Jeremiah Carter #3 of St. John the Baptist leaps to...

Jeremiah Carter #3 of St. John the Baptist leaps to grab a rebound during the second quarter of the CHSAA boys basketball semifinals against St. Anthony's at Farmingdale State College on Sunday, March 3, 2024. Credit: James Escher

St. John the Baptist has many capable scorers, but it showed that its defense is just as potent when things got close.

The sixth-seeded Cougars defeated No. 2 St. Anthony’s, 48-45, in the CHSAA boys basketball semifinals on Sunday at Farmingdale State.

The Cougars (14-11) allowed just six points in the third quarter, 17 in the second half and ended the game with three impressive stands. They forced a missed layup, a steal on a cross-court pass and forced a miss on a potential tying three-point attempt.

“We took a lot of pride in our defense, especially since they knocked us out of the playoffs last year,” Jeremiah Carter said. “We were hungry and we knew that in the last two minutes, we had to dig in defensively.”

St. John the Baptist began the fourth quarter trailing 36-29. After St. Anthony’s (14-10) got a quick score from James Taylor Jr. Jeremiah Carter responded with back-to-back three-pointers that cut the lead to 36-35.

“In the second half, they were blitzing screens,” Carter said. “If they went under, I felt like I had my shot, so I tried to exploit that.”

The Cougars grabbed their first lead since the first quarter when Chris Williams was fouled going to the rim and converted two free throws to make the score 37-36 midway through the fourth.

“Last year, we were one of the worst defensive teams in the league,” Williams said. “We had to work in the offseason and to start this year. We showed everyone today that we really can play defense.”

The Cougars took the lead for good when Carter hit a foul-line jumper, giving his team a 43-42 advantage.

Williams was a key component in keeping the Cougars’ deficit to just 28-20 at halftime. He scored 10 their first-half points, and exploded down the lane for a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd to its feet for the Cougars’ final points of the half.

“Anyone can step up and it just happened to be me early on,” Williams said. “We just have to get it together in those times that we’re struggling, and we did that today.”

DJ Lisbon took on the challenge of guarding St. Anthony’s Kevin Moore. He face-guarded Moore and tried to deny him the ball for most of the second half.

“We knew we needed to try to shut him down. We couldn’t let him orchestrate big plays,” Lisbon said. “It feels great to be the one that was trusted with the opportunity to guard him.”

St. John the Baptist will play top-seeded Chaminade in the championship on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Hofstra.

“It was all about persistence and resolve,” Lisbon said. “We came out of the half with a stronger mentality and locked in.”

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months