DANVERS — The St. John’s Prep basketball team outplayed Catholic Conference rival Xaverian from start to finish in a 71-51 win at Pat Connaughton Court Tuesday night.
The Eagles were led by a handful of good performances including Noah Thomas (14 points, three rounds) and Will Batchelder (11 points, three rebounds). Liam Dunfee (10 points) and Jack Wirtanen (11 points, six rebounds and two blocks) also played well off the bench.
“Each of those guys brings a little something different,” Eagles coach John Dullea said. “Jack’s more of an energy guy, getting offensive rebounds and making plays. Liam’s a shooter and he has been working himself back into the lineup more after a thumb injury. He’s getting more and more minutes and we are starting to see a good rotation going.”
The win makes it two victories in a row for St. John’s, with both coming against conference opponents.
“We were changing the lineup when things weren’t going well and now we put together a little winning streak so hopefully we can keep that going,” Dullea said. “After getting a win (last) Friday against Catholic Memorial, hopefully the guys are starting to realize the things that we need to do to help us win. I think we did most of that. We had a little bit of a letdown in the second half there but we got out to a good start.”
Xaverian got off to a fast start on offense before the Eagles responded. The Hawks scored on five of their first seven possessions to take a 10-6 lead.
But the Eagles responded, with Dunfee scoring four points off the bench and Batchelder hitting two deep 3-pointers to help put St. John’s ahead 20-12 after the first quarter.
Dullea was happy to see the Eagles retake the momentum early on and they never looked back.
“It was 10-6 at one point and then we went on a big run after that,” Dullea said. “You could see the difference in the intensity on defense. We came out of a timeout, made a couple shots and guys started flying around the floor. We were doing what we practice so it’s good to see that in the game.”
The momentum continued for St. John’s on the defensive end. The Eagles held the Hawks scoreless until midway through the second quarter, jumping out to a 38-16 lead.
“It usually starts with our defensive intensity,” Dullea said. “I think our defense was good for most of the game and in the second quarter we started rolling there a little bit. We forced them to have some tough possessions which leads to good possessions for us.
“When we play with intensity on defense and execute our defensive game plan we usually do pretty well. It’s just putting that together for 32 minutes and being consistent,” Dullea added.
A big second quarter from Wirtanen, which included five points, one rebound and one block, and another three from Batchelder, helped the Eagles take a commanding 41-19 lead into the second half.
With St. John’s ahead, both teams kept pace with each other for much of the second half. Mason Davis (nine points, five rebounds) and Thomas each had six points in the second half to help the Eagles finish the win.
“With us, first and foremost it’s our energy and effort level,” Dullea said. “When we come out playing with passion and energy I think everything else kind of follows behind that. We just have to do it consistently.”
The Eagles (7-4) will hope to keep the momentum going Friday (7) when they host BC High.
“We have to take advantage of being home especially in our conference games,” Dullea said. “We have another big conference game on Friday and then we are on the road for two weeks. We have to take care of business here at home and we’ll have our hands full with B.C. High.”