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Augustus, Bautista lead St. Mary’s to NSCHSAA title

Sometimes it’s about skill. Sometimes it’s about physical advantage. Sometimes it’s about execution. But there’s really no substitute for heart. The St. Mary’s Gaels simply did not want to lose their rematch with the St. Anthony’s Friars in the NSCHSAA championship game.

“We just wanted it more this year,” said junior point guard, Mei-Lyn Bautista after the Gaels’ 66-59 win over the Friars at C.W. Post. “We’ve had so many ups and downs this year and it was a really tough week [personally] for [St. Mary’s Head] Coach [Tom] Flynn. He went through a really hard time and we wanted to win this for him.”

Neither team led by more than seven points until the fourth quarter, when St. Mary’s was finally able to secure a lead for good. The game was knotted at 30 at halftime. The third quarter saw seven lead changes. Only heart and execution can be a deciding factor in a game of that ilk. The Gaels used more of the former, but the latter played a role as well.

“They finished and didn’t let the game get away,” said Coach Flynn, whose team split with the Friars this season, winning once by two points and losing once by fifteen. “We really just wore them down late in the game.”

But the game was a ping-pong match early, with both teams running and gunning. The first notable boost of momentum went to the Friars behind hot starts from Charise Wilson (who scored a team high 17 points) and a Tyla Parham trey to make it a 13-6 game. The Gaels would match St. Anthony’s swarming defense, transition buckets and shooting with some of their own, as the duo of Bautista and fellow junior, Jordan Augustus, kept things interesting. But St. Mary’s wouldn’t take their first lead of the game until forward, Elizabeth Limonta, converted on an old school three point play with 1:28 left in the quarter to make it an 18-17 game.

An offensive drought for both teams allowed St. Mary’s to keep it at a two- possession game for much of the second quarter. The Friars stayed within striking distance courtesy of valiant defensive efforts from Wilson and sophomore guard, Taylor Goode. The Gaels’ junior center, Charlotte Renker (7 points), kept an active presence on the offensive glass and Augustus kept her team afloat offensively, but with no other Gaels scoring a field goal in the quarter, they were never able to capitalize on the Friars’ similar scoring woes. Coulter Bowlen’s back-to-back buckets cut into the gap and another Parham three tied the affair at the half.

The theme of hot and cold offense would continue in the second half, preventing either team from establishing a strong foothold. An otherwise quiet Chastity Taylor drained a triple to put the Friars up a point, 37-36, but blue collar play from Augustus and Lamonta kept St. Mary’s on the defending champ’s toes.

“[Lamonta] was unbelievably huge,” said Coach Flynn of his junior, who came up big with 12 points. “She hit some big baskets and foul shots. Jordan and Mei-Lyn will do what they do, but you need a wild card kid like [Lamonta] to win.”

Of course, it helps when Bautista (10 points) and Augustus play like future Division I players and provide answers during crunch time. The former drained a three to give the Gaels a lead they would never relinquish and the latter made sure the Friars didn’t sneak back into the game. Augustus’ monster ten points in the fourth quarter were the most important of her game high 29, as she attacked the basket in the half court, converted on the break and nailed all four free throw attempts in the final period (and all seven for the game).

“I’ve been waiting for her to play that big, breakout game,” Coach Flynn said. "Today was it."

Augustus herself acknowledges the extra motivation she had.

“I realized that we needed to get this win for Coach and our seniors,” she said of the impetus to go on automatic pilot in the final minutes of the game. “I put my blood, sweat and tears into [St. Mary’s final run].”

St. Anthony’s struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, but one of the three field goals they netted was a three from Wilson that spun around the rim and teased the net before dropping in at the 0:28 mark, making it a 63-59 game. But heart prevailed, and for that there’s no substitute.

“It was really about working harder,” Renker said. “This was 100 percent for Coach.”

A typically intense and animated Coach Flynn couldn’t fight back a big grin when asked about the last time the Gaels’ girls team won a Long Island title.

“I can’t remember,” he said. “1994…I think.”

Tyla Parham added 10 points for St. Anthony’s.

 

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