Legendary St. Anthony boys’ basketball coach Bob Hurley is making a bold statement about his current team, which captured a record 27th NJSIAA state championship last Sunday.
Hurley believes that his current Friars, winners of 30 straight this season and an astounding 63 consecutive overall throughout the last two years, is the best bunch of defenders he’s ever coached.
That definitely says a lot, considering that Hurley’s teams have been known for their trademarked stingy defenses over the years.
It’s hard to argue with the Hall of Fame coach, considering that the Friars have been downright devastating on the defensive end over the last few weeks, including the 53-30 domination of Hudson Catholic in the Non-Public B North sectional title game last Thursday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“This is a team that had scored 90 points in a game this season a lot of times,” Hurley said after the win over Hudson Catholic. “Our defense has a way of taking control. We’ve been talking about facing this team for about two and a half weeks now and I think our kids were really loading up for the game.”
The Friars withstood a charge from the Hawks midway through the second quarter, when Hudson Catholic narrowed an 11-point first quarter lead down to three at 17-14 with 3:49 remaining before halftime.
At that point, the upstart Hawks had to feel pretty good about themselves. They had to figure if they hung around long enough, maybe they could spring the upset.
However, the Friars put down the collective clamps on the Hawks and allowed them to score just 16 points for the final two-plus quarters.
The Friars had four players reach double figures in scoring, led by Jerome Frink, who scored 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor and continues to watch his stock climb with the college scouts. Frink scored six of the Friars’ first seven points as they took the lead for good in the early going and never looked back.
“We had to give them no hope of coming back into the game,” said the senior forward Frink, who has been drawing a ton of collegiate attention in recent games. “We had to set the tone for the rest of the game.”
All-American Kyle Anderson had a relatively quiet game against the Hawks, scoring 12 points.
There was a lot of pressure on Anderson, because he was facing former Paterson Catholic teammates Reggie Cameron and Kavon Stewart, as well as AAU teammate Michael Young.
“I knew that they were a real competitive group and I knew that they were going to be coming after me,” Anderson said. “The guards did a tremendous job of picking it up for us.”
Junior guard Hallice Cooke was huge, scoring 11 points, seven of which came in the early stages of the third quarter.
A day before the Friars faced the Hawks, Cooke was struggling with his perimeter shot.
“I think I made my first shot in about three weeks in practice,” Cooke said.
“When he made that shot in practice, we all knew it was time to go home,” Hurley said.
Josh Brown, who has already committed to Temple even though he’s only a junior, also scored 11 points. Cooke and Brown represent the team’s future moving into next year.
Hudson Catholic, which finished its remarkable season with a 25-3 record and the school’s first Hudson County championship since 1975, knew that they had to play a nearly perfect game to compete with the fabulous Friars. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
“I think we just did a poor job of executing our offense,” said Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Mariniello. “Some of it was our inability to execute, but give them credit. They did a good job of shutting us down. I thought the game would go the way it went, in terms of the pace of the game. But I thought we could get better chances and we didn’t rebound the way I thought we would. You fall behind and then the game sort of gets away from you. We did the best we could. We can’t let this loss diminish what we accomplished. We’ve gone from 12 wins to 22 to 25 in three years. We want to play the best and strive to win a state championship. We’ll learn from this.”
“They’re a real good team,” said Hudson Catholic junior forward Cameron, who was the lone Hawk player to reach double figures. “They’re a great defensive team. We can’t go back and change what happened. We just have to move forward.”
Mariniello echoed the sentiments.
“I think this says that Hudson Catholic is back on the map,” Mariniello said.
Even Hurley would agree with that.
“I think this is going to be a great team next year,” Hurley said of the Hawks. “But we have a pretty good team right now.”
The Friars earned the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions and were scheduled to face the winner of Ewing/Atlantic City in the T of C finals. More than likely, the Friars will look to defend their T of C title Tuesday night at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, with a possible repeat showdown with Plainfield, last year’s foe, on the horizon…
The NCAA Tournament begins this weekend and the area has two solid representatives in the tourney in St. Anthony products Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas and Mike Rosario of Florida…
The spring sports season is just around the corner and the area teams have already begun practices. How fortunate are those teams to have the incredible warm weather we’ve enjoyed? Usually, those teams have a tough time getting enough outdoor practice time before April 1. Not this year…
St. Peter’s Prep senior Najee Glass won the New Balance Indoor Track Nationals in the 400-meter dash last week. It’s another solid honor for one of the most storied track athletes in the school’s history…
Nicole Degenhardt, the 2006 Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year out of Secaucus, has already made her mark in her career as a college basketball coach. In her first year at the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, Degenhardt was named the North Eastern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year… -- Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.