St. Anthony showed some flaws that were not revealed last weekend against Neptune, but at the same time confirmed a general truism about this fabulous program.
The topic of weaknesses is a very relative one when discussing St. Anthony.
The Friars, for instance, committed double-digit turnovers in the first half and failed to wow discriminating head coach Bob Hurley in several other departments Thursday night against Newark Central.
Yet, St. Anthony overcame bouts of uneven play to roll, 73-33, in Newark and establish a new state record for consecutive victories with its 67th. Senior guard Josh Brown scored a career-high 20 points, and also had four rebounds and four steals and Hallice Cooke and Jordan Compas scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, to pace the milestone victory.
The Friars (2-0), No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Power Rankings, surpassed the previous mark of 66 straight wins established by Hurley's St. Anthony squads from 1995 through '97.
"I don't look in that locker room and see a lot of the 67-game winning streak," Hurley said. "Yes, it happened, but we're in the now. And the now needs to get a lot better."
St. Anthony committed eight turnovers in the second quarter and had 12 for the half, though flaunted enough size, depth, defensive prowess and versatile Josh Brown to produce a second straight blowout. The Friars opened their season Sunday with a 64-28 decision over Neptune.
"We're very disjointed," Hurley said. "During that period of time (second quarter vs. Central) I said it's gonna look like this for awhile, until you can start to figure out maybe a different rotation. What we thought was going to be a strength--depth--in certain games can turn out to be perhaps a problem, because you haven't established who you can play bigger minutes."
Just as he had against Neptune, Hurley dipped deep into his bench early, using nine in the first quarter and 10 by the half. Six Friars scored in the first quarter to open a 20-7 advantage.
But the turnovers mounted early in the second quarter against Central's gritty man-to-man and St. Anthony watched its lead dwindle to 25-16 in the first 5:08 of the second period. It regrouped behind a pair of baskets by Brown to close out the quarter with a 10-0 run for a 35-16 advantage,
"For a quarter and a half, we were right there. We disrupted," Central head coach Sean McCray said. "They maybe scored five to eight points out of their sets. A lot of their points came off our turnovers. Our defense was good, it was there. We just turned the ball over."
Central matched St. Anthony with 12 turnovers in the opening half, three of them on steals by the Temple-bound Brown. Difference was St. Anthony was able to capitalize more often on its opponent's turnovers than Central. The Friars shot a robust 14-of-26 from the floor in the first half and would make 29 of 48 for the game.
Still, that healthy shooting percentage wasn't enough to make Hurley want to stop and celebrate his team's consecutive win record, or even offer it much acknowledgment.
Hurley pointed out following the Neptune victory that most of that 67-game winning streak was conducted by since-graduated guys named Kyle Anderson, Jerome Frink, Myles Mack and Lucious Jones. They were the sparkplugs behind two straight undefeated season and Tournament of Champions titles--though Brown, Cooke and Kody Jenkins were all starters at the end of last season.
The 6-3 Brown has been a steady source of scoring and defensive leadership in both games. He had 17 points against Neptune, and fetched his 20 Thursday night by sinking eight of 11 from the floor and three of four from the foul line.
He and the Oregon State-bound Cooke each scored seven points in the third quarter to help St. Anthony build a 58-28 lead. The mistakes of the first half had been long forgotten, except, of course, by Hurley.
"We're playing three or four kids that, if you evaluated them, they're Type B personalities; passive in nature," he said. "And when teams do something as simple as just turn up the defensive pressure or get more physical, you see those guys kind of struggle."
Forward Taji Williams, Central's only senior starter, scored 12 points and came up with three steals and Keywon Savage, a junior guard, added 11 points and two steals for Central (2-2). In the end, the Blue Devils were too small and inexperienced to truly challenge St. Anthony, but this was an ordeal that is sure to pay dividends down the road.
"I scheduled this game because of that," McCray said. "St. Anthony wasn't doing anything special; they were just beating us to spots, playing harder. That's what St. Anthony basketball is. I'm trying to get my guys see that and understand that's what they have to do to become better."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS