Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
For most of the 2012-13 season, St. Joseph’s Prep’s fortunes have largely been tied to the performances of Steve Vasturia and Miles Overton. Of the Hawks’ 16 double-digit scoring performances during Catholic League play this year, 13 were by one of the two seniors.
And even though Prep has been so reliant on their two ACC-bound guards, they’re still one of the top teams in an ultra-competitive conference filled with future Division I talent.
Now they’re starting to get some consistent help, in the form of sophomore Chris Clover.
Clover, a 6-foot-3 wing, had a career-high 16 points to help Prep stay tied for the Catholic League with a 52-46 win over visiting Archbishop Carroll on Friday afternoon.
“Great win,” legendary Prep coach Speedy Morris told CoBL afterwards. “I have great respect for Paul (Romanczuk) and his team. They have a very good team, it’s a great win for us.”
As the snow started to fall outside, Clover got hot, hitting 6-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-5 from three, with all but two of his points coming after halftime. After averaging 5.0 ppg through Prep’s first four league games, he’s more than doubled that to 12.0 ppg over the last four.
“He’s getting better. He started out slow but I thought he did great,” Morris said. “16 points, 10 rebounds…we don’t win without him playing the way he did.”
“One of the top games I’ve played,” admitted Clover, who’s starting to really assert himself on the offensive end. “I’ve just got to stay more aggressive. Miles and Steve try to get me the ball, so I’ve just got to get open and score.”
Vasturia would score a game-high 17 points while Overton would add 11 and seven assists, but their younger teammate hit the big buckets when his team needed him to. After Carroll led by as many as 11 points early in the third quarter and 37-28 later on in the period, Prep (14-3, 7-1 Catholic League) began their comeback.
A 3-pointer by Clover cut the lead to one at 40-39 early in the fourth, and Kyle Thompson’slayup with 2:33 remaining gave Prep their first lead since 17-15 in the second quarter. Vasturia followed 20 seconds later with a three-point play, and the Hawks would make eight of their nine free-throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
The win moves Prep up into a tie with Neumann-Goretti at the top of the conference. Roman Catholic, La Salle College HS and Archbishop Ryan are all 6-1 in league play, though Ryan’s only loss came to Prep and they’ve yet to play any of the other three one-loss teams.
Carroll, which was hoping to stay within striking distance of the regular-season championship, now has quite a large gap to overcome.
“I thought we did a good job for two-and-a-half quarters, I thought we played not to lose the last quarter and a half,” Romanczuk said. “I thought the kids from St. Joe’s Prep showed a lot of poise and composure and experience, and even their younger guys played with more poise and more composure than our guys.”
After leading 8-7 at the end of the first quarter and 23-19 at halftime, Carroll looked like they would pull away early in the third quarter with three 3-pointers, including two by Joe Mostardi to push the Patriots out to a 32-21 lead. Morris switched defenses at that point, and it paid dividends.
“They switched to man and stayed out on our shooters a little bit better so it didn’t give us as clean a looks,” Romanczuk said. “Speedy’s one of the best coaches around, if not the best in this area, so he has to prepare for everything we’re going to do and then some.”
Archbishop Carroll (13-4, 5-3) countered by dumping the ball inside to 6-foot-9 sophomore Ernest Aflakpui, who had four inches on any player on the Prep roster and six on Overton, who he often was matched up against. Aflakpui showed his relative inexperience as he continues to refine his game after arriving from Ghana this offseason, missing several easy looks around the rim; he would finish with six points while 6-foot-6 sophomore Derrick Jones had seven, six below his season average.
“We need arnest and Derrick to be at their best in a game like this, against one of the best programs around. And we weren’t. We weren’t at our best,” Romanczuk said. “I thought we were good for two-and-a-half quarters, unfortunately the game’s four quarters.”
Yosef Yacob, a Binghamton signee, had 12 of his game-high 18 points for Carroll in the first half; Nick Jones (nine points) was the only other Patriot to score.
Saint Joseph’s Prep gets back into league action on Sunday when they travel to West Catholic for a 2:30 p.m. game. Carroll plays at Lansdale Catholic on Monday night at 7 p.m.