Rams Crusade to Victory in Friday Night Thriller! (Highlights Included!)

Steven Fudenna, Staff Writer

In Oratory’s first and only Friday night basketball game, the Rams looked to bounce back from their loss at home vs. Union Catholic. The squad took on Arthur L. Johnson of Clark, a long-time rival whose matchups against Oratory always result in a chippy ending, regardless of the sport. Leading into Friday night’s game, the Rams were a solid 10-10 on the season, aiming to break .500 and gain momentum for the final push of the season. A myriad of parents and students flocked to the game, eager to see the boys defend their home court against the Johnson Crusaders.


The Rams demonstrated how physical the game would be early on, with Sophomore giant Tommy Conniff violently swatting away Johnson’s first field goal of the game. On the following defensive possession, Freshman Mike Pirone blocked another layup attempt by Johnson. After giving up a 3 pointer, the Rams got their first bucket of the game off of a perfectly executed pick and roll by Senior Co-captain Peter Byrne who found Conniff for an easy layup down low. Fellow Senior Co-Captain Declan McKee got his first points of the game off of a three-pointer, bringing OP back from an early 9-3 deficit. Conniff continued to cause terror on defense, rejecting his second shot of the night, leading to an offensive drive resulting in 2 free throws for Pirone. For the beginning of the game, Oratory’s trademark 2-3 zone defense wasn’t working to its potential, so Daugherty ordered a switch to man-to-man defense. This switch proved to be effective, as the Rams turned positive defensive possessions into buckets. Byrne hit a 3 off a nice series of passes from McKee and Senior Co-Captain Tyler Maloney, bringing the game to 10-11. McKee finished a slick reverse layup to pull OP ahead 12-11. Byrne and Junior James Boylan each racked up a steal, resulting in Boylan’s first points of the game. However, the shots that OP didn’t swat away were converted by Johnson, putting them ahead 16-14 after 8 minutes of play.


Byrne got hot for the Rams in the second quarter, knocking down a triple to put the team ahead, once again. Boylan poked away another steal, which Byrne picked up and took down the court, drawing free throws and scoring both. On the following drive, Byrne hit a deep catch-and-shoot three in the face of Johnson’s point guard, erupting the Rowdies. The game remained close throughout the quarter, as the Rams and Crusaders exchanged buckets on consecutive possessions, with both sides taking and losing the lead. Byrne connected on his 3rd 3-pointer of the quarter, giving OP a surge of momentum and enraging the sweat-drenched Johnson coach. Shortly after, Maloney threaded the needle on a fastbreak, setting Pirone up for an easy layup. The following possession, Byrne intercepted a pass and found Pirone on another fast break, where he drew free throws, sinking both. Once again, the boys stayed busy on defense, with Maloney picking up a steal and sending an outlet pass to Byrne, who executed an acrobatic jumping pass to Pirone to finish on the break. OP went into the half-time break with waves of momentum, and a 33-30 lead.

Pirone picked up the second half right where he left off, bullying his way inside to finish an acrobatic layup for the first points of the 3rd quarter. However, quick buckets from Johnson put them up by 1 early in the half. The Rams took back this lead quickly though, after Byrne lobbed up a pass for Conniff who finished down low. Multiple defensive efforts from McKee, including a block and some steals, helped OP generate some fluidity in the third quarter. Maloney sunk his first 3 off of an assist from Boylan, changing the tide of the game and putting OP up by 5. Yet Johnson kept fighting, keeping the score close after forcing some turnovers and scoring some easy points. 


OP entered the 4th quarter leading by 1 point, with the atmosphere of the gym more hectic than ever. The Crusaders got the first score of the 4th quarter, taking the lead. But Byrne brought the boys back into the game, knocking down a deep contested three to put the Rams up by 2. McKee scored after throwing the defender off on a pump fake and finessing a layup inside. McKee finished another layup on the following drive, putting OP up 48-43. Byrne then sunk a free throw to extend the lead to 6, and Conniff recorded a block on the following defensive possession. On offense, once again, it was Pirone driving hard to the lane, converting an and-one layup and sinking the free throw, giving OP a 52-45 lead with just under 3 minutes to go. In the final moments of the game, the intensity was at its apex, but the Rams kept their composure, putting together strings of defensive stops, including a drawn charge from Maloney, silencing the Johnson crowd. Byrne and Pirone each sank some clutch free throws towards the end of the game, finalizing a 57-53 victory. Byrne and Pirone led the scoring columns, racking up 20 points and 13 points respectively, with Byrne connecting on 5 of his 9 3-point field goal attempts. The Rams were hounding on defense, poking away 11 steals, including 5 from James Boylan. This statement victory puts OP in a good headspace going into Thursday night’s game vs. Madison for Senior Night.