Sometimes it's better to be humbled early rather than surprised late. That's exactly what happened to St. John the Baptist's top-ranked girls basketball team Tuesday as the defending CHSAA champs were beaten soundly 52-39, by a team widely considered to be its toughest competition, .
The Cougars, (3-1, 1-1), fresh off a tournament victory in the Under Armour Classic , started the season with three straight wins and were sitting pretty ranked No.1 on Long Island (according to Newsday). Those good feelings, however, were lost early when the Friars (3-1,1-1) got off to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter.
Despite a late comeback attempt--outscoring the Friars 24-14 in the second half-- it was too little too late for the Cougars.
"They did a good job," head coach Ted Oberg said of St. Anthony's. "They came out with a good plan. They played harder than us in the first half. Maybe it's better that we learned a lesson early in the year and hopefully that lesson's going to sink in."
St. Anthony's took a page out of the Cougars book and won with tight pressure defense right from the start, tripping up the offense and holding the Cougars to just 15 points in the first half.
"We couldn't get an entry to start our offense because they overplayed real well so we weren't running anything backdoor…and we forced penetration," Oberg explained. "When your guards start to over-dribble it stagnates your offense and we looked ugly on offense so that's what happened there. You have to credit them for playing aggressively man-to-man…that's usually what we do."
Symone Kelly led the Friars with 15 points and 12 boards while Rebecca Musgrove added 13 and seven with nine assists. Senior guard Alexis Smith scored 14 for the Cougars, who had more success after a switch to a zone defense from their usual man-to-man.
"The zone was working which was amazing to me," Oberg said. "We don't like playing zone but we weren't defending well and we switched to zone so maybe that's something we have to explore a little more.
"This isn't our biggest team so maybe we have to look more at zone coverage. It's a long season and there [are] a lot of ups and downs. This is a little down but we'll be where we need to be in February going into March, I'm not worried about it."