The Panthers take down the Cadets in an early season contest of the top ranked teams in the WCAC. (Andrew Kloc for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Leading to Thursday’s anticipated contest between No. 1 Paul VI and No. 2 St. John’s, most of the buzz focused on each team’s overflow of talented athletes committed to the likes of Georgetown, Miami and George Washington. But Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello’s focus fell on a trio of his players — Evan Taylor, Joshua Reaves and Tyler Scanlon — known on college radars but often overshadowed by their more heralded teammates.

“Coach always says that every game will present different types of situations,” Taylor said. “It’s not always about scoring. We have to be ready to adjust and step up and make plays wherever we’re needed.”

With Taylor (10 points), Scanlon (eight points) and Reaves (10 rebounds) leading the way, the deep Panthers were able to pull away from St. John’s for a 71-51 victory in Northwest.

Both teams came out with a desire to push the tempo. However, St. John’s found the most success in the early stages. The Cadets nailed three three-pointers to build a 13-7 first-quarter lead while the Panthers turned the ball over on four of their first five possessions.

St. John’s (2-1, 0-1 WCAC) worked to create more points off of turnovers in its full-court press, but by the second quarter the Panthers began to get buckets in transition off of rebounds and outlet passes.

Marcus Derrickson especially benefited; he scored 11 second-quarter points to spark a 13-0 run.

“I knew they were going to try to take away the inside because they are fast and athletic, but we can run, too,” said Derrickson, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “I knew if I could get in the middle in those open lanes, we could get points and take control.”

James Palmer (18 points) worked to keep St. John’s in contention with several perimeter shots and strong drives to the bucket. His pace, however, was not enough to keep up with Paul VI’s array of weapons on a night when eight Panthers scored.

Paul VI (4-0, 3-0) also used its size advantage to dominate the boards, outrebounding the Cadets by a margin of 56-24.

The dominance helped to build a 9-0 run and extend the lead to 15 after three quarters.

“We have a lot of depth and our bench did a great job of giving us energy after we started a little slow,” Farello said. “I have a lot of confidence in all of these guys and if we can keep building chemistry and playing together, this can be a special team.”