ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 74, LA SALLE 57
While P.J. Kelly decided to attend St. Joseph's Prep, many of his classmates from Gwynedd-Mercy Academy opted for nearby La Salle.
Since then, the hard-nosed point guard has enjoyed considerable success on the hardwood against ex-teammates Steve Smith and Jon Naji. That continued Friday afternoon.
With Kelly providing six assists and turning in a solid defensive effort against star Amar Stukes, the host Hawks pounded the Explorers, 74-57, in a Catholic League playoff quarterfinal at 17th and Girard.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior helped limit the La Salle University-bound Stukes, who poured in 33 points against the Prep during the regular season, to two points in the first 16 minutes.
"I wanted to keep him from penetrating," Kelly said. "I wanted him to shoot a three-pointer or long jumper instead of him getting into the lane."
Including freshman ball, Kelly, who nailed a second-quarter trey, is 6-0 against La Salle.
"P.J. is a tough kid and he's very quick," Hawks coach Speedy Morris said. "We don't look for him to score that much, but we see him as more than just a role player."
As part of a semifinal doubleheader Wednesday at the Palestra, the Prep, 19-4 and ranked No. 9 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, will likely take on No. 8 Roman Catholic (18-5) at 7 p.m.
Against La Salle, Miles Overton netted 19 of his 26 points in the first half. The Wake Forest commit totaled 15 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal.
"He was really feeling it early on," said Kelly, a second-year starter who shot 1 for 4 from beyond the arc. "I was looking to get him the ball as much as I could."
The Hawks stormed out to a 14-4 lead and, with a 12-0 burst at the end of the second stanza, were comfortably in front, 38-16, at the break. From there, the Explorers (15-8) would get no closer than 10.
Steve Vasturia (23 points, five assists), Chris Clover (13 points, seven boards, three blocks), and Kyle Thompson (eight points, seven boards) were also catalysts.
Stukes, slowed by foul trouble, finished with 18 points, including two treys. He was joined in double figures by Pat Cooney (16) and sub Malik Janifer (10).
Kelly, who committed four turnovers in 29 minutes, will likely wind up playing hoops at Scranton. "They started recruiting me last summer," the Blue Bell resident said. "I took a visit and really enjoyed it."
La Salle 12 4 17 24-57
St. Joseph's Prep 18 20 12 24-74
L: Amar Stukes 18, Pat Cooney 16, Steve Smith 6, Ryan Winslow 7, Malik Janifer 10.
SJP: P.J. Kelly 3, Steve Vasturia 23, Chris Clover 13, Kyle Thompson 8, Miles Overton 26, Dan Nedbal 1.