St. Anthony's ascent to the upper echelon of the CHSAA began last season with a Federation Class A championship. It was a step in the right direction, but competing at the highest level was the ultimate goal.
Top-seeded St. Anthony's went through the regular season undefeated in league play this year and climbed another rung on the ladder by winning its first CHSAA girls basketball championship since 1988 with a 54-51 win over No. 2 St. John the Baptist Sunday in the finals at Hofstra. It was the third time this season that St. Anthony's beat St. John the Baptist, which won six of the previous seven championships.
Symone Kelly had 15 points and 12 rebounds, Micki Impellizeri had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Kerrin Maurer and Chastity Taylor each scored 10 for the Friars (24-2). Kamala Thompson scored 15 points and Alexis Smith added 13 for SJB (19-6).
"It's a new era for St. Anthony's," Impellizeri said. "We've never been ranked up that high the past couple of years. We're finally in that spot. It's great to finally be on top. It's been a long time since St. Anthony's has won this title and it's an honor to be a part of it."
Thompson hit a pair of free throws to give the Cougars a 48-46 lead with 2:38 left. Impellizeri hit two free throws and Kelly scored inside to give the Friars a 50-48 lead with 1:49 left.
Smith tied it at 50 with two free throws before Kelly scored on a putback with 1:03 left for a 52-50 lead. Maurer hit two free throws with 15 seconds left to seal it.
"I personally think no one on Long Island can stop our post play," Kelly said. "That was our strongest point and we used what we had, and that's me and Micki."
Taylor, a transfer from Central Islip, was ineligible to play until late January and then suffered a broken nose. The freshman, playing in her third game, hit two pressure free throws with 3:20 left to tie the score at 46.
"I had to get used to playing again," she said. "I didn't expect to play that much. I guess when you do good, you play more."
Said St. Anthony's coach Ken Parham: "She practiced with us all year long. We have one of the best practice players on Long Island. She stepped up and did some big things."
As did the Cougars over the last month after a sluggish start to the season. They scored at least 61 points in five consecutive games coming in.
"St. Anthony's played good enough to win," SJB coach Ted Oberg said. "If we play our game, we feel we're better than anyone else. On this day, they executed when it counted and some shots didn't drop for us and we made some mistakes. I congratulate St. Anthony's."
St. Anthony's will play St. Peter's in the first round of the CHSAA state AA playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Friday at St. Anthony's. St. John the Baptist will play Moore Catholic at 7:30 p.m. at St. Dominic. "This is a great win," Impellizeri said, "but we're not done yet."