LAWRENCE – Central Catholic’s high-powered basketball program dominated St. John’s Prep for so many years that the so-called ‘rivalry’ was almost considered a joke.
However, no one is laughing at the Eagles anymore. Not since they won the Division 1 state championship two years ago ... and not since they began turning the tide against their nemesis Central Catholic.
Proving that its home win two weeks ago against mighty Central was no fluke, the Prep duplicated the feat on the road last night by holding off the Raiders, 64-62, in the opening round of the IAABO Board 130 Classic Tournament.
The win spiked the Eagles’ record to 18-1 and put them in the tourney championship game tonight (7:15 p.m.) against Lynn English, which downed Springfield Central, 81-73, in the other semifinal.
“Coach Joe Lovett (an assistant for the Prep) has been coming here for 23 years and had never seen (the Eagles) win in this gym, but we were able to do it tonight,” said junior guard Quentin Bullen, who came off the bench and scored a career-high 16 points in this one.
“When the preseason rankings came out, we weren’t even in the top 25 ... or even 35,” added Bullen. “Central was in the top five, like always. But I think we sent a message (by beating them twice) that we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
The Eagles blew a 21-point third quarter lead, but won it in the most dramatic fashion imaginable as senior guard Drex Costello (16 points) drilled a three-pointer with 7 seconds remaining, giving his team a 64-61 lead.
Costello then made a critical defensive play to end it. Central Catholic (16-4) sharpshooting guard Tyler Nelson (18 points) was fouled with 3.8 seconds left and made the first shot to narrow it to 64-62. Everyone in the jam-packed gym knew that Nelson would purposely miss the second shot.