For three quarters, New Rochelle and St. John’s Prep were gridlocked in a riveting back-and-forth affair on the court, with neither team able to create any semblance of separation.
With Prep nursing a 59-58 lead heading to the fourth, Nate Hobbs decided enough was enough.
The junior guard asserted his will, jamming home a pair of vicious dunks on back-to-back possessions to give the Eagles their largest lead of the afternoon and an eventual 83-69 victory in the first round of the BABC Holiday Classic Tuesday night at Cathedral High.
While the 6-foot-1 Hobbs (27 points) garnered the ooh’s and ahh’s, it was junior Tommy O’Neil who made the largest impact, racking up 32 points and 21 rebounds in a breakout performance against a smaller New Rochelle group.
“[Coach John Dullea] just told me to go out there and play as hard as I could and lead the team, so I had to,” said the 6-8 O’Neil. “I hadn’t had a great first couple games and this really sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
With Prep (4-0) trailing, 56-54, O’Neil traversed away from the paint, stretching his range to the top of the key with a 3-pointer that gave the Eagles their first lead of the half. That set the table for gasp-inducing dunks by Hobbs.
“We were kind of dying down a little bit,” O’Neil said. “You could see them upping the pressure on us so (those dunks) really got us going to close out the game. That was great.”
O’Neil continued the barrage, adding two buckets of his own – part of a 16-4 Prep run to put the game on ice.
Senior Jarrett Haines led New Rochelle with 16 points, 9 from downtown. Senior Matthew Long added 15 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.