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Union, NJ – In front of a packed house and arguably the game of the year thus far in the Garden State, Hudson Catholic proved it belongs, but still has some work to do.
Junior guard Lester Quinones scored a game-high 23 points, hitting five three-pointers highlighted by his 1,000th career point, and junior forward Precious Achiuwa added 19 points with 10 rebounds to lead national powerhouse St. Benedict’s of Newark (NJ) to a 66-60 victory over Hudson Catholic, No. 1 in the latest NJ.com Top 20 rankings, in the main event of the 15th annual Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children Basketball Festival (SFIC) at Kean University’s Harwood Arena Sunday.
Senior forward Souleymane Diakite added 12 points with five rebounds for St. Benedict’s (13-0), which is currently ranked No. 4 in the latest USA Today Super 25 rankings.
Senior guard Jahvon Quinerly had a team-high 22 points and Oregon-bound senior forward Louis King, senior guard Shackylle Dezonie, and Ohio State-bound senior forward Luther Muhammad each added 12 points apiece for Hudson Catholic (4-3), which saw its two-game win streak snapped.
After trailing 11-10 after the first quarter, St. Benedict’s got hot from downtown in the second, highlighted by three three-pointers from Quinones, but with 55 seconds left, Hudson Catholic had a spurt in them.
Quinerly made a layup but missed a free throw to cut the lead to three points. King had a steal and a resounding right-handed dunk with 22 seconds left to cut the lead to one, and then Quinerly scored off a turnover on a reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet to give the Hawks a 7-0 run to end the first half and a 30-29 halftime advantage.
Quinones led the Gray Bees with 14 points, including four three-pointers, in the first half and the Hawks had a balanced scoring effort with Quinerly leading the way with nine points, Muhammad with eight, and King with seven.
“I feel like our three was better than their three and we played together and played as a team,” said Quinones. “Things kind of opened up for us in that second half, especially the fourth, where Precious (Achiuwa) got some open looks and got some easy points driving to the basket.”
With the game tied at 43-43 after the third quarter, St. Benedict’s took control opening up the fourth on a 14-2 run, highlighted by five points from Quinones and culminating with a one-handed slam from senior guard Ebrima Dibba to give the Gray Bees a 57-45 lead with 3:33 remaining.
The Hawks cut the lead to six points twice and pulled within four at 61-57 on a Dezonie jumper with 59.9 seconds left, but could get no further.
“I think they did a good job of going to zone and that kinda slowed us down a little bit, but they are so physical and they wore us down a bit there in the fourth quarter. Our bench is young and inexperienced and I had to go to our veteran group so it wouldn’t get away from us,” said Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Marinello. “I like how we competed the whole game and St. Benedict’s is not your traditional high school team, they are extremely talented and our end game is trying to get to win a state championship and get to the Tournament of Champions. All of these games we played so far is going to prepare us for that down the road.”
Two tilts are on the slate this week for the Hawks as they host Marist of Bayonne (NJ) Thursday at 7 p.m. and will face Patrick School of Elizabeth (NJ) in the main event of the 12th annual Dan Finn Classic at the Jersey City Armory on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.