There wasn't much difference between Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist Friday night except for one thing: Emma O'Connor. St. John the Baptist had no answer for the Kellenberg senior forward.
The Marist-bound O'Connor had 20 points, 20 rebounds, six blocked shots, five steals and three assists in a 54-49 win over visiting St. John the Baptist in CHSAA girls basketball.
Kellenberg (3-0, 1-0) also got a clutch performance from sophomore Khadijah Donaldson, who had six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter. Donaldson scored on a putback with 33 seconds left to give Kellenberg a 49-46 lead. Donaldson missed a free throw after getting fouled, but O'Connor grabbed the rebound and it led to a three-pointer by Nicole Trepeta for a 52-46 lead with 28 seconds left.
Kamala Thompson scored 19 points, Lindsey Minor had 13 and Brianna Thomas, who fouled out with 3:06 left in the game, added 11 for SJB (0-3, 0-1).
The Cougars showed their trademark aggressive defense in the second half, making it very difficult for Kellenberg to get any rhythm on offense after the Firebirds scored 29 points in the first half. SJB took its first lead since early in the first quarter when Thompson scored on a putback with 2:10 left in the third quarter to make it 34-33.
Thomas then forced a steal and went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line to make it 35-33 before O'Connor hit a three-pointer to make it 36-35 with 21 seconds left. O'Connor hit another three-pointer off the glass to give Kellenberg a 41-37 lead with 6:22 left in the game.
"They were playing tough defense in the second half," O'Connor said. "Those were the best shots available so I took them."
More than one minute later, O'Connor's layup made it 43-39 with 5:13 left. SJB just wouldn't go away. Kellenberg went ahead 47-41 before Thompson hit a three-pointer with 2:30 left to bring the Cougars within 47-46.
St. John the Baptist played without two starters. Alexis Smith, one of the top guards on Long Island, has a fractured right ankle and she is expected to be out for two weeks. Sophomore forward Anastasia Williams didn't play because of a concussion and is likely to miss one week. Both players suffered the injuries last Sunday in Maryland against Holy Cross (Md.) in the Breezy Bishop Classic.