The Pilgrim Patriots boys’ basketball team rallied back from a slow start and beat the Johnston Panthers, 70-58, Friday night on the road.
Senior and Bryant College baseball commit Matt Woods led Pilgrim with 21 points and his teammates Devin Franco and Xavier Monteiro had 12 points each, while point guard Dave D’Andrea finished with 10. Johnston’s Dylan Durante led the Panthers with 21 points, while Cameron Sabitoni contributed 12 points and Andrew Zalisk scored 11.
Johnston started the game on fire, sinking nine 3-pointers in the first half.
“They were unconscious between Sabitoni and Durante and we had hands in their faces,” Pilgrim head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “So, it was just a matter of time. They weren’t going to shoot that way the whole game, and so I think we had a better defense in the second half. I thought it was an excellent team effort tonight.”
Monteiro played well on both sides of the ball for Pilgrim.
“He’s coming around nicely,” LeBlanc said. “If you can’t play defense, you’re not going to play. Xavier was all about offense at the beginning of the year. He’s finally come around to playing some defense. And if you’re playing some defense, you’re going to get some playing time and his playing time has increased tenfold because he’s playing some defense. And when you play defense, your offense comes with that. It’s a nice little pair.”
The Pats won the opening tip and Woods took it straight to the basket and put a hook shot off the glass, giving Pilgrim a 2-0 lead.
Johnston answered that with some good ball movement around the arc before Dylan Janosk passed to Jason Canton, who left it inside for Zalisk and he made a layup, which tied the game at 2.
Then, the Panthers went on a 5-0 run. First, Zalisk assisted to Canton for a short-range jumper. Next, Durante assisted to Sabitoni, and he buried a 3 from the top of the arc and gave Johnston a 7-2 edge.
Pilgrim paused the spurt when Woods slashed to the hoop for a layup and pulled Pilgrim within three.
Johnston continued where it left off after that.
Zalisk rushed to the hoop and made a bucket off the glass. Then, Sabitoni brought the ball up to the top of the arc and buried a pull-up 3. After that, Durante assisted to Sabitoni for a jump shot and that increased the Panthers’ lead to 15-4.
Monteiro ended Pilgrim’s drought when he nailed a 3-point shot and then added a breakaway layup, which pulled the Pats within six. Then, D’Andrea made a 3 and inched the Pats closer at 15-12. On the next play, Monteiro scored a bucket after an assist from James Baldwin and got the Pats within one.
Johnston got a little separation when Zalisk earned a steal and made a layup. Next, Durante buried back-to-back treys and his teammate, Anthony Tavares, made a 3 of his own, which extended the Panthers’ lead to 26-14 with a little over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
With less than five minutes to play in the half, Pilgrim went on a spurt.
First, Devin Franco passed inside to D’Andrea for a bucket. Then, Franco dished down to Joe Gionti for a layup. Next, Franco made a pair of free throws and got the Pats within 35-28 with 1:43 left. Then, Gionti made two from the charity stripe and inched the Pats within five.
Johnston took a 38-32 lead into the break.
Woods made a running hook shot to start the second half. Then, Tavares answered with a layup for Johnston.
A few plays later, Pilgrim inched within 42-39 when Monteiro buried a 3. On the next play, Woods came down and spun before making an and-1, giving the Pats their first lead since early in the game. Woods scored a putback after that and extended Pilgrim’s lead to 44-41 with 12:16 left.
Two minutes later, Pilgrim increased its lead to seven when Woods grabbed a defensive rebound and heaved an outlet pass down to Monteiro for a fast break layup. Then, Baldwin dished inside to D’Andrea and put the Pats up nine.
Will Juarez stopped the shortage with a layup for the Panthers.
Then, Woods made another 3-point play when he scored an and-1 and put the Pats up, 53-43, with 9:05 left. Woods made back-to-back buckets after that, with a jumper from Johnston’s Zalisk mixed in between, making it a 12-point Pilgrim lead.
Johnston got within seven, but that’s as close as it would get.
“We just didn’t play any defense the first 10 minutes of the second half,” Johnston head coach Dan Mazzulla said. “That comes with maturity. You got to really want it; the passion to play. They played a great first half, they had some mental mistakes in the first half, but we should have built on what we had. We have a lot of young kids out there, guys not wanting it, not focusing. That’s pretty much been our story all year long, not putting it together, good play, more consistently for a longer period.”