Behind Frink, St. Anthony wins TOC
Jerome Frink was having some difficulty shooting the ball in the first half, so he figured he could probably best serve his St. Anthony team in the second by calling for the ball off the low block and then passing it.
"I just wanted them to give me the ball so I could have a couple assists," Frink said. "They didn't cut fast enough, so I had to score."
Perhaps those early cuts didn't come because Frink's teammates knew something of which the 6-6 senior forward was not yet aware. So, he turned to the basket off an entry pass from Josh Brown 15 seconds into the third quarter and scored, and then did it again 1:26 later, and again, and … until Frink finally realized that his buddies probably weren't cutting because they knew they'd only be impeding progress.
Frink turned in the most productive quarter of his life on the state's biggest stage, netting 12 of his career-high 26 points to help St. Anthony, No. 1 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 20, break away from a tie game at the half and wrap up a second consecutive undefeated season with a 66-62 win over No. 6 Plainfield for the NJSIAA/ShopRite Tournament of Champions title before 5,352 Tuesday night at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford.
Tariq Carey scored 18 points off the bench and fellow senior guard Kyle Anderson added 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and five blocks in a typical all-around performance for St. Anthony (32-0), which will carry a 65-game winning streak into the 2012-13 season.
Senior guard Sekou Harris scored 22 points and had seven assists and senior guard Jahmal Lane had 21 points for Plainfield (30-4).
Frink did not start off as if this would be something he might be reminiscing over fondly for the rest of his life. He made just 3 of 11 from the floor in the opening half, which ended in a 25-25 deadlock, but caught fire to sink 10 of 12 after the break and direct the Friars to their 12th T of C crown and second straight.
St. Anthony had previously recorded six undefeated seasons, though never back-to-back until now. Plainfield has lost twice to St. Anthony during this 65-game streak, including the last two T of C finals.
"It's a great feeling. My senior year, my last game," Frink said, "so I just had to do what I had to do this game. We had to come out more explosive, more aggressive and that's what we did."
It was incumbent upon St. Anthony to attack the rim more assertively while Plainfield's talented 6-7 forward Justin Sears sat with a sprained ankle. He'd left the game with 2:53 to go in the first quarter and with Plainfield leading, 10-6, and returned with 4:06 to go in the third quarter and St. Anthony in front, 38-31.
Sears, who has over 1,000 points and rebounds in his career, was clearly nowhere near full strength and wound up fouling out 49 seconds into the fourth quarter with two points and three rebounds.
"That was a big loss on the offensive and defensive end," Lane said. "He's been a great contributor all year."
Frink's been that, too, averaging 14.2 points and six rebounds in the first five state tournament games. He had also pulled down 15 rebounds and scored seven points when his Friars defeated Plainfield, 43-31, in a regular-season game Feb. 7 in Plainfield. This game, he saw an opportunity in the lane either against a hobbled Sears or his backup and Frink seized it with gusto.
"He took over the game there for those minutes in the third," Plainfield head coach Jeff Lubreski said.
Frink pumped in eight points in the first 3:31 of the third quarter and had 10 to help the Friars build a 42-32 lead with 2:35 to go. He also dropped in four points in a 7-1 spurt that opened the fourth quarter for a 53-40 lead.
Plainfield clawed back behind the play of Harris and Lane, who combined for 19 points in the fourth period and 29 in the second half.
Lane scored eight points and Harris hit 6 of 6 from the foul line to key an 18-10 run that pulled the Cardinals to within 63-58 with :42 seconds to play, and Lane made it 65-62 on a driving layup with nine seconds remaining. Hallice Coooke hit one of two free throws with 3.7 seconds left for a four-point St. Anthony lead.
"We beat a great team today," St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley said. "We talked to the kids about needing to win the four eight-minute games. They won the first one, we won the second one, we won the third one, they won the fourth one. There wasn't much separating us here."
Carey did a good job of trying to pull St. Anthony away with two straight 3-pointers for a 25- 20 lead with 1:58 to go in the first half. But Taylor Plummer hit a free throw with 1:15 to go, Harris sank two with 54.6 seconds left and Lane hit a transition layup off a steal for tie the game, 25-25, with 36 seconds to go.
"We had our moments where we played the way we’re accustomed to playing," Lubreski said. "I think it was we didn't do it for enough minutes. They imposed their will a little more on us than we did on them."
Frink did it with his strong low-post moves and putbacks in the second half, Carey's shooting and creativity on the open floor and with the 6-9 Anderson's unique versatility.
"He's the most complete player to ever play at this school," Hurley said of the UCLA-bound guard. "In a time when we've had some really good ones, his overall game and what he's done over these last two years.
"This was Jerome's statistical game today and Tariq Carey statistically played very well, but the blood and guts and the glue that makes this team we are is Kyle Anderson, no question."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS