Mimi Lizza wasn't allowed to play last season when St. Anthony's faced Buffalo Sacred Heart in the first round of the state CHSAA AA playoffs. On the bench for reasons she didn't want to comment on, she watched her team lose under a different coach.
The teams met again Sunday, and Lizza had 14 points and five assists for St. Anthony's in a 56-44 win in the state CHSAA Class A championship game at Cardinal Spellman in the Bronx. St. Anthony's (24-6) will get a bye into the Federation final on March 27.
"I was not allowed to play for certain reasons," Lizza said. "It felt nice to be able to play well after watching my team lose last year."
Lizza's leadership was cited by several teammates as one of the reasons for the Friars' success. The senior guard gave the team a pep talk at halftime yesterday.
"I always tell her you're the only senior we have," St. Anthony's coach Ken Parham said. "Please step up. We wanted her to be more aggressive after halftime, and she was. Her leadership has been big."
St. Anthony's dealt with numerous injuries this season, especially after four players were involved in a car accident in late January that ended the season for leading scorer Kerrin Maurer.
"After the accident, I thought it was downhill from there," Shannon White said. "Luckily, a lot of us came back quickly. We stuck together and Mimi really brought us together."
The score was tied at 26 at the half. Lizza assisted Micki Impellizeri for a layup with 6:02 left in the third quarter that gave the Friars the lead for good at 30-28. Lizza scored five points during a 13-0 run capped by a three-pointer by Jennifer Sixsmith with 6:25 left in the game that extended the lead to 48-33.
As usual, the Friars had contributions from several players. White scored nine points, Sixsmith had eight, Symone Kelly had 10 rebounds and Impellizeri had seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
"We have eight kids that play," Parham said. "I don't know who's going to have a good game. Jennifer Sixsmith and Shannon White came off the bench and played tremendous. Micki Impellizeri gets in foul trouble early and her little sister Jo comes in and does a great job.
"I'm surprised that with all the things that we've had happen to us that we stuck together, believed in each other and accomplished a goal that hasn't happened at St. Anthony's since 1987."
Said Sixsmith: "It's going to look great seeing that banner that says 2010 state champions."