By Dan Harrison
---- — BOSTON — The St. John’s Prep and Bishop Fenwick boys basketball teams needed to find a way to adjust in their respective games at TD Garden on Saturday as both squads had trouble shooting in the big arena.
The Crusaders eventually found their touch going on to defeat Triton, 63-60, while the Eagles struggled from the field down to their last shot, which Max Burt rimmed out at the buzzer in the Prep’s 53-51 loss to Wellesley.
Both teams play home games in small gymnasiums which can make the transition to playing in the wide open TD Garden a little difficult.
“I think in the first quarter there were a lot of jitters for the kids and the coaching staff as well. Our gym is miniscule so this was a much different perspective,” said Bishop Fenwick coach John Preziosa. “Once we started making a few we realized that the hoop was 10 feet and it was a regular basketball game.”
The Crusaders clinched their fifth win in a row behind an outstanding second half from Matt Costello (21 points), who sparked his team early in the second half with 11 third-quarter points.
After shooting too many 3-pointers in the opening half, Bishop Fenwick started taking it to the basket more frequently in the third quarter. The Crusaders are now 8-6 after starting the season 1-4.
“Were we really 1-4? We’re on a five game winning streak,” said Costello, who’s favorite all-time basketball player is Larry Bird. “Before the game I was looking up at the banners and retired numbers. It was surreal. I was nervous at the beginning of the game but I got used to it.”
Costello wasn’t the only Crusader to eventually figure out his shooting touch. Jhon Olivera banged down a three from deep in the corner to give Bishop Fenwick a 60-56 lead with under two minutes to play before senior captain Dom Luoni nailed a jumper in the final minute for what proved to be the game-winning bucket.
Fenwick received contributions from a number of guys, especially in the full-court press, as the team was able to generate some easy offense off turnovers. Luoni in particular had the hustle play of the night when he dove to save a ball that eventually ended up in the hands of Rishad De Silva, who dished it to Olivera for the big 3-pointer.
Considering Triton is just 3-8 on the season the Crusaders would have liked a more comfortable result, but still the team showed poise not crumbling on the big stage.
“All of them, they all turned it around,” Preziosa said praising his players. “We had our foot in a bear trap but we got out of it.”
The Eagles (10-2), meanwhile, never found their shooting stoke. The team failed to convert from long distance during the game and shot poorly from the free-throw line, hitting just around 50 percent of their freebies.
Still, St. John’s Prep was in position to win, leading by a bucket with two minutes to play. But the Eagles uncharacteristically stopped rebounding the ball on the defensive end. The Raiders’ (9-3) Malik Rochelle tied the game on a put-back before Aidan James did the exact same thing for what proved to be the game-winner with 26 seconds left.
“Rebounding is something we normally take pride in and we didn’t get the rebounds we needed down the stretch,” admitted Prep head coach John Dullea. “We were pretty good defensively and we got them in some looks we wanted, but we couldn’t get the rebound.”
Burt had two different looks to tie or win the game but he couldn’t get either to fall. The senior guard off-set a rough shooting night by showing some skill driving to the basket.
On the final play, with just over a second left, the Eagles ran a side-out play for Burt (13 points) who took a tough, 3-pointer falling to the sideline. The ball nearly went all the way down before popping back out to the delight of the Raiders.
“The play was for the two or the three, I had to read it off the pick and I saw my guy was trailing,” explained Burt. “It looked good, but it didn’t go down.”
St. John’s Prep actually led by as many as seven in the third quarter and even took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter before a pair of 3-pointers from James gave Wellesley the lead.
It was a common theme in the matinee matchup as the Eagles looked as if they were going to pull away a few different times, but the Raiders were able to stay within striking distance.
“I think three or four times we had a five or seven-point lead with possession of the ball and we could never pull away,” said Dullea, who credited Wellseley’s defense for forcing 20 turnovers and holding the Eagles to a poor shooting night.
“Give that credit to Wellesley. They made the plays, made the shots and got the stops. We didn’t make plays to extend the lead when we had it.”