Kinney: Boys TOC notebook
Was St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley speaking from the heart or just stirring up incentive for his troops when he proclaimed the 2012 Tournament of Champions favorite on the same night his Friars had captured the 2011 title last March?
Hurley insisted on Tuesday that he meant what he said, though it sure added horsepower to Kyle Anderson's already revved-up engine, all the same.
The multi-talented 6-9 guard reminisced about Hurley's words one year earlier after St. Anthony had defeated Plainfield, 66-62, Tuesday night at the IZOD Center to complete its second consecutive undefeated season -- an unprecedented feat for this storied program -- and secure its 12th T of C crown. A remarkable achievement in 24 years of the affair.
"I remember last year we sat right in this room and coach said Plainfield was going to be the favorite to win it all this year," Anderson said. "This year we just wanted to get back to work and finish another terrific season like we had the year before."
Desire met reality Tuesday night thanks to a career-best 26-point performance by senior forward Jerome Frink, 18 points from senior guard Tariq Carey, the Friar's talented sixth man, and an outstanding overall performance by one of the most versatile players the state has probably ever seen.
The UCLA-bound Anderson filled up the stat line in typical Anderson fashion with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and five blocks and, as a result, finished his high school career in pretty much the only way he knows. With a victory.
St. Anthony (32-0), No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 20, stretched its winning streak to 65 games while Anderson raised his personal record to 119-5 as a four-year varsity player, his first two at Paterson Catholic before the school closed in June 2010, and the last two at St. Anthony.
The Friars, by the way, were 116-8 during that four-year period, translating to a 51-8 mark in two seasons without Anderson. Against him, St. Anthony was 1-1, including a 2010 win in the North Jersey, Non-Public B state tournament that was Paterson Catholic's only loss of the season.
Hurley ribbed Anderson good-naturedly for that loss during the post-game press conference, but also dealt the ultimate praise by calling him "the most complete player to ever play at this school."
Consider the names of such former St., Anthony stars as Mandy Johnson, David Rivers, Bobby Hurley Jr., Terry Dehere, Rodrick Rhodes, Roshown McLeod, Anthony Perry, Elijah Ingram, Terrance Roberts, Mike Rosario and Tyshawn Tylor who preceded Anderson, and it's clear that those words resonated with great meaning.
"It feels great," Anderson said of the compliment. "I've been watching Coach Hurley since I was a little kid. To be known as one of the best Friars to go down in history is great."
* Is it possible that Jerome Frink will be leaving coach Hurley to go play for, uh, coach Hurley?
Bob's son Danny was introduced as Rhode Island's new head coach on Wednesday. Frink revealed his list of top schools following the T of C final and included Rhode Island on the list along with James Madison, Central Connecticut, Florida International and Jacksonville. The talented forward said he planned to make a decision by late April.
Frink's smallish 6-5 size as a forward apparently discouraged Division 1 schools from offering earlier, though his steady play and obvious game knowledge ratcheted interest in recent months. And if a few additional schools were considering an offer, Frink could not have hurt himself with his 26-point, 13-rebound performance Tuesday in the T of C final.
Frink had scored six points in the first half, but was only 3 of 11 from the field as St. Anthony and Plainfield battled to a 25-25 deadlock. With Plainfield center Justin Sears out for the first 3:54 of the third quarter with a sprained ankle, Frink took control of the low post with eight points in the first 3:31 and 12 for the quarter. He was 10 of 12 from the floor in the second half.
"I kind of rushed the first half," Frink said. "I just had to calm myself down in the second half and let my game come to me. We had to come out more explosive, more aggressive and that's what we did."
* Sekou Harris and Jahmal Lane both acknowledged the great absence down low for Plainfield with 6-7 Justin Sears out for most of the game with an ankle sprain, and in pain and largely ineffective for the 4:38 he did play in the second half with the right ankle heavily taped.
But the two seniors certainly did a great job of trying to pick up the slack for their veteran big man. The 6-2 Lane scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and the 5-10 Harris sank 13 of his team-high 22 points after intermission to keep the Cardinals in contention.
Harris, who drove relentlessly into the lane in search of contact, was 8 of 8 from the foul line in the second half and perfect on 12 attempts for the game and he also finished with seven assists.
Still, the loss of Sears was a huge blow to Plainfield, which found itself outrebounded, 33-20, for the game. In the Cardinals' 43-31 loss to St. Anthony Feb. 7 in the regular season, Sears had emerged as Plainfield's top scorer with 10 points and he also had five rebounds. The Yale-bound standout was limited to two points and three rebounds in just over nine minutes of play Tuesday.
* St. Anthony's 65-game winning streak leaves it one shy of tying the state's modern-day record of 66 set by the Jersey City power from 1995 through '97 behind the talents of former stars Anthony Perry, Delvon Arrington and Rashon Burno. Current juniors Hallice Cooke, Josh Brown, Kody Jenkins and Kentrell Brooks and sophomore Tarin Smith will be attempting to place a stamp of greatness on their legacy next December.
* Tariq Carey missed his first two jump shots of the game, but heated up quickly to help St. Anthony keep pace with Place in the closely contested first half. The senior guard netted eight of the Friars' final 10 points of the half to help force a 25-25 tie. He buried two 3-pointers within a span of 43 seconds to open a 25-20 lead with 1:58 left, but Plainfield rallied to tie.
Carey, who transferred this season from Newark East Side, continued his strong offensive play in the second half, scoring five points in a 21-13 run (Jerome Frink dropped in 12) for a 46-38 lead. He had five more in the fourth to close with 18 points.
"Offensively he's a very good player, and in a game like this where the court is open and he can use instincts…that's his game," Hurley said. "We play a little differently. We're running specific things and he's used to just going. When the game was a going game today he was real good."
* Plainfield (30-4) became only the fourth public school to appear in two consecutive T of C finals, joining Elizabeth (1989 and '90), Shawnee ('95 and '96) and Science Park ('08 and '09). The '90 Elizabeth team, by the way, is the only squad to defeat St. Anthony in the T of C.
It has been a remarkable run for the core four of Sekou Harris, Justin Sears, Jahmal Lane and Diijon Alllen-Jordan, who guided the Cardinals to a 103-25 record, two Group 3 championships and a Union County title in four seasons.
"They made their mark on Plainfield basketball," head coach Jeff Lubreski said. "The players that are coming after them have such a high standard to meet. Not only as basketball players, but the way they conduct themselves in school, the way they conduct themselves in the community.
"They've really made the people around them very proud. I'm proud to have coached each and every one of them. Something I'm going to be grateful for the rest of my days."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS