Snow-Guzman) fouling out, but I think some of our freshman grew up tonight. Nate Hobbs was great going to the basket down the stretch even though we were exhausted.”

After trailing by six at the half, Lawrence rallied to take a 64-61 lead after three.

The Lancers then seemed well on their way to running away with the contest, as they scored 21 points over the first four minutes of the final frame to take an 85-77 lead with just over three minutes to play.

Hobbs, however, drove to the basket for a quick layup and an intentional foul on the Lancers gave the Eagles two free throws and the ball.

Batchelder then came through with the biggest points of the game, knocking down both at the charity stripe and then splashing a three from the left corner to pull the Prep within one, 85-84.

St. John’s proceeded to take the lead with 27 seconds left on a Christian Plourde three pointer, but two Lancer free throws tied the game at 87 and forced overtime.

In the extra frame the Eagles jumped out to a quick five point edge, but five points from Rodriguez pulled Lawrence back within one, 93-92, with less than a minute to go.

The Lancers had a chance to take the lead seconds later, but a turnover led to an O’Neil basket off a feed from Matt Relihan (20 points, 8 rebounds) to put St. John’s Prep back up 95-92.

Free throws by Relihan and Plourde in the closing seconds sealed the Prep win.

“(Lawrence) was taking over the pace of the game at the start of the fourth quarter,” said O’Neil. “We had to relax and just take it a possession at a time. This is a huge win for us for confidence going forward.”

Throughout the game St. John’s Prep was on fire from the field shooting 58-percent including 10-of-17 from three.

Lawrence, meanwhile, used their quickness to often beat the Eagles down the floor and generate easy buckets. The Lancers scored 52 points in the paint, and scored 31 points off St. John’s Prep turnovers.

“Gutsy performance from our team," Dullea said. "I think we just made some plays down the stretch and we never gave up.”

The Eagles came out of the gate on fire.

Six early points from Relihan put the Prep up 15-8, and seven straight from O’Neil gave the Eagles a 24-15 lead after one.

Lawrence hung around in the second quarter behind Rodriguez and Luis Reynoso (24 points).

Reynoso scored 12 points in the quarter while Rodriguez connected on an and-one and finished at the basket to pull Lawrence within five.

A Rodriguez steal and layup cut the Prep’s lead to 34-30, but Relihan swished a three off the dribble and Hobbs knocked down three at the foul line to put the Prep up 42-36 at the half.

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