Kinney: St. Anthony flexes its muscles
St. Anthony guard Kyle Anderson became the Garden State’s most recent source of pride by being named to the McDonald’s All-American Team on Thursday. Head coach Bob Hurley followed that up the next day by being selected to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
No way those two were going to let a team from West Virginia—no matter how talented—come up to Roselle and spoil their fabulous week.
Anderson scored a team-high 18 points and used a combination of skill and moxie to execute key plays throughout the game at both ends of the floor and Hurley controlled the tenor of the affair with a master’s stroke to send the Friars, No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 20, to a thrilling 50-49 win over Huntington Prep Saturday night at the PrimeTime Shootout at Roselle Catholic.
The 6-9 Anderson, headed for UCLA, skipped a pass to senior forward Jerome Frink with 1:10 to play for the winning basket and Huntington Prep had a 3-point attempt rim out just before the buzzer as St. Anthony (19-0) raised its winning streak to 52 games and kept its hopes intact for a second straight national championship.
The Friars entered with a No. 3 national ranking in USA Today while Huntington Prep (22-2) is No. 5.
“I just told my team in the huddle we’ve been here before with St. Benedict’s (a 51-50 win last month),” Anderson said. “We just have to play hard, play defense down the stretch, and that’s what we did.”
Huntington Prep unleashed a wealth of big, accomplished athletes upon St. Anthony and showcased a rising national star in 6-7 sophomore Andrew Wiggins (19 points) before a packed house at the Lion’s Den. But in the end, it was St. Anthony’s tenacious defense and Hurley’s cunning that won out, just as they have over 1,000 times already throughout his 40 seasons at the Jersey City school.
Hurley called for the smart defensive matchups in the second half—like Anderson covering Wiggins for most of the half—he scowled across the scorer’s table at Huntington coach Rob Fulford when Hurley thought his out-of-state counterpart was getting overly chummy with the referees. He even reminded those officials more than once about the location of the game.
“I wanted everyone to know that we were in New Jersey and this was a road game for them,” Hurley said. “I think we were having too many conversations with that young coach. I don’t have long, meaningful conversations with the referees; I don’t know why he was able to.”
Hurley doesn’t need long pow-wows to get his message across. He’s deft at making his point with looks of appalling disbelief and trenchant one-liners, Hudson County style. Maybe this wasn’t Jersey City, but the 2010 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee was going to make sure his Friars and their fans felt very much at home.
“It had to be,” he said. “There’s some things they (Huntington) have that makes this playing field not so level. They’ve got guys from all over the world and we’ve got a group of guys going by the NJSIAA rules, which don’t even have us in the gym at all until the Monday after Thanksgiving.”
There was an immediate gap created by St. Anthony’s offensive struggles (other than Anderson with seven first-quarter points) and Wiggins’ stunning versatility and athletic prowess. He gunned in 12 points in the opening period to steer the Express to a 14-9 lead.
Senior forward Jimmy Hall turned in a strong second quarter with eight of his 10 points, but the rest of his St. Anthony squad lumbered along until the final 1:11of the half. The Friars knocked down the final six points to cut its deficit to 25-21 and suddenly make the idea of catching Huntington far less imposing.
“It helped us momentum-wise,” senior guard Tariq Carey said. “We were playing hard, but we were making a couple mistakes. We came out (in the second half) and tried to limit those mistakes.”
Carey played a big role off the bench with three steals and all of his nine points in the second half. Junior guard Josh Brown—very steady in many big games this season--was not feeling well, and perimeter threat Hallice Cooke had difficulty finding his touch. That left open the opportunity for another guard to step forward, and Carey, the former star at Newark East Side, was eager to oblige.
He buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 47 seconds left in the third quarter and followed that 40 seconds later with a runner to give St. Anthony a 36-35 lead at period’s end. Cooke opened the fourth quarter with a steal and fed Carey for a breakway and a 38-35 edge.
“It was good for my confidence,” Carey said. “Up to that point, I was playing a little bit of a role. I hope I showed Coach Hurley I can do much more than that.”
“Do we win this game without him? Absolutely not,” Hurley said. “I thought Tariq Carey played terrific.”
Despite its size advantage, Huntington rarely attacked off the low block, and instead launched threes against St. Anthony. Ten of the Express’ 17 field goals were 3-pointers, the last coming from Xavier Rathan-Mayes with 2:16 to play for a 49-48 lead. St. Anthony had grabbed a one-point advantage17 seconds earlier on a putback by Hall.
“We had problems with them because they’re just so athletic and long,” Hurley said. “But they had their problems with us. The terrific thing was we just started scrapping and finally got back in it toward the end of the third quarter. What happened there, it became a home game.”
Wiggins was held to seven points in the second half, two coming on a fast break dunk late in the third quarter for a 35-31 Huntington lead. In the halfcourt offense, though, he found a shrewd and resilient opponent in Anderson.
“He’s so crafty,” Hurley said of Wiggins. “For a young kid he’s so good. But Kyle Anderson, his understanding of basketball is far greater than most, and he has physical gifts. He played him exactly the way he needed to be played.”
Hurley said the McDonald’s All-American honor has put no additional pressure on Anderson—“He just plays to win,” he said. The veteran coach is humbled by the call from the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but also slightly ticked at the moment. You see, fellow inductees, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, will be on tour and will miss the June 9 ceremony in Newark.
“I’m very disappointed that the E Street Band is going to be on tour,” he said. “This is the story of my life. Day late, dollar short.”
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS