St. Anthony impressive on big stage
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – St. Anthony’s 45th consecutive victory was the result of a casual talk in a stairwell at Blake Arena.
The Friars, looking to protect their No. 4 ranking in the USA Today, were caught in the whirlwind of a tight game against a fellow national power at halftime and assistant coach Ben Gamble offered an unorthodox suggestion for Bob Hurley.
“Ben actually said we should open the second half in zone. Now, I’m a genius, but Ben made me do it,” Hurley said with a smirk following a 60-48 drubbing of Miller Grove (Ga.) on Monday afternoon at the 2012 Spalding Hoophall Classic on the campus of Springfield College.
And why shouldn’t the Hall of Fame coach smile? His team – paced by another fantastic balanced effort from Kyle Anderson -- further established itself as one of America’s premier programs and certainly improved its chances of moving into the top three by day’s end.
No. 3 DeMatha Catholic (Md.) fell to Bishop Gorman (Nev.) and No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad, while No. 2 Simeon (Ill.) abosorbed a blowout loss to No. 8 Findlay Prep (Nev.) later in the day.
St. Anthony, subject to move up now, perhaps could be just steps away from legitimately chasing its second consecutive national crown.
One step at a time, though, Hurley preaches. The Friars, whom he admitted are still a work in progress, led 30-26 at the half, but had squandered a golden opportunity to deflate the opposition upon surrendering 21 points in the second quarter.
“You might not believe me when I say it, but this is an absolute work in progress,” Hurley shrugged. “But defensively, this is as good as I’ve ever had.”
Gamble’s advice to Hurley then took affect and St. Anthony never swayed, ultimately spelling doom for the Wolverines, who have been ranked as high as No. 4 nationally thanks to highly recruited center Tony Parker.
“The big guy is so important to them,” Hurley said before explaining how his ameba-like zone defensive scheme operates. “It’s called Duke. When they feed the ball into the post, we collapse and make him kick it back out. We have big guys with length, Kyle and Jerome (Frink), who did a great job. The perimeter guys did a good job because if (Parker) got the ball more, he would have tore us apart.”
The original plan was to show the zone at first and then switch back to man-to-man, but after eight to 10 possessions, Hurley decided to stick with what worked.
Anderson, a UCLA commit, finished with a game-high 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals, as the Friars used that defensive prowess to create some separation in the third quarter and never looked back. They outscored Miller Grove, 30-22, in the second half.
Josh Brown chipped in 10 points, while Hallice Cooke and Tariq Carey each had six for the Friars, who possesses a strong core of role players around Anderson – all of whom have contributed to the squad’s 12-0 start this winter.
“In the second quarter, we made some adjustments and it really helped us,” Anderson said. “I saw it in the first practice, that we had a lot of potential. We’re going to click and get it all together.”
Brian Fitzsimmons is the award-winning author of Celtic Pride: How Coach Kevin Boyle Took St. Patrick to the Top of High School Basketball. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter