By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — When you’re the No. 1 seed in the State Tournament, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.
St. John’s Prep came into the Division 1 North quarterfinal as the top seed, but Lowell had the advantage of having a tourney win under its belt instead of a layoff as the result of getting a bye.
The Eagles had their hands full with a scrappy Lowell team and finally put them away in the fourth quarter, 74-67 before a big crowd.
It had been 12 days since the Eagles played, and it took them a while to get going. At the end of the first quarter the game was knotted at 21-21 after a fast paced, high scoring eight minutes.
“Those guys battled,” said Prep coach John Dullea after his team improved to 17-4 and will take on fourth seeded Central Catholic in the semifinal round. “I’m not going to use the bye as an excuse, but we hadn’t played in a while, and had some rust. I think that showed in the first quarter.”
Max Burt led the Eagles with 15 first half points and Ben Judson had 10 of his team-high 20 in the first two quarters. St. John’s held the visitors to just 11 points in the second quarter while putting 21 on the board and had a 42-32 lead after an 11-2 run to end the half.
Lowell (12-9) refused to go away and came out on fire to start the third quarter. They went on an 8-0 run to pull within two points before Judson hit a trey for the first points by St. John’s midway through the quarter.
Sean Bryan and Dewayne Thomas led Lowell with 24 and 22 points respectively. Spencer Danforth (six points) came off the bench to hit a big 3-pointer to get the lead back up to 10, and Judson made a basket and two free throws late in the quarter to open up a 13 point cushion.
Bryan answered with a driving layup and then was fouled while taking a desperation trey at the buzzer. He made all three foul shots to close the gap to eight points, 57-49.
“Every time we got a 10 or 12 point lead they came right back to score,” said Dullea. “We could never break the game open. Danforth played great defense and came up with a couple of big shots when we needed them . He causes havoc at the other end. Max Burt, and Ben (Judson) made a bunch of shots, and Jake Burt did a fantastic job rebounding. We were going to take him out, but couldn’t because of the way he was cleaning the glass on the defensive end.”
Dullea expanded on the team effort as well as the contribution from Mike Bisson (13 points).
“We had a lot of guys contribute; that’s what makes us hard to cover. We don’t have that one big 25 point scorer, but we do have a lot that chip in,” said Dullea. “Mike Bisson would be a starter on any other team, but we like him to come off the bench and provide a spark. He’s very versatile and tough to cover.”
Dullea couldn’t begin to breathe easy until Max Butterbrodt hit back to back jump shots to stretch the lead back up to 10 early in the fourth quarter. Lowell did manage to cut it to six on a hoop by Andrew Ruff (nine points), but Kareem Davis made both shots from the charity stripe.
“I guess the game with Central is what everybody’s been looking for,” said Dullea.
St. John’s Prep 74, Lowell 67
at St. John’s Prep, Danvers
Lowell: Santos 3-0-6; Ruff 3-2-9; Lora 0-0-0; Bryan 8-6-24; Thomas 9-2-22; Parilla 1-0-2; Alcantala 2-0-4 Totals 26-9-67.
St. John’s: Judson 6-6-20; J. Burt 2-1-5; M. Burt 5-2-15; Davis 1-5-7; Butterbrodt 4-0-8; Johnson 0-0-0; Lovett 0-0-0; Bisson 5-3-13; Danforth 2-0-6 Totals 25-17-74.
Halftime: SJP, 42-32
3-pointers: L, Bryan 3, Thomas 2; Ruff; SJP, Judson 2, M. Burt 3, Danforth 2.
Records: L,12-10; SJP, 17-4.