Greg Cantwell glided between the collapsing defenders and toward the rim. The Chaminade senior guard was looking to score the knockout punch against St. John the Baptist with the final minute approaching. As he went high he drew contact, but his aim was true and he came down hollering. When he completed the three-point play the margin was 10 with just 1:04 to play.
As Chaminade closed out the Cougars for a 65-56 CHSAA semifinal victory Sunday at St. Joseph’s College’s Danzi Center, Cantwell dribbled out the clock. For him, this was something to savor.
In the same round a year ago, Cantwell suffered a leg injury that looked grave enough that he had to be carted from the court to an ambulance. That severe ankle injury prevented him from playing as the Flyers captured last season’s championship.
"This postseason holds a lot of meaning for me because of what I missed last year, but its really about team opportunities and wanting to win championships together," Cantwell said. "It was hard not to be on the floor with my guys for last year’s (title game). I’m glad I had a senior season left."
Cantwell and top-seeded Chaminade (21-4) will try for back-to-back championships on Thursday night at Hofstra. They will meet second-seeded Holy Trinity, which beat No. 3 St. Anthony’s, 40-38, in the other semifinal.
Dave DeBusschere had a team-high 21 points including five three-pointers, Bradley Wyckoff had 18 points and Cantwell had nine points and nine assists and might have been the best player on the floor.
"Greg is never going to lead us in scoring, but he’s almost always our best player," Flyers coach Dan Feeney said. "He does all the little things that make teams winners."
"Because of how (last) season ended, we’re fighting for him a little bit," DeBusschere said. "But we’re also fighting for each other, trying to do something special together."
The Flyers’ start was anything but special. They didn’t make a shot for the first 3:30 as the speedy Cougars raced to an 11-1 lead. Then Chaminade found itself, starting hitting the offensive boards and making the extra pass. It closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run for a 19-18 lead and never trailed after that.
"They never feel out of it, even down 10," Feeney said.
The Flyers led by as much as 13 points in the third quarter before a St. John’s the Baptist burst cut the margin twice to five points, last at 52-47 as Steven Williams made one of two free throws with 4:24 to play.
Cantwell scored on a teardrop in the lane and assisted on a Wyckoff layup as Chaminade scored the next six points.
Williams finished with 15 points, Clinton Edfina had 13 points and Carter Wilson – a freshman called up midseason – had 12 points for the Cougars (14-10).
"I’m enjoying this season, but time is running out for me," Cantwell said. "I’m a senior so I am going to cherish every minute of it."
Holy Trinity 40, St. Anthony’s 38: The Titans’ 2-3 zone held St. Anthony’s to two field goals in the fourth quarter as they prevailed in the late semifinal to reach Thursday’s title game. Jonathan McCullers made a steal in the backcourt and scored on a layup with 25 seconds left in the third quarter for the game’s final lead change. Manu Alford had 14 points and Richard Neysmith had eight points and a big blocked shot in the final minute for Holy Trinity (14-10). Dakari Thomas had 17 points for St. Anthony’s (17-8).