Tyla Parham, Chastity Taylor lead St. Anthony's girls to state CHSAA semifinal
Tyla Parham has become somewhat of an Internet celebrity. The St. Anthony's senior has over 100,000 Twitter followers and more than twice that many on Instagram.
She's built that following by serving as a pseudo-social media counselor, frequently posting advice and words of inspiration.
"I just try to help people who are feeling down," Parham said. "If I can say or do something to encourage others, help them in any way, I'll do it. I just want to make everyone smile."
Having that mind-set, it's no surprise she also is a point guard for the basketball team. And with Parham's help Wednesday night, the Friars all are smiling now.
Parham dished 10 assists, orchestrating an up-tempo offense, as host St. Anthony's rolled to a 61-47 victory over Archbishop Molloy in the CHSAA state quarterfinals.
"Tyla is the floor general," said teammate Chastity Taylor, who had 22 points, nine rebounds and four steals. "Having someone like her is a huge help because she can see everything on the court . . . If you're open, she's finding you."
The Friars were open, and she found them. This game never was close, as St. Anthony's opened with a flurry and led 13-4 after the first quarter.
This was the third consecutive year these teams have met in the quarterfinals, and each of the previous two years the Friars' season ended in close, heartbreaking defeats.
"When a team knocks you out two years in a row, you're happy to make sure it's not three," said Friars coach Ken Parham, Tyla's father. "Our kids knew that and they were aggressive, right out of the gate."
Charise Wilson's steal and layup with 5:34 left in the first gave St. Anthony's a 4-2 lead it never relinquished. Parham then hit Taylor on a long outlet pass for a layup -- the first of several such sequences. "I'm a pass-first point," said Parham, who had two points on two shots, "so my job is to make everyone look good."
Aryn McClure scored 16 points for No. 3 Molloy (15-12).
With the win, No. 6 St. Anthony's advances to the state semifinal for the first since 2010 and will face St. Mary's at 8 p.m. Friday at Holy Trinity. The Friars' run of three straight CHSAA league titles was ended by St. Mary's last week.
"It wasn't hard to get refocused and fired up," said Wilson, who had 14 points and six assists. "We knew we had Molloy next."
Coulter Bowlen added four points and nine rebounds for St. Anthony's (23-5). Kalifa Davy scored seven, and Jayla Jones-Pack had six points and three blocks.
And there was Parham, with nagging perimeter defense and that quick crossover she used to repeatedly penetrate and set up teammates.
"She does a lot of little things to help us win, like making the smart pass or drawing a charge," Wilson said of Parham. "She gives us energy and she's definitely a leader."
Well, people do seem to follow her.