“Even up 12-14 points that team doesn’t go down,” Prep coach Sean Connolly said about Central Catholic. “You’ve gotta be tough, gotta be physical. Otherwise, they’ll abuse you.”
Central actually created a lot of chances with its defense late in the game, but the offense couldn’t come through.
The Raiders forced St. John’s into a five-second violation on an inbound attempt when they trailed by only one point, but they followed that forced turnover with a turnover of their own. A Costello free throw with 11 seconds remaining put the Eagles up two, but Central turned the ball over one more time to end the threat. Judson made his free throw with two seconds left.
“I think it was a tough game. Even down seven with 1:45 left we kept believing,” Central Catholic coach Ricky Nault said. “To have the ball with 18 seconds left and a chance to go ahead was what we wanted. We executed, we just didn’t get to the ball the next trip.”
Defensively, St. John’s made things very difficult for the Raiders.
The Eagles — primarily Costello — handcuffed Central junior guard Tyler Nelson all game. Nelson, one of the top shooters in the state, managed only 10 points on 1-for-13 shooting.
Nelson couldn’t get going early — scoring only two points in the first half — and didn’t hit a three-pointer.
“That was very important,” Costello said. “We wanted to keep him in check, disrupt his shot and not let him get going.”
Dooley scored 12 points and dished out eight assists for the Eagles, while Butterbrodt scored nine of his 11 points during a two-minute stretch late in the second quarter, which helped St. John’s take a 32-24 advantage into the locker room.
Joel Berroa scored 18 points and Nick Cambio added 14 to lead Central, which played without senior captain Doug Gemmell, who was out with a head injury.
“They’re a solid team; they don’t have any weaknesses,” Nault said about the Prep. “Ben Judson is a 6-4 3-man and they have the best backcourt we’ve seen all year.”