FITCHBURG — When the shots weren’t falling early, the Bernardians leaned heavily on their defense.
But after halftime, the St. Bernard’s boys basketball team got red-hot and sank any slim chance of an upset Immaculate Heart of Mary may have clung to Tuesday evening.
The Bernardians used a 22-2 edge in the third quarter to put the game out of reach, rolling to a 63-30 victory over the Eagles at the Activity Center to get back to .500 on the season.
The victory lifts battle-tested St. Bernard’s to 5-5 on the season, while the guests from Still River fell to 1-4.
“It’s nice to get to 5-5 and be at .500 with some tough games ahead of us,” St. Bernard’s head coach Paul Constantino said. “Being in Division 5 and playing the likes of St. Paul, a Division 1 team, and Hudson and some of the other teams we play helps us in the power rankings, but we still want to go out and win games. Tonight we were able to execute and get a win.”
Senior captain Patrick Ginnity led St. Bernard’s with 11 points to go with nine rebounds, while classmate and fellow captain Damien Jones had 10 points and six steals. Junior Manny Vega chipped in with nine points, while senior Domenic Beaudoin came off the bench to chip in with eight points and 11 rebounds.
The Bernardians forced 26 turnovers in Tuesday’s game, scoring 41 points off of takeaways. Ahead with a comfortable 34-16 lead due to the defensive pressure at halftime, the hosts erupted in the third quarter to take a 56-18 lead to the final stanza.
“I’ve got a good group of kids and they work hard,” Constantino said. “We had a zone working for us early on and switched to man later and we were able to cause some turnovers. I know I’m going to get a good effort from these kids every night.”
Oli Rodriguez (seven points) scored the first four points of the third before Nicholas Bacon (13 points) answered for the Eagles. But Rodriguez followed with a 3 and Vega connected on a trey as well as the Bernardians began to run away with things.
Fastbreak layups from Vega and Beaudoin highlighted the 12-0 run the Bernardians put together over the final 3:10 of the third.
“The kids turned it up after halftime,” Constantino said. “We had a good lead, but they took it to another level.”
The visiting Eagles made things interesting early, going up 4-3 on a Finian O’Brien jumper two minutes in and knotting the game at 5 on a Danel Habchy free throw a minute later.
But the Bernardians responded by scoring the next eight points of the quarter, with Jones starting the run with an old-fashioned three-point play. Beaudoin added a fastbreak layup before Ginnity scored the next four points for St. Bernard’s to up the lead to 14-5.
Nurmi added a steal and score before Hachby ended the run, scoring on a jumper with 46 seconds remaining in the frame to cut the St. Bernard’s lead to 16-7.