(VIDEO) St. John’s Prep Edges New Mission in a Top 10 Showdown
By Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
DANVERS, Mass. – Two teams with dramatically different styles and opposing strengths battled in an entertaining nonconference tilt at St. John’s Prep on Friday.
The New Mission Titans and St. John’s Prep Eagles traded blows as well as the lead for three and a half quarters, but in the end, the healthier power emerged victorious, as Prep was able to pull away late and hang on for a 67-64 victory.
While the Eagles (9-3) suffered back-to-back losses to conference foes last week, defeating one of the best defensive teams in the state marks a huge turnaround for this relatively young team.
Boston Cathedral beat Prep by over 20 points last month and after that loss, Eagles head coach John Dullea had to change the way his team played against opponents that love to press.
“We schedule these games for a reason and we’ve seen this style a lot this season,” Dullea began. “The Cathedral game, while we weren’t happy with the result, it represented a sort of turning point in our season. We learned from that game and now we’re much stronger both physically and mentally.”
At first, the Titans (8-5) full court pressure was too much for the Eagles to handle. The home team turned it over 15 times in the first half and trailed 27-25 going into the break despite their 20-6 rebounding advantage over the first two quarters.
In the second half, neither team backed away from the challenge of this midseason test, but the Eagles ability to take care of the ball (just two turnovers in the third quarter) and some clutch shooting from junior Matt Relihan (9 points, 5 rebounds) and freshman Jarnel Snow-Guzman (10 points, 2 assists) allowed them to creat some separation late.
“As the game went along we grew more used to [The Titans] pressure and we’re really a second half team. It’s not always pretty, but we grind it out and we did that tonight,” said Dullea.
The Eagles also used their significant size advantage down low by climbing on the back of 6-foot-8 junior Tommy O’Neil. Along with fellow captain Brett McNiff (10 points, 12 rebounds), O’Neil (19 points, 14 rebounds) dominated the glass and racked up plenty of second chance points.
Great outlet from mcniff, O'Neill nearly throws it down but is fouled. 8-8 late Q1 pic.twitter.com/SbhgLry3EH— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
Great outlet pass from McNiff and O'Neil nearly throws it down, but is fouled, late in the 1st Quarter.
O’Neil (video below) scored six straight for the Eagles at one point in the third quarter, while McNiff put back a miss to make it 63-57 with under a minute left to play and effectively seal the win.
Nate Hobbs with a strong move. Prep trails 27-23 late Q2 pic.twitter.com/DXmwbOxmbp— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
Nate Hobbs '18 with a strong move for Prep in the 2nd quarter.
Stars Who Shined
St. John’s Prep
Tommy O’Neil ‘18 F – The man in the middle kept plenty of possessions alive for Prep with six offensive rebounds and he forced the smaller Titans to send him to the line before he knocked down 7-of-8 foul shots on the night.
O’Neil only had five points at the half, but he made the most of his opportunities down the stretch to lead his team to a win.
Six straight from Tommy O'Neil and Prep leads 38-35 mid Q3 pic.twitter.com/kW635JzuqW— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
“[The Titans] are so good at getting up and pressuring us that it was hard to get the ball down low,” O’Neil explained. “But I just had to stick with it, get my boards and put it back up and that was how I was able to get most of my points.”
Brett McNiff ‘17 C – While O’Neil is the tallest member of the Eagles roster, he’s not the only player that stands 6-foot-5 or taller.
McNiff is one of four players listed at 6-foot-5 and he used every bit of his length to secure five offensive rebounds and punish the Titans on the boards.
Yet the senior wasn’t committed to bulling his way to the rim for shots, as he found teammates on a couple of occasions and kept the ball moving when appropriate.
“We’re a balanced team, but we know that our strength is inside,” confirmed Dullea. “Still, it doesn’t have to be about pounding it inside and it’s great that [Relihan, McNiff and O’Neil] are some of the most unselfish guys you’ll find.”
Jarnel Snow-Guzman ‘20 G – The Titans seemed to gamble off the Eagles staring point guard down the stretch, but the freshman made them pay.
Snow-Guzman (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) nailed a three from the corner to give Prep a 53-51 lead midway through the fourth quarter and his second triple of the game made it 61-57 and put the home team in position to pull away for a win.
“[Snow-Guzman] is a freshman so there’s going to be some ups and downs, we understand that, but what I love about him is his competitiveness,” said Dullea. “This is one of the biggest stages you can get against one of the best teams in the state and he held his own.”
Charles Mitchell ‘17 G –He’s averaging over 18 points per game this season and Charles Mitchell continues to get buckets in the face of the most disciplined defensive schemes.
After missing his first two attempts from downtown, Charles (first video below) promptly hit his next five attempts from long range on his way to a game-high 24 points and he made it very interesting late by hitting a three to make it 58-57 (second video below) and a very difficult triple to make it 67-62 when the game appeared to beyond all doubt in the final minute.
Charles Mitchell nails his first 3 of the 2nd half and New Mission retakes the lead, 51-50, with 4:38 remaining. Great game so far pic.twitter.com/gnWNeJLc25— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
Charles Mitchell again for 3 and Mission only trails by 1 (58-57) with 2 mins remaining pic.twitter.com/QRU01YbffZ— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
Charlie Mitchell ‘17 G – Charlie was right there with his twin all night and he fed Charles on nearly all of his three-point attempts.
Charlie Mitchell with a STL and c2c layup. Prep still leads 58-54 with 2:44 remaining pic.twitter.com/c1XnF0Nwis— Nate Weitzer (@nweitzer7) January 28, 2017
Charlie with the steal and coast-to-coast layup.
He would finish with a game-high eight assists as well as six steals and 16 points to keep the Titans competitive against a Division 1 power.
“It’s really hard to simulate what [The Mitchells] do on the defensive end,” Dullea effused. “As soon as you catch a pass they’re right there and they’ve made their offensive game even better. It’s good for us to play against guys like that because it brings out the best in everybody.”
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