This wasn’t how No. 1 Kellenberg — or most anyone for that matter — saw this one going. Who could’ve guessed that Kamala Thompson, the St. John the Baptist forward who hadn’t quite lived up to her billing as a show-stopping scorer, would not only find her groove, but leave the Firebirds scorched?
And when Kellenberg trailed by a point at the end of the half yesterday in the CHSAA girls basketball final at Hofstra University, even fewer would’ve figured the final score: 58-47 St. John the Baptist, thanks to two full quarters of Cougar domination.
St. John the Baptist coach Ted Oberg merely smiled when asked about Thompson, who scored a season-high 24 points, including four three-point shots to lead the No. 3 Cougars over the team that snapped their five-year CHSAA championship reign last year. St. John the Baptist (16-10) will play Christ the King March 13 at 7 p.m. at Bishop Ford.
“She’s been battling an ankle injury all year,” Oberg said of Thompson, whose previous high was 17 in a non-league loss to Sachem East on Dec. 17. She scored 11 points total in her last three games, but Oberg said he was “not surprised” by Thompson’s efforts.
“She’s very, very capable of those types of numbers,” he said. “She will score.”
Thompson proved her coach right early in the game, with a high-arching trey off an assist from Alexis Smith to give St. John a 9-8 lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter. Emma O’Connor’s layup put Kellenberg (16-7) up again, but Thompson and Laura Quicker helped St. John regroup and end the quarter with a 13-10 lead.
Kellenberg drew to within 25-24 to end the half, propelled by O’Connor (21 points), who scored six in the final 1:30 — the last two points coming on a short fadeaway with 29 seconds remaining. O’Connor scored another two to open the second half, but Thompson struck again with a layup to make it 27-26 for St. John and kick off a 6-0 run. It was a lead the Cougars would never relinquish as they outscored the Firebirds 18-8 in the quarter.
“All season I knew I could be an offensive threat,” Thompson said. “But it’s a strong team marked by many players who step up. One of my players was off and I needed to step up.”
St. John’s Brianna Thomas, one of the team’s top scorers, was held to four points. Smith finished with 12 points, including four in the third.
“We talked about not letting up ,” Smith said. “We could sense they were tired and we knew all that hard work would pay off.”
Kellenberg was undone by turnovers at the start of the second half, allowing steals by Brianna Thomas and Thompson, who both converted for baskets.
“We wanted to put up a fight,” said O’Connor, who scored her 1,000th career point during the game. “We did that, but we made mistakes and that cost us in the end.”