March 9, 2012
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Kyle Anderson and St. Anthony held off their latest challenger with a
PISCATAWAY – Every year there is a challenger to the throne of St. Anthony looking to take the Friars' title as New Jersey's best boys basketball program. Often in the past decade the threat had come from St. Patrick of Elizabeth. But with the school no longer in the same section, already eliminated from the state tournament and soon to be no longer in existence, the Friars did not even have to look outside of their own city to find a new contender. Hudson Catholic has emerged from the doldrums to become one of the state’s best teams. The Friars were well aware of its emergence and on Thursday night they were out to show that the gap between being the state’s elite and being one of the state's best is still a sizeable one.
Top-seeded St. Anthony raced out to a double-digit lead less than four minutes into the game and never looked back in winning the Non-Public North B title with a convincing 53-30 win over No. 3 seed Hudson Catholic at Rutgers University.
“We thought we matched up well with them and the matchups worked out as we hoped that they would,” said St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley. “We knew if we were going to stop Hudson Catholic, we had to slow Kavon Stewart from going to the basket and shut down Reggie (Cameron) by pushing him out as far beyond the three-point line as we could. I thought we did an excellent job of both and that is what helped us seize control early.”
What also helped was the play of senior forward Jerome Frink. With the Hawks’ defense designed to stop UCLA-bound guard Kyle Anderson, who scored 100 points combined in his previous three games, Frink had some room on the interior to do damage. He did just that by hitting his first four shots during a 13-2 run to open the game.
“They were playing me one-on-one and I saw an opportunity to set the tone,” said Frink. “You never want to give an opponent any momentum early because they can carry it throughout the game. We wanted to be the ones who controlled the pace and getting that early run allowed us to do that.”
Hudson Catholic battled back to within three on a basket by Rakwon Kelly, but the Friars responded with four free-throws from Anderson to push the lead back up to seven by halftime, 23-16.
St. Anthony put the game away early in the third quarter with Hallice Cooke scoring seven straight points and adding two steals in an 11-1 run. The Hawks cut to it 34-24 on a deep three from Cameron heading into the fourth quarter, but never got any closer. Josh Brown, who did a great job defensively on both Stewart and Brown all night, scored four straight points to swing the momentum back toward the Friars for good as they snapped the Hawks’ 21-game winning streak.
“I thought we did a poor job of executing in the half court and you can’t afford to do that against a team like St. Anthony,” said Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Marinello. “We couldn’t get Reggie the ball enough and we just did not run a crisp offense for most of the game. When we cut it to three, we had two empty possessions and never really recovered from that. Against St. Anthony’s, there is a very small margin of error and we simply made too many mistakes. But the core of our team is back next year and we’ll learn from this experience.”
Frink led four players in double-digits with a game-high 18 points for St. Anthony, which is 29-0 this season and has now won 62 games in a row. Cameron (13 points) was the lone player in double-figures for Hudson Catholic (25-3).
St. Anthony’s will play for the Non-Public B state championship on Sunday against Gill St. Bernard’s. That game will be the first of a quadruple-header at Rutgers University with tipoff at noon.
After a long season with plenty of transition both on and off the court, the Friars are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and a repeat of their title is in their grasp.
“This was a real solid performance and we’re one step closer to where we want to be,” added Hurley. “There has been a lot of transition as of late, but when your number is called and you go onto the court, you have to step up. I thought we had our lapses and there’s still some work to do be done. But overall, I thought we played well against a good team and we’re getting in a position to do something special.”
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