PEABODY — It takes the confidence of a Tom Brady to wear Ugg boots to the site of competition.
Joseph Abate-Walsh donned them before changing into his basketball shoes and unloading 30 points on seven three-pointers over Bishop Fenwick on Thursday evening.
He dunked through Fenwick’s front line, grabbed his own rebound on a rare 3-point miss and dished assists in the lane.
“Big boy Walsh is a stud in this league. We don't typically see 6-8 shooters like that in this league,” said Kevin Moran, Fenwick’s head coach. “It’s tough to cover him.”
The Crusaders (10-7) initiated a press, shifted into a zone in the half court and tried boxing him out. They could only slow him in the second half, as he led St. Mary's to an 83-60 win in a game the Spartans led by as many as 34 points.
Moran emphasized simply competing after losing to the Spartans 86-41 back in January. His team dribbled extra in practice and anticipated St. Mary’s press. None of that prepared them for Christian Loescher and Jason Romans colliding on Bishop Fenwick’s first defensive possession. Both labored on the floor, then Loescher left the game for over two minutes.
“It goes from 6-foot-5- to 6-1,” Romans said. “No one else is taller than (Loescher) off the bench, so it really didn’t help us."
It took time for Loescher to adjust after returning. The Spartans already scored five straight points to take a lead and didn’t relinquish it all night. Scott Emerson pressured Josh Perez and St. Mary’s back court, forcing four first-quarter early turnovers. St. Mary’s matched each one.
Kobe Estes’ steal led Alex Gonzalez in transition for two successful free throws that pulled the Crusaders within five. Then David Brown, St. Mary’s coach, told his team to ramp up the pressure.
Abate-Walsh drilled a three on the wing, his third of the quarter, then Sammy Batista barely avoided a turnover against Romans. He tipped the loose ball to David Brown Jr. for a Spartans three that pushed them ahead 19-8.
“I think we just broke it open right away,” Abate-Walsh said. “They couldn't stop us, they're playing a zone. They can't keep up with us around the perimeter and they should've adjusted, but they didn't."
Brown noticed his team’s defensive pressure beginning to overwhelm Bishop Fenwick into the second quarter. The Crusaders reached within single-digits, then St. Mary’s scored six straight points after Fenwick missed a layup – a spot on the floor that plagued its offense.
St. Mary’s called an in-bounds play that fed Ali Barry for a deep two from the corner, then Abate-Walsh dunked all over Fenwick’s defense following a turnover. He hit the free throw and pushed the Spartans ahead 41-19, scoring 22 points in the first half.
“He's a tremendous weapon,” said Brown. “He can put the ball on the floor as well, but he's a catch-and-shoot guy. With the people around him, we can get penetration, draw the defender and kick it to him. When he's shooting like that, we're a tough basketball team.”
Fenwick competed by funneling shots to Max Grenert, who finished with 20 points on a pair of first-half threes and a trio of baseline jumpers. Moran looked to get him the ball off penetration, but turnovers and missed shots at the rim only fed St. Mary’s pace.
While a fan led St. Mary’s ensemble from across from their bench through an “easy money” chant, Bishop Fenwick’s fan section erupted over Daniel McGrath’s driving layup off a fake at the 3-point line. Estes and McGrath celebrated senior night, one momentarily spoiled by Abate-Walsh, before Jake Connelly and Stefano Fabiano led a 10-0 run that pulled Fenwick within 81-58 late in the fourth quarter.
“We challenged them a little bit at halftime and they at least competed in the second half,” Moran said. “I don't have a problem, we missed a bunch of layups in there, but that's OK. Kids are hustling, they're doing the right thing.”
St. Mary’s 83, Bishop Fenwick 60
at Bishop Fenwick
St. Mary’s 19 30 24 10 — 83
Fenwick 8 17 16 19 — 60
St. Mary’s: Joseph Abate-Walsh 10-3-30, David Brown 4-3-13, Henri Miraka 2-7-11, Ali Barry 2-0-10, Lisandro Pacheco 3-2-8, Sammy Batista 2-0-5, Josh Perez 2-0-4, Derick Coulanges 0-1-1, Jackson Field 0-1-1.
Bishop Fenwick: Max Grenert 7-2-19, Jason Romans 4-3-12, Alex Gonzalez 2-2-7, Jake Connolly 2-0-5, Christian Loescher 2-0-4, Kobe Estes 1-1-3, Daniel McGrath 1-0-1, Max Corson 1-0-2, Scott Emerson 1-0-2, Matthew Juneau 1-0-2, Stefano Fabiano 1-0-2.
Halftime: 49-25, St. Mary’s.
3-pointers: SM, Abate-Walsh 7, Barry 2, Coulanges 2, Batista; BF, Grenert 3, Connolly, Gonzalez, Romans.
Records: SM, 19-2; BF, 10-7.