HEMPSTEAD, NY - The probability of a team with a 1-11 regular season record and a first year head coach, winning the Long Island Catholic league's championship is slim to none. The St. John the Baptist Cougars beat the odds on Wednesday evening at Hofstra University when they topped St. Anthony with a big, 82-70 win.
"It wasn't big. It was huge," said an elated Cougars head coach Andre' Edwards. "Everybody counted us out when we loss a bit of our talent but we hung in there."
Dominant in the paint, the Cougars got a massive effort from 6'9" sophomore MVP Kyle Williams who filled the stat sheet with a staggering 34 points to go with 32 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"He came to life," said Coach Edwards. "Everybody wrote him off when he was thirteen. Nobody wanted to take a shot with. They said he was clumsy but look at him now," he said.
Knotted at 17 going into the second quarter, both teams exchanged baskets as 6'0" junior Vincent Abdondola reigned down treys for the Cougars and Andre' Walker countered for At. Anthony.
A foul followed by technical foul on Abdondola would shift the momentum with 2:50 left in the half and the Friars would capitalize from the free-throw line take a two point lead.
SJB would manage to tie the game but a strong finish by Anfernee Casimer and Jahwon Gordon would send St. Anthony to the locker room with a 36-31 lead.
The Cougars presence in the championship was already a testament to the tenant that it's not how you start but how you finish. Sticking to his season long strategy, Coach Edwards stuck to his guns. "We stayed with our game plan. We're going to [make teams] make the adjustment to how we play."
Sharpshooters Abdondola (14 points including three 3-pointers) and Vincent Yancigay (8 points with two 3-pointers) began to nip away at the Friars advantage in the third quarter primarily due to freshman PG Tavon Ginyard's ability to drive, score and/or facilitate. Ginyard contributed 14 points along with three assists. "To have a special kid like that for the next three years, I thank God. He made everybody better," said Edwards.
Down seven points, going into the fourth quarter, St. Anthony made a push and cut the lead to 4 points with 5:14 left to play but Williams could not be contained and extend the lead to 11 points with 1:47 left to play. Coach Edwards said it was amazing to watch Williams close out the game for the Cougars.
"People don't understand the kind of work that Kyle puts into his game. He won it [for us]."
The Cougars advance to the regional semifinals at noon Sunday against Canisius at L.I.U. Post.