Haladyna carries Prep
Fourth-quarter surge turns back Mansfield
With four minutes left in last night’s Division 1 state semifinal, St. John’s Prep desperately needed someone to step up.
The call was answered by junior Steve Haladyna, who scored 10 of his 20 points late in the fourth quarter to lift the Prep over Mansfield, 64-55, at TD Garden.
“He won the game for us down the stretch,’’ St. John’s coach Sean Connolly said. “He hit some big shots and he always comes up in big games. Pat [Connaughton] and Mike [Carbone] were struggling, but he stepped up for us.’’
With his team leading, 48-44, and 3:15 remaining, Haladyna knocked down a jumper to expand the lead to 6.
After Mansfield’s Joseph Gracia hit a 3-pointer, Haladyna came back down the court and drained another jumper to make it 52-47.
“I had a tough first half, so I wanted to step it up in the second,’’ Haladyna said. “Mansfield’s a great defensive team and it’s tough to score on them, but we toughed it out at the end.’’
Connaughton, who finished with 15 points and 23 rebounds, hit two free throws to stretch the lead to 9 (56-47).
Mansfield’s Michael Lofton (10 points) scored on the ensuing possession. But again, Haladyna came up clutch with a free throw.
Lofton scored again, but Haladyna sank another free throw to make it 58-51 with 57 seconds to play.
After a Connaughton dunk and a Mansfield score, Haladyna scored 4 straight points, including two free throws, to make it 64-53 to ice the game with 20 seconds left for St. John’s (24-1).
“I struggled with my free throws in the first half,’’ Haladyna said. “But I made some big ones in the end and that’s what you have to do in these types of games.”
Senior Jeffery Hill finished with 20 points to lead Mansfield (24-3), but he fouled out when St. John’s Owen Marchetti took a charge with 3:47 to play.
“When we struggled offensively, Jeff just motored,’’ Mansfield coach Mike Vaughn said. “He gave us everything possible — he just has a drive to win.’’
Sophomore forward Isaiah Robinson helped drive St. John’s with 8 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we tried to tough it out on the boards,’’ Robinson said. “I feel like I can score on most players. I’m comfortable down low and I know I can play, so there was really no pressure.’’
St. John’s will play Saturday against the winner of tonight’s game between St. John’s of Shrewsbury (20-3) and Northampton (21-2).
“We want to win a state championship, that’s why we’re going,’’ Connaughton said. “It’s the last four days in my St. John’s Prep career and it’s going to be the toughest four days [preparing]. But it’s going to be the best if we can come out on top.’’