On the basketball court, St. John’s Prep junior Nate Hobbs is almost impossible to miss.
A blur of speed, jumping prowess and overall athletic ability, Hobbs made his presence felt Monday at the BABC Winter Classic, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the second half to lead the sixth-ranked Eagles past 10th-ranked Brighton, 68-63.
“That’s a very good team we just played,” said Prep coach John Dullea. “They shot the lights out. It’s always good to play a nonleague game, a city team, [because] we don’t get a lot of that in our conference.”
Brighton (5-3) jumped in front early, riding a 3-point-heavy attack to a 36-25 halftime advantage.
The Eagles (7-1) began to assert their height advantage after the break, but each Prep surge was met with an answer from the Bengals.
Finally, with less than a minute to play, Dullea’s bunch broke through. An offensive rebound by senior Brett McNiff led to a wide-open 3-pointer for Hobbs, giving the Eagles a 66-63 lead.
“We just had to close out with a hand in the face and box out and get the long rebounds because whenever they missed, the rebounds would go out closer to half court [and] we’d have to chase the ball,” Hobbs said.
“[Our big men] were very important because we had a height advantage.”
Junior Tommy O’Neil put the game on ice with an offensive rebound of his own and two subsequent free throws.
The Eagles closed the afternoon on a 23-6 run.
Junior Laqu Howard led Brighton with 23 points.
Owen Pence can be reached at email@example.com.