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James Walsh helps St. Anthony’s cruise into CHSAA final

Josh Nicholas of St. Anthony's, left, and James

Josh Nicholas of St. Anthony's, left, and James Walsh react as their team closes in on a 73-54 win over Chaminade in the CHSAA boys basketball semifinals at LIU Post on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. Credit: James Escher

St. Anthony’s James Walsh knew he was going to get hit, and hit hard. But the feeling once he got up made the play feel painless.

“I just knew the shot was going up,” Walsh said. “I had confidence in myself. Josh made a great pass, I was just able to knock it down.”

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Walsh stayed in the corner as a Chaminade defender charged in his direction. The senior knocked down the three-pointer — his third of the game — and completed the four-point play to produce a 14-point lead in No. 4 St. Anthony’s 73-54 victory over No. 1 Chaminade in the CHSAA boys basketball semifinals at LIU Post on Sunday.

Despite the Friars’ lower seeding and their two losses to the Flyers by a combined 29 points in the regular season, they entered the game confident.

“It was a big factor,” said senior Josh Nicholas, who led the team with 15 points. “We just wanted to come into this game and pick up the intensity and just play our heart out just to get to Hofstra.”

The Friars (19-6) will face No. 2 Kellenberg (21-2) in the CHSAA championship game at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hofstra.

Tyrone Lyons was an inside presence early, corralling six of his 12 rebounds in the first quarter and finishing with 11 points. Coach Sal Lagano credited Lyons and senior James Pryor (eight points, 14 rebounds) for controlling the paint.

Lyons, a sophomore, said he was doing it for his senior teammates.

“I was very motivated,” Lyons said. “As a sophomore, I know I have two more years, but for my seniors, I had to show them what this meant.”

Senior Mike Mariconda added 13 points and eight assists and Walsh, who came off the bench, finished with 14 points.

“Off the bench, I’m kind of a spark to help the team get going again,” Walsh said. “If we get stuck and nothing’s really happening, I can come in and try to get a couple shots and keep us in the game.”

The Friars’ zone defense trapped and attacked Chaminade’s shooters and inside players. Lagano compared his team’s timely defensive performance to another winter sport.

“It’s like riding a hot goaltender in hockey,” he said. “We are just riding the wave right now. Everybody’s dialed in. You got to make things happen and I’m just telling the guys, ‘Do something nobody thinks you can do.’ ”

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