JERSEY CITY, N.J. - St.Anthony’s coaches and players knew the defense of its title would not be easy. The Friars had sights set on repeating as Hamilton Park Summer League champions but realized there were several worthy challengers. When the smoke cleared last Thursday and the Friars defended the championship there was a slight surprise. The team they defeated 51-48 in a tough contest was not Hudson Catholic. Rather it was another in-city power, St. Peter’s Prep.
In the semifinals Prep eliminated Hudson 55-49 in overtime. Hudson had been knocked out of the Parochial B State Tournament by the Friars last March. With virtually everyone returning, the Hawks were projected as a possibility to keep St. Anthony’s from defending their Parochial and New Jersey State Tournament of Champions crown this Winter. An early season matchup in the Hamilton Park League between the two schools served further notice as Hudson emerged victorious.
In the semis, Hudson was without arguably their best player, Reggie Cameron. Still, there was ample talent for the Hawks who defeated Prep this past season for the Hudson Counter championship.
In a transition game with a premium on defensive pressure and attacking the basket on offense, the three-point shot is still a big part of a team’s arsenal. There were threes attempted but interestingly not one was hit until Matt Halchek of Prep buried one from the corner with 1:50 to go. Only two more treys followed Hallcek’s but both played a major part in the outcome. With seven seconds remaining Kyle McLeggan of Hudson canned a trifecta to put the Hawks up by two. Following a timeout, Prep pushed the ball and tied it on Austin White’s buzzer beating penetration basket. White paced all scorers with 20 points. In overtime, the only field goal for either team was a three by Prep’s Jean Cummings.
In the other semifinal, St. Anthony’s raced to a 33-6 halftime lead en route to a relatively easy 55-21 victory over Bayonne.
The final saw St. Anthony’s run out to an early ten-point lead. Prep, as in the Hudson game where they trailed by six on two occasions, responded and maintained poise. The guard play of the Marauders improved as the game went on. They handled the St. Anthony’s pressure with increased calm and by halftime it was a two possession game with St. Anthony’s ahead 27-21.
White canned two threes just after intermission and St. Peter’s was right in the thick of things. They took a brief lead but St. Anthony’s quickly responded entering the fourth quarter with a 34-32 lead. The Friars never relinquished the lead but had some anxious moments. Even the final 2.7 seconds saw them with a 51-48 lead as Tarin Smith missed both free throws, secured the offensive board only to miss a shot. Prep rebounded but had no time to attempt a shot of any consequence. The Friars could breathe a sigh of relief before celebrating another championship.
A breakdown of possessions and points per possession follows. Each possession was recorded long hand (no official detailed box scores are available) and results were organized by half.
|St. Anthony||First Half||Second Half||Final|
|Points per poss.||1.01||.69||.85|
|Points per poss.||.88||.80||.83|
Overall, by their points per possession, Prep had the more consistent halves. St. Anthony’s offense was impressive the first half but struggled the final 16 minutes. Possessions increased dramatically the second half. This was not due to transition and all out uptempo play. Rather there were more possessions as Prep trailing late, was in a late-game fouling mode.
St. Anthony’s managed just four field goals the second half against Prep. The Friars were 16 of 29 from the line. That’s not a great percentage (55 percent), but sophomore Shaq MacFardland was 4 of 4 from the charity stripe and junior Cheddi Mosely canned 4 of 5 at crunch time.
- St. Anthony’s was coached by varsity assistants Ben Gamble and Ed Malloy. Prep head coach Todd Decker directed his team. Former Prep coach Mike Kelly took in the semis and watched most of the Prep game with Hudson head coach Nick Mariniello. Hudson assistants ran the team as Mariniello observed. Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley watched the semifinals from the stands and missed the championship game due to a Reebok commitment.
- Missing key personnel is just an accepted part of summer basketball. Teams often lose a marquee player or two to another commitment. As noted, Hudson was without the services of the talented Reggie Cameron in the semifinals. In the championship, St. Anthony’s missed talented veterans Hallice Cooke, Josh Brown and Tim Coleman. Not once did respective coaches refer to absent players as completely influencing a game’s outcome. As mentioned, not having your full complement of a squad on a given night is a Part of Summer basketball.
- Tarin Smith led St. Anthony’s in the finals with 16 points. Austin White and Sean Cummings shared Prep scoring honors with 14 points each. Despite not playing the final, St. Anthony’s Hallice Cooke was playoff MVP. No argument here on that selection.
- Due to inclement weather the semifinals were at School Seven in the Heights section of Jersey City. The finals moved back outdoors to the Hamilton Park Courts on a beautiful evening.
- Officials included one from the NBA and WNBA. Kane Fitzgerald, an NBA official, Bonita Spence of the WNBA and Big East plus Tom Fitzgerald, a respected high school official and Kane’s father, comprised an outstanding crew on the championship contest.