Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pink Whistle: St. John's vs. St. Anthony's

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

HILLSDALE, NJ - The opening round of the Northern Valley Parochial League playoffs saw St. John’s of Hillsdale hosting St. Anthony’s of Norwood in an eighth-grade girls’ game. I worked this league in the past, but unfortunately not the last few seasons. Regardless, it was great to be back and see the lighting at St. John’s has improved immeasurably.

Many coaches will coach their son or daughter and stop when their child gets to high school. Some are long-term lifers who enjoy the game and teaching the kids. St. John’s coach Dennis (last name escapes me) is a lifer, having been at the school at least 15 years coaching the eighth-grade girls.

St. John’s used the small gym to their advantage, opening in full court man-to-man pressure. It forces turnovers, but also allows St. Anthony’s to throw a long pass leading to a breakaway layup. Dennis is not too concerned about that, as he knows his group is better in a transition matchup. Size also allowed St. John’s to rebound on the offensive end and cause serious problems for the opposition. The second quarter saw St. John’s gain the proverbial separation, and they take a 32-15 lead into the break.

If you are ahead by 20 in this league, you cannot press. Once St. John’s had a 15-point lead, they settled into a half court defense. The girls’ league here also has no three-pointers. Force of habit has myself and my partner signaling for a three-point attempt and basket. Individually, St. John’s has talent across the board. One such player is about 5’7”, not bad size on this level, with the ability to take from the wings or penetrate from top of the key. She also runs the floor exceptionally well in transition.

After the first quarter, St. Anthony’s struggled and started to feel the effects of St. John’s depth, transition and a hot gym on an unseasonably warm evening.  Dennis gives all his kids ample playing time as they go on to post a 52-23 victory.

Again, it was good to get back to the league after a few years doing games in other areas. For years, St. John’s has been strong owing to a solid youth program in Hillsdale that starts the kids young. The high school that serves the town, Pascack Valley, has been one of the strongest in the state for decades in girls’ basketball, not surprising considering some of the young talent playing not just at St. John’s, but other travel teams from the town.

For St. Anthony’s, the end of the season. For St. John’s, moving on to the next round. Such is life in single elimination playoffs.

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