DANVERS — St. John’s Prep basketball coach John Dullea can live with the routine as long as it produces the desired result.
For the second straight night in the IAABO Board 130 Basketball Classic, the Eagles built a big first-half lead, watched it whittle away to nothing in the second half, then closed it out in the final few minutes. Last night St. John’s did just enough down the stretch to hold off the surging Andover Golden Warriors to capture the tournament crown, 60-52.
“That’s kind of our thing,” Dullea quipped. “We get a big lead, let them come back, then finish them off at the end. It doesn’t make my job any easier.”
The Eagles (16-4) were playing their typical tough defense and getting just about everything they wanted on offense in the first half, carrying a 36-22 lead into the locker room. Andover found a spark during the break, however; holding St. John’s to just six points in the third quarter and trimming the deficit to seven (42-35).
Andover (15-4) eventually pulled even on a Ryan O’Connell 3-pointer with 5:10 to go and again after David Giribaldi converted two free throws with 3:28 left. But the Eagles never let them take the lead.
It was nearly a carbon copy of St. John’s Prep’s win over Lynn English the night before.
“Getting over the hump, it’s always tough. Every coach in America will say the same thing. You put everything into getting it even, and then you take a deep breath and they make a three or get in the lane and make a play,” Andover coach David Fazio said. “We worked hard to get it even but they still made the plays, all the props to them.”
After Giribaldi (game-high 18 points) tied it at 48-48, Ben Judson (14 points) made two free throws for St. John’s. Then, Mike Bisson made 1-of-2 from the line and Judson cashed in on an open look from 3-point land to push it back to 54-48 with 2:03 to play.
Max Burt added two free throws down the stretch, Max Butterbrodt (team-high 16 points) finished a layup and Kareem Davis (14 points) made two freebies to close it out.
“The last couple big wins, it’s been down to the wire. In the last four minutes we’ve gotten stops when we need and converted either free throws or baskets,” Dullea said. “It’s good to know going into the tournament because the further you go in the tournament, it’s going to come down to the last three or four minutes.”