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St. Anthony's Three-peats

The defending champion St. Anthony's Friars had a Problem with St. Mary's warm-up shirts.

"We saw the 'Finish 3313' on the back of their shirts and that really got us pumped," said Musgrove, a senior captain. "We wanted to prove them wrong."

Was the Gaels’ bold shirt prediction a case of putting the cart before the horse? Absolutely, but as pumped as the Friars were to prove the shirts were a jinx, Musgrove had to keep her team under control and let them know this was “a game like any other,” despite their crown being on the line. And that balance of hunger and composure led St. Anthony's to a 48-36 win and their third consecutive NSCHSAA title. It also proved that three was indeed the charm, as the Friars avenged their two regular season losses to the Gaels and tarnished their unblemished record. The Friars attribute the win to wanting it more this time than the others, but Head Coach Ken Parham cites fewer mistakes on his team's part.

"I think during the regular season games we focused too much on stopping [St. Mary's sophomore tandem] Jordan Agustus and Mei-Lyn Bautista," he said. "They have other players who are very good and they hit big shots on us."

This go round, Augustus and Bautista scored 25 of the Gaels 36 points. The former pounded the rock inside and the latter dazzled the crowd with her quickness and shooting touch, but with everyone else in check, the work of the duo wasn't enough.

The Friars’ attack went the opposite route and got production from all available weapons at different points throughout the game. Junior guard Charise Wilson used her speed and shooting touch to spark St. Anthony’s to a 9-3 start. A transfer from North Babylon, Wilson sat out last year and couldn’t claim a piece of the 2011-12 championship. But even more imperative was making up for Friday’s semi-final game against St. John the Baptist.

“I had a bad game on Friday,” said Wilson, who scored all 7 of her points in the first quarter. “Everyone texted me after the game and told me they needed me to play hard today.”

An old school three point play from Musgrove made it a 14-7 game at the end of the first, but Bautista began to chip away at the lead in the second quarter. A pair of floaters sparked a 9-0 Gaels run that was powered by smart defense – St. Mary’s sacrificed bodies and took charges to obtain possessions. A huge three from McKayla Hernandez and a coast-to-coast lay-in from Bautista ended the quarter and made it a 22-21 game at the half.

“At halftime I told them we had to get that lead back,” said Musgrove. “We gave up a 10 point lead.”

The Friars listened to their captain and between Taylor (who scored a team high 13 points) feasting inside and speedy point guard Tyla Parham (6 points) doing the same from outside, St. Anthony’s secured a 12 point lead, 37-25, with 1:55 left. But team defense, the rebounding of senior forward Johanna Impellizeri (4 points, 7 rebounds) and experience put the Gaels away permanently.

“We had to step up as seniors,” said Musgrove, who scored 11 points, grabbed 10 boards of her own and walked away with both the game and the league MVP awards. Musgrove chipped in late with a tough finish to bring an 8 point lead back into double digits for good and nailed a pair of free throws to give the Friars a lead of 14 points, their largest of the game. Even the streaking Bautista and Augustus and (who scored 14 and 11 points, respectively) eventually simmered down, as the Friars made St. Mary’s work during every offensive possession. It was eventually a matter of running out time – and figuring out what to do with those shirts.

“Those 3313 shirts…” said Taylor. “I saw that and knew we had to prove them wrong.”

St. Anthony’s faces Archbishop Molloy at St. John the Villa and St. Mary’s faces Bishop Loughlin at St. Joseph Hill on Wednesday, March 6 for the state tournament.

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