MANHASSET, NY- Coming into Tuesday's game against St. Anthony's, no one on the current St. Mary's roster had ever been a part of a winning effort against the Friars. That just speaks to the domination that St. Anthony's has had in the NSGCHSAA in recent years, but St. John's bound guard Kadaja Bailey '18 was out to do whatever needed to change that tide.
It wasn't easy as the Friars led for much of the game, but Bailey wouldn't let her team down when they needed her most as she would score a game high 49 points to lead the Gaels to their first win over St. Anthony's in three years, 77-68 in Double OT.
Bailey said she has felt for a while now that the St. Anthony's team felt they were better than the Gaels, and that's something that has bothered her for some time. She felt as if they first matchup between the two schools this season was given away to the Friars and on Tuesday she was out to make a statement.
"They thought they were a better team than us, but they aren't a better team than us and we wanted to prove that tonight," Bailey stated.
The only way to do that was to get the elusive win against the defending NSGCHSAA champions, but from the outset things weren't looking good for the home team as Tamia Lawhorne '19 was having her way around the basket for the Friars. Every time Lawhorne touched the ball in the paint she was making a move to score which enabled St. Anthony's to build up an early lead.
It wasn't a dominating lead, but the Friars led from near the start in the opening half to take a 21-20 lead into the break.
St. Anthony's was bending but not breaking into terms of defending against Bailey as the future Red Storm star had 12 points in the first half, but she wasn't getting that many good looks with most of her points coming on offensive rebound putbacks.
That was something the Friars would live with as Lawhorne kept having her way inside, and when Toni Kinard '19knocked down her first three of the game with 5:58 left in the 3rd quarter, St. Anthony's had their largest lead of the game at 30-22.
Admitting they had made some mistakes, Bailey said at that point it was go time as she felt someone had to step up and take control of the game for St. Mary's, and that someone was going to be her. She was scoring in the open floor with ease, while also finding the likes of Naja Fenelon '19 and Laura Bogota '21 open on the wings for jumpers which helped the Gaels get back within 2 early in the 4th.
A Lily Ratzikis '18 three ball would tie the game at 45 with 5:46 left in the 4th quarter, and while others for St. Mary's were scoring, that would be the last FG of the game for the Gaels by someone other than Bailey.
Knowing when to put the team on her back, Bailey was beginning to find her rhythm as she was connecting with floaters and runners in the lanes, while pushing the tempo and getting to the rim at will when she wanted. With the game all tied up in the final seconds of regulation Bailey was able to step back from two defenders and get a good look at a three ball for the win, but the shot fell off the right side of the iron sending the game to OT tied at 53.
At this point there was little doubt in Bailey's mind that they were going to lose as she admitted that there was no way she was going to allow the Gaels to fall short once again, and having scored all 8 of St. Mary's points in OT, including 2 FT's with 2.6 seconds left, it looked as if the Gaels were going to pull it out going up 61-59.
Off a timeout, St. Mary's would come back to the court with 6 players of the floor. When the ball was given to St. Anthony's to inbound from midcourt the referees blew their whistles and called the technical foul for too many players on the court. It was a complete mental error that would cost the Gaels dearly when Kinard calmly stepped up and knocked down both FT's to tie the game at 61. Luckily for St. Mary's, the Friars couldn’t get off a good look on the ensuing inbounds play, sending the game to a 2nd OT still tied, this time at 61.
It was a brain fart of the highest proportion that almost caused St. Mary's, a mistake that Gaels head coach Kevin White said should never have happened.
"We substituted in after that timeout and whoever subbed in didn't speak to the person she was going in for and we got stuck with 6 on the court," White explained. "It hurt for a couple seconds but we just had to regroup and get ourselves together to finish out the game strong."
For some teams coming back from a mistake like that would be difficult, but Bailey said she was even more motivated to not let that one error define them as a team, and in the second extra session Bailey backed up her winning desire as she had 5 offensive rebounds and impressively scored all 16 points in the period for the Gaels. St. Mary's would take the lead for good with 2:41 left on a Bailey putback, never looking back after that.
It wasn't easy, and as proved late in the opening OT, not always pretty either but with Bailey carrying the Gaels with her 49 points and 18 rebounds, St. Mary's was able to get the win they so wanted, finally knocking off St. Anthony's in 2OT's, 77-68.
While Bailey scored 49 points, Bogota the young freshman had 11 points with Fenelon adding 8 for the Gaels who now have the confidence and belief that they can knock off the talented Friars.
For St. Anthony's it was Lawhorne who led the way with 26 points before she fouled out early in the 2nd OT, while Ashia Smith '19 added 15 points as well in the loss.
A major statement making win for St. Mary's, the Gaels beat St. Anthony's for the first time in three years and have now split the season series with the Friars heading into their next matchup on March 3rd for the NSGCHSAA Class AA Championship. That will determine the CHSAA State representative in Class AA for the Rockville Center Diocese, and while some may still doubt them, Bailey says she confident and ready for Part III.
"We had to come out and prove something and we did that. We proved we can beat them and that we are the better team and I'm definitely looking forward now to March 3rd."