St. Anthony doesn’t get to play in the friendly confines of its home gymnasium too often, in fact, the Friars were away from Bob Hurley’s Court at the Community Education and Recreation Center (aka CERC) for the entire month of January.
“We’ve only been home a few times the whole season so it’s nice to play a really good team at home and have a chance to use the home court advantage,” St. Anthony’s legendary coach Bob Hurley said. “Despite missing some free throws late, we are relaxed here in this gym.”
The comfort of the home court, plus a big performance from senior guard R.J. Cole propelled St. Anthony to a 55-49 victory over visiting Long Island Lutheran, the No. 5 team in the News12Varsity Tri-State Top 20.
Cole finished with 22 points, four rebounds, and eight assists to lead the Friars, who held off LuHi after leading by as many as 16 in the second half (18 in the game).
“These are the types of games that get us ready for the state tournament,” Cole said. “The state tournament is gritty-type games like this, one game and you go home, so we have to keep playing as a team.”
One way to play as a team is to pick each other up and Nigel Marshall, a strong-bodied forward, picked up sophomore Alexander Rice with a massive offensive rebound off a missed free throw with 18 seconds left. St. Anthony led 52-49 when Lutheran put Rice on the line, but Marshall’s rebound and basket put the nail in the coffin.
“Marshall makes the plays to clean up our misses, and we need him to finish like that,” Hurley said. “He’s a developing high school player who hasn’t been in games like this. Those guys were WAY bigger than us.”
St. Anthony used its on-ball defending and denials to race out to an 18-point lead. Savior Akuwovo, while raw on the offensive end, swatted six shots on defense and came away with two steals.
Long Island Lutheran refused to go away.
Brandon Jacobs (12 points) knocked down two huge 3-pointers in the first half to cut St. Anthony’s lead to 11 at the break, then when Cole and company extended the lead again to 15 in the third quarter, LuHi battled back again with its interior play by Esam Mostafa (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Donatas Kupsas (11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists).
“I don’t think we did a great job of rebounding after they shot, but they just kind of backed us in and drove us underneath and scored over the top of us,” Hurley said. “When their big guy is rebounding with Alex Rice late in the game, we’re in a bad matchup there.”
Rice, the sophomore son of Monmouth coach King Rice, scored 13 points for St. Anthony. Marshall finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Long Island Lutheran vs. St Anthony
2/7/17, 5:48 PM
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