Rutherford, NJ- This was going to be a challenge. Brian Gaccione did not mind and actually relished it. His St. Mary team would face Don Bosco in the Dennis Gregory Classic, In the end, the number one team in New Jersey posted a 75-58 victory over St. Mary. Friday’s game at Felician University saw Don Bosco improve to 10-2 (3-0 in conference). St. Mary suffered its first loss and is now 10-1 (5-0).
The game was close for over a quarter. Leading 18-14 midway in the second quarter, Don Bosco went on a 10-0 run. In the final analysis that spurt was decisive. "I told the guys that second quarter (Don Bosco) run was a big difference," Gaccione said. "After that run the deficit kind of stuck with us."
Trailing 37-21 at the half, St. Mary came out strong ‘winning’ the first four minutes by an 8-6 count. The Gaels trailed 43-29 midway through the third and could not sustain a run of their own. "I thought we defended well," Don Bosco coach Kevin Diverio said. "We lost track of (L.J.) Falconi a few times but overall we defended."
Early in the final period the Gael faithful erupted as St. Mary trimmed the lead to 11 points. Once again, Don Bosco responded and St. Mary could get no closer. On several possessions Dylan Harper, the Rutgers commit, utilized his quickness and 6’6" frame to slice through the Gael defense and convert. St. Mary looked to run. In half court the Gaels would attack the rim. The presence of 7’ Bosco sophomore Keiner Asprilla made that a difficult option. On occasion the Gaels would use ball movement and settle from long distance. "In the second half we handled the ball and moved the ball better," Gaccione noted. Ultimately the percentages of living on the perimeter caught up to the Gaels and Don Bosco remained in command. Bosco simply had the answers- featuring Dylan inside and out, Loughlin, an all around contributor and Asprilla inside.
"They gave us a good test, Diverio said praising St. Mary. "They have good players, can score points and Brian (Gaccione) does a great job."
A loss is tough to take but Gaccione did say, ‘I was proud of our effort. The kids looked forward to this game and we competed against the top team in the state with the top player in the country."
Players of note:
Dylan Harper. What else can you say of the Ironmen senior? Harper scored 23 points hitting from outside and, as noted, penetrating the gut of the Gael defense.
Brady Loughlin. Don Bosco’s 6’5" junior tied Harper for scoring honors with 23 points. A player with a great
Keiner Asprilla. Scored 11 but, as noted, his value lie in the ability to defensively clog the middle.
Victor Torres. The 6’8" St. Mary senior had his shot blocked several times by Asprilla. Regardless, he kept challenging the Bosco big man in the post. "Torres is very good has a great drop step," observed Diverio. "Torres stepped up and was great for us," praised Gaccione.
L. J. Falconi. a 14 point scorer for the Gaels, the 6’4" senior canned four from beyond the arc.
Luke Gaccione. Scored 12 points while distributing a team high five assists. A solid performance by the senior guard on this big stage.
Notes: Game MVP honors went to Harper of Don Bosco and Torres for St. Mary.
St. Mary had a quick turnaround having to face Demarest in the Public vs. Private Showcase at 2:30 the next afternoon.
Don Bosco is scheduled to face number 19 nationally, Archbishop Stepinac (NY) Sunday in the HoopHall Classic in Springfield (Mass.).
Close to home. Brady Loughlin is a Rutherford native whose grandfather Kevin Loughlin is a St. Mary graduate.
The late Dennis Gregory had ties to both schools. He coached St Mary CYO and later at Don Bosco.
Fred Hill was in attendance. The former Rutgers coach had Gregory on his staff when he guided the Scarlet Knights.
Maria Harper, the mother of Dylan Harper is an assistant coach for the Ironmen. Maria starred in high school and later played in college. She has been a head coach on the girls side in high school and AAU. Maria enjoys her role on Kevin Diverio’s staff but did add, "at times I miss coaching the younger girls (in AAU)."