BRAINTREE — The matchup against their Catholic Central rival Archbishop Williams Tuesday night was their first game in 12 days, but the Cardinal Spellman boys’ basketball squad did not take too long to shake the rust off.
Sure, junior Rory Donovan accidentally knocked the opening tip out of bounds, which Archies turned into a quick lead.
But seconds later, the Cardinals went to their bread and butter, lofting soft, easy passes to their big men, including Donovan, in the paint.
The 6-foot-6 center was fouled twice while making a pair of baskets look easy for a Cardinals’ cushion they never gave up en route to an 86-58 win. The following night, Spellman secured the conference title with an 81-66 win at Arlington Catholic.
The victories were representative of their season as a whole. In the win over Archies, Donovan and junior forward Joey Crane collected 23 points apiece as Spellman (14-3, 11-0 Catholic Central) used its height, along with its agility and overall athleticism, for the comfortable win. They were two of the four players scoring in double figures.
“Our starting five contributes every night,” said senior captain Paul Preziosi, a forward. “It’s tough [for other teams] when you have that many people scoring evenly. We have guys coming off the bench doing the same thing, coming in and playing nice.”
It is hard to pick out the Cardinals’ clear-cut top offensive threat. Crane is technically the scoring leader (13.2 points per game), but Donovan (13.0) and Preziosi (12.0) are not far behind.
Then there is junior captain Ryan Roach (11.0), the third-year floor general who greases the team’s offensive wheels by averaging a team-high seven assists.
“Big guys are nice,” said head coach Mike Perry, referring to Donovan, Crane (6-4), and Preziosi (6-4).
“But a good point guard goes a long way. . . . Every year he’s just gotten a little better, a little bigger, a little stronger. He can handle the ball, and he gets it to the right hands.”
In any given matchup, though, the “right hands” can belong to someone different, and that is what makes the Cardinals so dangerous.
Tuesday night, when Spellman fought off a valiant effort by Archbishop Williams, there were four go-to hands: two from Donovan and two from Crane.
The shaggy-haired big man combined for 46 points, and Donovan could have had more if he had converted more than five of his 12 free-throw attempts, something he admittedly has to work on.
Sticking with their averages, Roach put up 11 and Preziosi 10 against the Bishops.
Spreading the ball around has proven particularly fruitful after the graduation of last year’s star, 6-foot-5 Joey Glynn, now on scholarship at Bentley. Instead of relying on one main player, making it easy for opponents to create a defensive game plan, the Cardinals can pass to anyone at anytime.
“It makes us so much better,” Donovan said. “We’re an all-around threat.”
Perry said such balance comes from simple experience. Most of the four main scorers have played with each other for three seasons — discounting an eighth-grade all-star game, during which a team featuring Donovan, Roach, and Crane blew out the other team by 30 points, Donovan claims — so their familiarity with each other can only help.
“We all trust each other,” said senior captain Liam Quinn, who shifts over to the point when Roach gets into foul trouble.
“When you have the ball and when you’re passing it, I know I have confidence in my teammates that they’re going to make the right decision, make the good play.”
Spellman allows a league-low 46.9 points per game.
Donovan, a wide receiver on the gridiron who is being recruited by several Division I programs, is physical if unrefined on defense, like, well, a football player. He can sometimes lose his temper, according to Perry, but he is known for coming up with a big swat every once in a while. His three blocks per game are a team high.
A confident bunch, the Cardinals are not shy in talking about their desire to win it all.
Roach was one of the Cardinals who got a tantalizing tease when Spellman advanced to the championship game at TD Garden his freshman year, but last year the team got bounced by Wareham in the third round.
“That’s our goal,” Preziosi said. “That’s what we work hard for in practice every day, because we know we can get there.”
Then Roach — or Toasty to everyone except his coach — chimed in.
“We’ll see,” said Roach, unable to hold back a half-smile. “We don’t want to do that [fall short] again. We want a state title, and . . . we’re working hard every day.”
Great expectations for Noble & Greenough girls
If the Noble & Greenough girls don’t seem too excited about their 20-0 record, they may have a reason: The program has lost only two regular-season games in 10 years.
This season is a little different for the nine-time defending Independent School League champion, says coach Alex Gallagher, because last season, for the first time in 25 years, Nobles won the Class A title.
“We’ve reached the summit, and a lot of people say it’s harder to stay there than it is to get there,” said Gallagher. “And we’re working real hard to stay there.”
Gallagher said the team receives contributions from all 16 players on its roster, minus one who has been hurt the entire season. Only one of the four captains, senior Hannah Peterson, is a starter, a testament to the team’s depth.
The biggest strength, the coach says, is the backcourt. Nobles relies on a trio of Wellesley residents, juniors Lauren Dillon and Kate Kerrigan, plus freshman Katie Benzan.
“Our guards always show up,” Gallagher said. “Having great guards make us feel confident.”
Nobles visited Rivers Friday, and will play Governor’s Academy (Wednesday) and Milton Academy (Friday) before tapping off in the postseason.
Here and there
In his 23d season on the boys’ bench at Braintree, Bob Crook earned his 300th career win Tuesday night with a 59-53 Bay State Conference Carey win over Weymouth. Of more importance, though, the Wamps (10-7) qualified for the Division 1 South tourney with the win. . . . When the Silver Lake boys lost to North Quincy, 82-64, Tuesday night, it was the team’s first loss in more than a month. The Lakers (12-6) had run off nine straight after starting their season with a 4-5 mark.