It took some strange sort of playoff alchemy for St. John the Baptist -- the same team that won one league game all season -- to get in reach of that gold-plated plaque. And Wednesday night at Hofstra, it was one showstopping star that brought it home.
Kyle Williams, the 6-9 sophomore center with a trademark fluorescent blue mouth guard, concocted a career-night: 34 points and 32 rebounds to lift No. 7 SJB over No. 5 St. Anthony's, 82-70, for the CHSAA boys basketball title.
"I honestly have no idea how we got here," said Williams, who scored 20 and 21 points vs. St. Anthony's in previous games. "I didn't expect this . . . We lost a lot of players, but right now we're jelling. We're really coming together."
SJB was 1-11 in CHSAA, but all seven teams make the playoffs. SJB (7-20 overall) got hot at the right time, beating No. 2 Holy Trinity and No. 3 St. Mary's. Next up is a regional semifinal at noon Sunday against Canisius at LIU Post.
SJB trailed 36-31 at halftime, but turned it around early in the third quarter. After going 1-for-5 from three-point range in the first half, Vinny Abbondola (14 points) hit the first of three third-quarter threes to draw the Cougars to within two points 30 seconds into the third. Then it was Williams' turn. He grabbed a lob pass under the net for an easy basket and scored again a minute later off a putback on his own shot.
SJB went on a 13-8 run to take a 51-44 lead before Williams was fouled by Dan Pierrot (15 points), who had amassed four fouls with 53 seconds to play in the third and was held scoreless for the remainder. Williams' free throw, a three-point play and a block helped SJB take a 57-50 lead going into the fourth.
St. Anthony's (13-14) drew within two with 4:04 left, but Williams' putback ignited a 9-0 run to seal it. SJB's Vincent Yancigay, who had 10 points, said of Williams, "He's only a sophomore. By senior year, he's going to be incredible. He had about five inches on everyone today."
Not that that was the only factor.
"It's chemistry," Yancigay said. "And right now, the chemistry is soaring."