ROSELLE, NJ- After a sluggish first quarter where both teams couldn’t get much momentum going on offense, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders boys varsity basketball team took to the floor for the start of the second quarter, hoping they would be able to find their game.
The Crusaders opened the second quarter and instantly found it with a huge punch from the three-point line. They drained 12 three-point shots in total (seven of them in the first half), blowing the game open in the second quarter, outscoring their opponent 24-5.
The Crusaders defeated the St. Rose High School Purple Roses (Belmar) by a final score of 72-44, a part of the Tom Richel Hoopfest Memorial Showcase Saturday afternoon at Roselle Catholic High School.
Johnson found themselves trailing St. Rose early by a score of 4-0 just two minutes into the first quarter, before putting together passes and reaching the basket to get on the board. Visconti and junior Brenden Kelly added four points each in the quarter, as the Crusaders led 11-8 after the first eight minutes of play.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first quarter,” Johnson senior George Visconti said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the new floor [or the] different court. For whatever reason, we just weren’t shooting well transitioning into the second quarter.”
In the second quarter, senior Joe DiProfio ignited the team’s offensive punch, draining back-to back-to-back three-point baskets to give Johnson a 20-8 lead with 5:55 left in the second quarter.
The Crusaders weren’t quite done in the quarter, suffocating the Purple Roses with their defense, turning stops and turnovers into offensive chances.
“A good defense kind of gets us going and then we get into a little bit of a rhythm,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We had a slow start, but fortunately, we were able to get things going and adjusting to the gym [and] the bigger floor.”
Johnson opened the quarter on a 13-0 scoring run, with Visconti and DiProfio leading the charge, as their team led 24-8 with four minutes left in the second quarter.
The rest of the quarter saw Johnson drain three consecutive three-point shots from junior Brandon Hund, Kelly and Visconti. Johnson held St. Rose to zero points for the first four minutes of the second quarter, adding to the onslaught behind the arc and towards the rim.
“The last couple of games, we’ve been sharing the ball with everybody, all five guys,” Hund said following the win. “Getting open looks, everybody was just knocking down their shots.”
By the time the quarter was over, Johnson held a 35-13 lead over St. Rose at halftime. The Crusaders’ change of their play improved drastically and had everyone excited with all their shots falling to give themselves the comfortable lead.
“We picked up our energy,” DiProfio said. “In the first quarter, we were kind of flat, not a lot going on. As soon as we picked up our intensity on defense, everything started going right.”
With the third quarter underway, Johnson continued to extend their lead, receiving back-to-back baskets from Hund, who finished with 13 points in the win.
The Purple Roses put together a quick 8-0 scoring run with senior John Crowley draining a three-point shot, Calloway connecting for a basket and John Beattie draining a three-point shot that make it a 39-22 lead with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
The Crusaders instantly responded behind the arc, with Kelly, Hund and Visconti burying a three-point shot each, as Johnson took a 55-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
“For the rest of the game, we shot very well,” Visconti said. “I think it’s because we were finding teammates and getting into an offensive rhythm and we were having very good shot selection.”
“If you put those two things together, a majority of our shots do go in, so it was great to see,” he added.
In the final quarter, Johnson cashed in on their shots to maintain their lead, including one final three-point shot from DiProfio. The Crusaders led by as much as 61-27 with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Visconti finished with 20 points, while DiProfio finished with 16 points and four three-point shots. Kelly tallied 13 points, along with two three-point shots.
The Crusaders took their starters out of the game with three minutes left and the second group of players finished with the game, capturing their fifth consecutive win and sixth of the last eight games, losses in that span coming to New Providence and St. Peter’s Prep.
“We want to challenge ourselves with really good teams and we lost to good teams,” Kennedy said. “Nothing’s changed, but we’re getting better and we look forward to Dayton [Tuesday]. That’s the next game we’re going to play well.”
“It was a really good team win for us,” Kennedy added.
For St. Rose, senior Ethan Tombs scored nine points in the loss, while senior David Calloway scored eight points.
The Johnson Crusaders (11-5) return home and will play Jonathan Dayton HS (Springfield) on Tuesday, February 6 at 7:00 p.m. in the team’s Senior Night.