By Matt Jenkins
---- — DANVERS — Each win piled up by the St. John’s Prep basketball team this winter has been accompanied by a little more respect and a little more notoriety.
The shift from tournament hopeful to legitimate contender in Division 1 North was completed last night.
The Eagles handled Catholic Conference foe and state power B.C. High, 67-58, and served notice that they’re for real, and they’re not going anywhere.
“We’ve got a target on our back now,” St. John’s captain Drex Costello said after scoring 15 points despite having two heavily taped fingers on his left hand.
Costello could serve as a microcosm for this Prep team due to his toughness and consistency. St. John’s coach Sean Connolly was preparing to play B.C. High without Costello after the senior guard dislocated a finger at Thursday’s practice. Costello had to go to the hospital to get the finger popped back into place, but he had no intention of missing last night’s game and letting his teammates down.
That type of team chemistry helped St. John’s solve B.C. High’s famous 1-3-1 defense early, then pull away in the second and third quarters.
St. John’s actually built the lead to 19 (53-34) late in the third.
“B.C. High is tough and very well coached. They have very good athletes and luckily we shot the ball very well tonight,” Connolly said. “We did a pretty good job defensively, in the first half especially. It was a good team win for us.”
Sophomore Ben Judson was a major reason why the Eagles shot the ball so well. Judson hit five three-pointers for the game, and had 15 of his 20 points before intermission. He hit four triples in the first half, including a four-point play.
“They shot it really well. We had a layup or two that we didn’t convert and they came down and made us pay,” B.C. High (4-2) coach Bill Loughnane said. “We knew (Judson) was a good shooter and he proved it tonight.”
Like only true contenders can, St. John’s responded to every B.C. High run.
When the visiting Eagles ran off six straight points early in the third to cut the Prep’s lead to 10, the hosts spit a 9-1 spurt back at them.
“I think we were doing a better job defensively getting stops,” Connolly said. “Their No. 33 (Phil Leotsakos) got into a little bit of foul trouble and was sitting out. That made it a little easier to pack in the lane and protect against drives from two good guards. On offense, we did a good job passing against the zone.”
The St. John’s defense made it really difficult on B.C. High all night, particularly in one second half sequence where junior forward Max Butterbrodt blocked four consecutive shots on one possession.
“I couldn’t believe that ... I was out of my mind,” Costello said. “I loved being on the bench and seeing that stuff. It was so great as a captain seeing another captain block and block and block. It was so cool.”
Butterbrodt and senior forward Josh Syska both gave the Prep excellent minutes in the second half. Syska finished with nine points and Butterbrodt scored all five of his points in the third quarter.
Charles Collins (16 points), Jameilen Jones (14), and Steve Young (13) each hit double figures for B.C. High.
“This is a big win. People weren’t thinking we were too good in the beginning of the season. No one was expecting anything from us because we graduated five senior starters,” Costello said. “I’ve been on this team for three years and I know we can still play. I know these young guys know how to play.”