LYNN — The St. Mary’s boys basketball team couldn’t hold on to a late lead, falling to Central Catholic 69-63 in its season opener in the first annual Pistol Pete Classic at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium Friday night.
The Spartans were outscored 24-7 in the closing minutes.
“I think our team played really good overall,” St. Mary’s coach David Brown said. “That late stretch we turned the ball over a little bit and took to many three’s in transition. That was the difference in the game right there. If we pound the ball inside more we probably win.
“We have to get used to playing with the three bigs and Joey (Abate-Walsh) handling the ball more than we actually like,” Brown added. “Once we get going it should be better. Once we start learning to feed the post in certain situations we will be alright.”
Senior guard Jalen Echevarria led the way for the Spartans offensively with 25 points. Sophomore Ademide Badmus also had a solid night in his first game with the Spartans with 21 points and seven rebounds.
“Jalen only got to practice for four days, so he had a great game with four days of practice,” Brown said. “(Badmus) is going to get better as the season goes along. He has to learn to keep his cool at times, he had a big technical that I think changed the game. Ademide is a great player and he will get better as he gets to know our system more.”
George Smith led Central Catholic with 25 points.
The game started out as a defensive battle with both teams going back and forth without much scoring in the first few minutes. Echevarria opened up the scoring with back-to-back threes to help the Spartans take a 17-13 lead after one quarter.
The Raiders were able to keep the game close, eventually going on a run to tie the game at 24-24 mid way through the second. St. Mary’s was able to hold on to a one-point lead at halftime, 32-31.
Badmus led the way for the Spartans in the second half with St. Mary’s eventually jumping out to a 56-45 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Central Catholic wasn’t ready to give up however, with senior Kevin Costant totaling six points in the closing minutes to help tie the game at 60-60 with 2:03 to play.
The Spartans couldn’t regroup, with a few forced shots and some costly turnovers leading to the 69-63 loss. Despite the loss Brown was still happy with his team’s effort against a high-caliber opponent.
“This is great for us, playing against a Division 1 team,” Brown said. “To play a team like that in this atmosphere is only going to make us better. We made some mistakes and we will learn from that. We just have to go forward, watch the film and get better.
“That’s a glorified scrimmage right there and our guys battled hard, which is only going to make us a better team as we move forward,” Brown added. “I’m very pleased with the effort by the kids. Not great execution late but it will get better.”
St. Mary’s will look to bounce back next Friday when the Spartans host Archbishop Williams.
“We have a big game next Friday night against Archbishop Williams,” Brown said. “I hope we get a big crowd that night and that we can move forward. We had great guard play and a lot of size, so if we can get better handling pressure and take care of the ball we should be okay down the road.”