No. 4 St. Peter’s Outduels No. 16 Hudson Catholic in a tough defensive battle
After Ken Soares’ clutch stole to thwart Hudson Catholic’s comeback attempt with a few seconds, St. Peter’s Prep Junior Guard’s Mark Armstrong retrieved the ball that his teammate had let go, dribbled in just past the midcourt and flew for a thundering dunk that wasn’t required.
Check that out folks. That big, boisterous litter was just what St. Peter’s Prep – and probably every other team in New Jersey – needed more than anything after struggling through this winter of sudden quarantines, dizzying schedule changes, weird classroom arrangements, oh, and also some really challenging basketball games against quality opponents.
Fourth-placed St. Peter’s Prep led by two points when Soares knocked that ball free about three seconds from time, and then Armstrong added the exclamation point on the buzzer for a 49-45 win over No. 16 Hudson Catholic in the season finale Saturday afternoon in the St. Peter’s Barn in Jersey City.
St. Peter’s (10-1) had returned from a two-week quarantine just seven days after several team members tested positive for COVID-19.
“That’s great. We literally went out with a bang,” said Senior Guard Ray Ford. “Mark is a prospect; he’s really on his way. And it was great to see him finish the game like this because it’s like passing the torch on to the next. “
The 6-3 Ford would know a thing or two when it comes to generating targeted rattle for the benefit of its team. Fairleigh Dickinson’s involvement spent a good portion of their day hammering the glass and chasing opposing ball handlers in a game that from the start was characterized by tenacity rather than skill.
“We had to be brave, we had to play hard,” said Armstrong. “I have a lot of credit to Hudson Catholic. They played good defense, they played hard so we had to come up with a dub by playing the same way. “
Armstrong scored 14 points on the team, nine in the second half, Ford had 13 points, a game with 12 rebounds and two steals, Junior Guard Alif Bass contributed 10 points and four assists, and Soares had eight points, five rebounds and that crucial one Steal to help St. Peters rebound from a 65-57 loss to Union City on Wednesday.
Senior guard Malcolm Eley scored 18 points and had five rebounds, second guard Elijah Gertrude scored 10 points and had nine rebounds and two blocks, and freshman guard Tahaad Pettiford added eight points, five rebounds and a steal for the young Hawks (8- 4), fresh from a 62-56 overtime frustration against No. 14 Trenton Catholic Thursday night.
“For me, I always want to be better defensive and I think that was a pretty good defensive game,” said Hudson’s Catholic head coach Nick Mariniello. “I think both teams really competed against each other at both ends of the floor. I’m not satisfied with the result, but with our work after everything we’ve been through this season. “
Hudson Catholic also had to endure a two-week coronavirus quarantine, only hers came just as the season started. The Hawks didn’t play their first game until February 11, a 78-63 win over Rutgers Prep. Two days later, they lost a tough game to No. 6 Montclair Immaculate, 64-61, and began a roller coaster ride with memorable highlights – like a 66-54 upset over No. 5 Roselle Catholc – and a couple of games Hudson doing would love to go back.
But with a freshman and sophomore year in the starting XI and youth elsewhere, unpredictable swings are often common even in a non-pandemic year.
St. Peter’s, with five non-seniors in the top eight, held its course fairly steady until a talented Union City squad managed to throw it off beat. In defense of Union City, they played that game on Wednesday right before a two-week quarantine.
“We were on a pretty good rhythm, but when we got back from those two weeks we looked like a completely different team,” said Alex Mirabel, St. Peter’s Prep head coach. “I had the feeling that we could have played a little better today after that defeat, but we still weren’t in the rhythm. This (pause) had a huge impact on us.
But I like the way they fought today. They played hard, played together, ”he said. “You finished the job defensively and we needed that today. We missed layups, we missed some shots, but I think we fought our way through. We ended the game defensively and got some big shots from the key players. “
Bass made one of those shots when he fired a 3-pointer from the right corner after a drive-and-kick from Soares for a 45-43 St. Peter’s lead with 1:02 in the game. The Hawks had taken the lead 29 seconds earlier after a foul jumper from Pettiford.
St. Peter’s almost stole the ball 10 seconds later after a quick succession of frenzied games by Soares and Ford, but the ball eventually went out and was awarded to Hudson Catholic.
But Ford struck again, this time with a steal that counted with 33 seconds to go. After a break, Ford scored for a 47-43 lead with 19 seconds remaining after a break in a feed from Bass.
“I just wanted to go out with a bang in the last game of my high school career. I just tried to play as hard as I could, “said Ford.” I know this will be the last game I will record in a St. Peter’s Prep jersey. I just had to do what I had to do. “
Hudson Catholic pulled up on 47-45 when Eley scored a pass from Keith Mency with an inside-off. The problem was that the Hawks only had four team fouls at the time, so they needed three in quick succession to create a one-and-one situation.
Hudson fouled with 10.5 seconds to go, then 8.9 and then paused with a St. Peter’s turnover with a 7.0 on the clock. The Hawks came inbound before the goalscorer’s table, but the chance of a tie or win was thwarted by Soares at the top of the key.
From the strong hands of Soares to the rising hand of Armstrong. Season over.
“That was a good deal from Kenny. I saw the ball after falling a little and I turned around and went to the dunk to celebrate the win and for everything we did and worked. “
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