The wait is over. After 23 years, the girls basketball team brought home the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA title on Sunday. It took a gutsy finish for the Friars to knock off four-time defending champion , 54-51.
With the game tied at 50 and 1:13 remaining, St. Anthony’s coach Ken Parham called a time out. Sophomore forward Symone Kelly got the ball and promptly scored on a spin move to give the Friars the lead for good at 52-50.
It was only fitting the game went down to the final moments. After facing No. 2 St. John the Baptist (19-6) two other times this season, top-seeded St. Anthony’s (24-2) was well aware of who it was dealing with at Hofstra University. This was the sixth meeting between them over the last two seasons, including a Friars loss in the title game a year ago.
“There were no secrets, we knew about them and they knew about us,” Parham said.
With 40.2 seconds left in the game, Alexis Smith dribbled down court and found a heavily guarded Anastasia Williams in the paint. Williams pivoted and tried to find open space down low to score. She threw up a shot that rimmed out. St. Anthony’s retained possession and the St. John’s didn’t foul until 17 seconds left in the game. After a series of St. John’s fouls and time outs to stop the clock, St. Anthony’s held on to win the game, 54-51.
Heroes: St. Anthony's was led by Kelly, who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Center Micki Impellizeri added 13 points, 7 boards and 6 assists.
The tandem of Alexis Smith and Kamala Thompson was dominant in the first quarter for St. John the Baptist. Smith got to the basket early and drew fouls with aggressive drives to the basket. She had 13 points and 4 assists for the game. Thompson had 15 for the game.
Turning Point: After an impressive , Kelly struggled to finish under the basket early in the game. She scored only three points in the first half, but got into a groove and scored 12 points in the second half. She tied the game at 38 going into the fourth quarter.
Then the crowd in attendance got both teams fired up. Budding freshman Chastity Taylor gave the undefeated St. Anthony’s some inspiration as she cleanly blocked an attempted layup by Alexis Smith in the first minute in the fourth quarter.
As St. Anthony’s had a 41-40 lead at 6:13 in the fourth, things got a bit more intense for both teams and each team had some lead changes.
Kristen McMahon made a basket and was fouled. She made two free throws to tie it at 44 apiece. At the very next possession, Alexis Smith would steal the ball on a St. Anthony’s possession and score to give St. John’s a 46-44 lead.
Kelly was then fouled and tied the game after free throws. At the 1:50 mark of the game, Kelly would continue her scoring ways as she scored four more points in the late stage of the game.
Quotable: “There were a lot of nice things that happened for us in this game, we kept attacking the basket and stuck to our game plan,” Parham said.
Bottom Line: In his second season at the helm, Parham has . While the Friars played in the league title game for the first time in two decades a year ago, St. John the Baptist won. Still, the Friars advanced to the state CHSAA Class A playoffs -- and won. Now the Friars are playoff league champions for the first time since 1988.
St. John the Baptist had its string of four straight league titles ended, but will advance in the state CHSAA Class A playoffs.
Key Stat: It was a gritty game defined by turnovers. St. Anthony’s had 21 turnovers while St. John’s had 15. The game was won in the fourth quarter by St. Anthony’s.
Upcoming: State CHSAA Class AA playoffs. Staten Island-power St. Peter's @ St. Anthony's, Friday.
Girls Basketball: Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA Championship
Teams..........................1.....2.....3.....4 -- F
St. John the Baptist......13.....9...16...13 -- 51
St. Anthony’s...............18...10...10...16 -- 54