Jordan Augustus gave St. Mary's coach Tom Flynn the performance he had been waiting for Sunday.
This may seem strange, considering Augustus had played well all season and came into the CHSAA girls basketball championship game as the league's second-leading scorer. What made this performance different?
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Augustus played like Augustus, Flynn said, and that was bad news for St. Anthony's. The junior forward scored 29 points to lead No. 2 St. Mary's to a 66-59 win over the top-seeded Friars at LIU Post.
"We've been waiting all year for that,'' Flynn said of Augustus' performance, which earned her game MVP honors.
"That's not to say she doesn't play hard all the time,'' he added. Rather, he said Augustus brought extra intensity and leadership Sunday and "played like the player she is. She was not going to let them walk out without the trophy. The whole game, I could see it in her eyes. Today, the fire was there.''
Said Augustus: "I wanted my seniors to leave with a championship, and that gave me a lot of heart.''
She said the "fire'' also came from last season's title-game loss to St. Anthony's, which gave the Friars a third consecutive CHSAA crown. "It was heartbreaking,'' Augustus said. "That one loss motivated us for the whole year.''
Augustus' 10 fourth-quarter points helped St. Mary's (21-5) open up what had been a tight game. The Gaels won the quarter 18-12 after starting it with a 9-1 run.
The score was tied at 30 at halftime, and St. Mary's led 48-47 after three quarters.
Augustus had help from a usual source in Mei-Lyn Bautista, a junior guard who scored 10 points and made two fourth-quarter steals.
Bautista and Augustus led St. Mary's all season, but Bautista thought the best was yet to come.
"We spoke last night,'' Bautista said. "I said, 'Jordan, everyone thinks we're one of the best combos in girls high school basketball and we haven't even shown them yet. So let's go out and show them.'
"That's what we did today.''
Then there were the "wild cards.''
"In these games,'' Flynn said, "you expect the great players to play good, but there's always gonna be that wild card, that kid that you don't expect to have the game of her life.
"Jordan, she's a beast, Mei played great, Mckayla Hernandez and Jasmine Bryant played their game. But Liz Limonta was the wild card.''
Limonta had 12 points off the bench. Other "wild cards,'' Flynn said, were Charlotte Renker, a force in the paint, and Taylor Tanner, whom Flynn praised for her defense and rebounding.
Charise Wilson led St. Anthony's (22-5) with 18 points.