Grace Stone and Jenna Silletti have been waiting for this moment. The Long Island Lutheran duo went from being reserves to starters. From being the ones who play off the ball to the ones who command it. From being role players to captains.
And now they’ll look to help Lutheran win a fourth consecutive state Federation championship. Their first opponent, though, is a team whose home court is just a short drive down the Northern State Parkway. In a matchup of the most talented girls basketball teams on Long Island, LuHi will face St. Anthony’s, the CHSAA state champion, in the Federation semifinals Friday at 1 p.m. at the Times-Union Center in Albany.
“St. Anthony is like what we were the last couple years,” LuHi coach Rich Slater said. “Upperclassmen. Battle-tested in big games. I’m asking my younger kids, who have never been in this situation before, who were good role players, to be starters.”
Stone, a sophomore, transitioned from being a wing player to the starting point guard, a position that opened with the departure of Boogie Brozoski, who plays at Michigan. Silletti went from playing limited minutes the last few seasons to being an impact post presence. Sarah Mortensen, an exchange student from Denmark, has emerged as the leading scorer. Alyssa Torres, a transfer from Connetquot, was called this weekend’s “X-factor” by Slater. Celeste Taylor, with tremendous upside, has been thrust into a starting role despite being a freshman.
They’ve developed into a well-rounded team that shares and protects the ball, and gets contributions from multiple sources.
“A lot of people counted us out this season because we lost so many seniors,” Stone said. “But a lot of us really rose to the occasion and we really made a name for ourselves. We helped LuHi stay as one of those top-tier teams that we’ve always been.”
While LuHi will be looking to extend its dynasty, the Friars are hoping to make school history by capturing their first Federation championship. “To go out with a Federation title,” St. Anthony’s coach Ken Parham said, “would be a great accomplishment for the seniors.”
Among those seniors are five Division I players: Jayla Jones-Pack, Etalyia Vogt, Taylor Goode, Sarah Edmond and Ally Murphy. They are joined by Maia Moffitt, a junior guard who had a career-high 25 points in the league title game against St. Mary’s, and others to form a group that has sacrificed minutes and statistics for the sake of winning. The Friars defeated Christ the King and Monsignor Scanlan en route to winning a state title, setting the stage for their game with Long Island Lutheran.
“They have length,” Parham said of LuHi. “Fundamentally, they are really sound. They play really hard. They defend well. They rebound well. They’re a well-coached team.”
Slater was equally as complimentary of St. Anthony’s, which features multiple perimeter players who can create off the dribble and slash to the basket.
“We have our concerns with what Anthony’s has that we don’t have,” he said. “They’re really athletic. They’re aggressive. They chase the ball really well on the glass. They’re well coached. We have to be smart, we have to take care of the ball, and not allow any easy transition buckets.”
Added Stone: “I think with the amount of work we put in and with the game plan we have, if we play the way I know we can play, I’m pretty confident that we can get another title.”