HARLEM, NY - When you go to face a team like St. Anthony's (NJ), with 3 D-1 commits and a Hall of Fame coach, you have to believe you can win, and on Saturday afternoon in the SNY Invitational Championship game, Long Island Lutheran believed they could win.
Coming off an impressive win over Cardinal Hayes on Friday, the Crusaders were confident in the goal, stop the 79 game winning streak of the Friars and pull off the upset. They had the opportunity to do just that, staying in the game and giving themselves a shot late, but poor FT shooting doomed Long Island Lutheran as they ended up falling 52-45.
Early on with near no one giving them a shot, Long Island Lutheran looked like the superior team. They started the game on an 8-0 run led by an up tempo pace that led to easy buckets in transition by Mical-Ryan Boydand Tawayne Anderson. St. Anthony's coach Bob Hurley would call a timeout to settle down his squad, and the breather worked with Hallice Cookeknocking down a left wing three to stop the bleeding. That 3 would be the start of a 9-0 for the Friars to see the Jersey power take their first lead of the game. The game would settle down after that with both teams trading the lead, but after Cooke hit his 2nd three of the game late in quarter, St Anthony's would take a 14-12 lead after 1.
The rhythm and the pace was seemingly where Long Island Lutheran wanted it though, and Anderson came out and nailed a corner 3 to start the 2nd, and after a Chris Atkinson steal, Anderson got the ball again and drove the lane and hot on a nice floater to give the Crusaders back a 3 point lead. If it wasn't Cooke for St. Anthony's early on though it was Kody Jenkins. The 6'4" wingman was able to press and harass the Lutheran backcourt and get back to back quick easy buckets to see the Friars jump back on top. Lutheran big man Kentan Facey wasn't a huge factor offensively in the opening half, but he was controlling the glass and the paint. Atkinson had a chance to tie the game up in the final seconds of the half, but the guard missed 2 FT's, and St. Anthony's went into the break up 24-22.
The 3rd started with Facet taking more control inside scoring on a beautiful drive showing an excellent ability to put the ball on the floor and finish against 2 defenders. It was tied at 27 with 6 minutes to go, but that's when St. Anthony's made their run.
Josh Brown, who had been quiet for much of the opening half put intense pressure on the ball and caused bad, to back turnovers in the backcourt, that on top of Copke continuing how lights out shooting helped St. Anthony's go on a 18-4 run which saw the game go from tied with 6 to go in the 3rd to Lutheran being down 14 with 1:22 to go in the quarter. The Crusaders did close strong with Atkinson converting on a pretty pull up jumper in the lane, but Facey picked up his 4th foul late in the 3rd that put him on the bench as St. Anthony's led after 3, 45-33.
It looked like it was over for Long Island Lutheran early in the 4th. Down 48-36 with just over 6 minutes to go, but you can never give up on a team that believes. Boyd would knock a corner three to seemingly ignite the Lutheran squad. Off a missed baseline jumper by Brown, Facey, who had just re-entered the game, would get the ball in the paint and get fouled. He hit both FT's to cut the deficit to 7 with 3:30 to go. The Crusaders could've gotten even closer but down 7 they went 1 for 6 from the line in crucial spots. Boyd would hit the 1 to make it 48-42, and Atkinson would then steal the ball from Brown off an inbounds and hit a three from the left side to make it 48-45 St Anthony's with 47 seconds to go in what was turning out to be a nail biter.
Hurley once again called timeout out to settle his team down and Brown would calmly sink a pair of FT's with 24 seconds left to make it 50-45. Long Island Lutheran drove the ball down the court and Boyd went baseline but was called for a charge that for all intensive purposes ended Lutheran's chances. Cooke made 2 more FT's and the Crusaders missed a couple shots late to end it as St Anthony's held on for the 52-45 victory.
St Anthony's was paced by Cooke's 22 points, while Brown added 10 points and 13 rebounds. Facey led Long Island Lutheran with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Boyd also added 13 in defeat.
It was not an easy way for Hurley to pick up his 80th consecutive victory, but after a quick turnaround from playing the late game last night, it was a win that the legendary coach will take.
"We knew they were a good team who could hit shots, we expected them to do that and they did. Coming back from last night and playing a quality team like that isn't easy. It really isn't enough time to prepare for a team the caliber of Long Island Lutheran, but it was a good grind it out character game for our kids."
He got a big time effort from the Oregon State bound Cooke whose 22 points included 6 threes, and after being in a few close games already this year, Cooke said the team knew exactly how to respond in the situation they were in today.
"We knew just to take it one possession at a time and be smart and stay poised. The tight games this season helped us today for sure."
On the other hand for Long Island Lutheran, it was done in by a 5 for 16 performance from the FT line. But Lutheran Coach John Buck after the game admitted that the poor shooting for the charity stripe is a result of just how good St Anthony's is.
"Give them credit, they wear you down so when you go to the line, you are gassed."
Even though the FT shooting may have hurt his teams chances, Buck still was proud of his teams effort against a team most fear when they step out on the court.
"I thought we played hard and we weren't scared. We showed no fear. We were fearless. A little extra toughness and a couple plays here and there and who knows."
In the end though St. Anthony's extended their unbeaten run to 80 in a row and took home the SNY Invitational Championship, but do the Friars have time to enjoy the win? Not for long according to Hurley.
"We have games on Monday and Tuesday so it's 2 scouting reports tomorrow and a practice in between. Not necessarily great scheduling but hey, this is H.S. basketball, so we can enjoy it tonight but its back to work in the morning."
Cardinal Hayes 67- Boys and Girls 59
After trailing by as many as 11 in the first half, a star performance by Chris Robinson helped the Cardinals get back even and pull away in the 4th to claim the SNY Invitational Consolation game 67-59.
Robinson scored 18 of his game high 24 points in the 2nd half, and Shavar Newkirk ran a nearly flawless at the point finishing with 17 points and 6 assists to help carry Hayes to victory.
"It was an important game for us. A lot of people were saying the PSAL teams are better than the CHSAA teams, plus they best us last year so we wanted to come out and get the win. It meant a lot." Robinson said after the win.
Romario Allen led Boys and Girls with 12 points, while Wesley Myers added 10 in the loss.
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