Barnes helps Saint John’s basketball blow past intra-town rival Shrewsbury

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Barnes helps Saint John’s basketball blow past intra-town rival Shrewsbury
Nick Barnes sprints past Shrewsbury’s defender. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – Nick Barnes couldn’t be stopped in the third quarter.

It started with two-straight 3-point shots and a hard-won lay-up. Then, before the packed Saint John’s fan section could catch its breath, Barnes nailed another 3-pointer.

“I got that one open look and I made that. I came down the court the next play, and I got another open look. I was just like ‘I’m going to let it fly.’ My teammates kept finding me. I’m going to keep shooting those every time. I’m confident – and we’ve got to win,” Barnes said after the game.

When all was said and done, Barnes had scored 11 consecutive unanswered points in about 30 seconds, nearly as many points as Saint John’s opponent and closest rival – the Shrewsbury Colonials – scored the entire first half. Barnes led both teams in scoring with 20 total points.

“He’s just a heck of a basketball player,” said Saint John’s Head Coach Robert Foley.

Barnes’ hot streak was the highlight in the less-competitive-than-usual intra-town rivalry matchup. Although fans can ordinarily count on the “Battle of the ’Bury” for start-to-finish action, Saint John’s was the better team from the start, dominating the Shrewsbury Colonials, 53-28, at home on Friday night.

Barnes helps Saint John’s basketball blow past intra-town rival Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury’s Nathan McQuade holds off AJ Asamoah-Pratt. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

The shots weren’t falling for Shrewsbury, which managed just 12 points in the first half. The Saint John’s defense was suffocating, and the Colonials struggled to grab rebounds all night.

“During the game, all we did was talk about defense. We’re going to be the best defensive team around – and [Shrewsbury] had trouble scoring. These kids [are] great defensive players,” Foley said.

Foley credited Noah Basgaard with propelling the team to victory, calling him “the guy that makes us go.”

“Everything revolves around him,” Foley told reporters after speaking to his team after the game. “Teams can’t press us because we throw him the ball and he finds someone alone… He does a heck of a lot for us.”

And for Basgaard, who hails from Shrewsbury, the game had special meaning.

“[Playing Shrewsbury] does change the meaning. It’s a big game for everyone, but we still approach it the same as any other team. The same intensity and everything. But, it means a lot, especially for me, to come out and beat these guys,” Basgaard told the Community Advocate.

Shrewsbury – who won against Saint John’s in double-overtime earlier in the year at Assumption University – seemed to have found a spark early in the third quarter after Julian Cho’s 3-point make, but Saint John’s stayed steady. Barnes quickly took over the quarter.

Barnes helps Saint John’s basketball blow past intra-town rival Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury’s Nate Nardella drives toward the basket. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

“Obviously we had more of a chip on our shoulder. We lost to them earlier in the year, and we don’t want to lose to them again. We just knew they were going to play hard – they always do – and we had to match their intensity. That’s what we did,” Barnes said.

While both teams are preparing for playoff action, the win was an indication Saint John’s basketball has survived an up-and-down season. The Pioneers finished their schedule 8-12, including a stretch of six straight losses, but closed regular-season action by winning 4 of 5 games.

“I think we’ve come an awful long way, and we’re getting better. We’ve always said ‘Make the tournament and see what happens.’ We’re ready,” Foley said.

“We’re feeling confident. We’re playing our best basketball right now,” Barnes said.

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