UNION – Seeking to bounce back from a tough road division setback, the Johnson boys’ basketball team overcame seven deficits to take the lead in the fourth quarter against St. Peter’s Prep.
However, unlike last year when Johnson outscored the Marauders at home, St. Peter’s Prep – sparked by senior strongman Shayne Simon – muscled its way back inside to take control of the game from the middle of the fourth quarter on.
After junior point guard Brenden Kelly drained his third and final 3 to give the Crusaders their fourth and final advantage, St. Peter’s Prep outscored Johnson by 10 the rest of the way to produce a hard-fought 59-51 victory in the second of Saturday’s four Investors Games played at Kean University’s Harwood Arena.
Simon was the difference in the second half, scoring 14 of his team-high 16 points, almost all of them coming from inside or from the free throw line after getting fouled.
Fellow St. Peter’s Prep senior Brendan Thiele finished with 15 points, including 13 in the first half, with nine of them coming in the first quarter.
Johnson senior guard George Visconti paced all scorers with an 18-point effort that included five-of-eight from the field and seven-of-eight from the free throw line.
“We didn’t convert at the end,” Visconti said. “We played hard defensively and with a lot of heart.
“We competed for 32 minutes.”
Visconti now has 1,800 career points. Johnson has seven regular season games remaining on its schedule in addition to any county and state tournament games that will follow.
Additional regular season games are sure to be added. Johnson had one game scheduled against Cranford snowed out.
Kelly scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, going strong to the hoop for several layups to add to his three successful long-range (3-point) jumpers.
Kelly’s 3 from the top of the key put Johnson up 46-45 with 5:16 to go.
Simon immediately answered for St. Peter’s Prep by giving the Marauders the lead back for the eighth time and for good, scoring inside once again.
Simon then followed with two more free throws and later in the fourth produced a conventional 3-point play to put St. Peter’s Up by six at 54-48.
Johnson senior Jeff Drajin then drained a 3 from the right side – his only points – to make it a 54-51 game with 37.7 seconds left.
Following necessary Johnson fouls, St. Peter’s Prep scored the game’s final five points from the free throw line, with junior Jack Petite scoring all three of his points and Thiele his final two.
“St. Peter’s Prep is a very good team, very well-coached,” Visconti said.
St. Peter’s Prep won its second straight to improve to 9-3.
Johnson lost for the third time in four games to slip to 6-5.
Johnson defeated St. Peter’s Prep 64-59 at home last Feb. 15.
The Crusaders will close January with consecutive Union County Conference-Sky Division road games, including at Roselle Park Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., at Oratory Prep Jan. 27 at 1 or 4 p.m. – Johnson schedule says 1 and OP sked says 4 – and then at Dayton Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m.
Johnson is then set to host Brearley on Feb. 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Johnson’s final scheduled Sky Division game is at home on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. vs. Dayton.
Johnson lost at New Providence 79-65 Thursday (Jan. 18) night, with the teams splitting division games against each other. Both have just one division loss in the quest to win the Sky Division. Johnson captured the crown the past two seasons.
“New Providence is very tough and we had a big gap to start off with,” Visconti said. “We didn’t play our best team basketball.”
Scotch Plains 57, Hunterdon Central 53
Peter’s Prep 59, Johnson 51
Roselle Catholic 75, The Patrick School 63
St. Mary’s, Elizabeth 59, Union 49
ST. PETER’S PREP (9-3) 15 13 15 16 – 59
JOHNSON (6-5) 11 16 11 13 – 51
ST. PETER’S PREP MARAUDERS (59):
3-Brendan Thiele, senior, 4-1-4-15
5-Jack Petite, junior, 0-0-3-3
1-Will White, sophomore, 3-0-1-7
10-Mark Walker, senior, 5-0-2-12
32-Shayne Simon, senior, 5-0-6-16
22-Dimitri Plexidas, senior, 3-0-0-6
Starters: Thiele, Petite,
White, Walker, Simon.
JOHNSON CRUSADERS (51):
14-George Visconti, senior, 4-1-7-18
33-Joe DiProfio, senior, 1-2-1-9
3-Jeff Drajin, senior, 0-1-0-3
5-Brenden Kelly, junior, 3-3-0-15
2-Brandon Hund, junior, 3-0-0-6
12-Ross Wildes, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Visconti, DiProfio,
Drajin, Kelly, Hund.