St. Anthony boys’ basketball team hosted its first ever CIF Southern Section semifinal on campus Friday night, but Crean Lutheran spoiled the party. After a back and forth contest, the visiting Saints pulled away late for a 59-55 victory, and a trip to the Division 3 AA championship game next weekend.
It’s a battle between Saints in the CIF-SS Division 3AA semifinals. For more local sports coverage visit The562.org
The victory extended Crean Lutheran’s winning streak to 17 games, and it was the first loss for St. Anthony since Dec. 27.
St. Anthony has lost five consecutive semifinals games since reaching the championship in 2000, and coach Allan Caveness didn’t mince words after the defeat.
“They wanted it more than we did,” Caveness said. “They came and punched us in the mouth. We weren’t ready to play, and I have to do a better job of preparing us.”
St. Anthony (27-3) got a team-high 16 points from junior forward Marquise Nellom while guards Cocoa Chatman and Noah Nickel each scored 12 points. Crean Lutheran (22-9) relied heavily on sophomore Isaiah Johnson, who scored a game-high 28 points.
St. Anthony led 15-13 after the first quarter, but Johnson and Crean Lutheran opened up a 26-17 lead in the second quarter thanks to an 11-2 run. Nickel sparked a 10-2 run for St. Anthony that cut Crean’s lead to 28-27 at halftime.
The Saints’ traded the lead and momentum throughout the second half, but six missed free throws by the home team in the second half torpedoed any chance for St. Anthony to build a lead.
St. Anthony led 48-47 with less than five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but Johnson free throws pushed the lead to four with less than two minutes left, and junior Chris Swardstrom’s 3-pointer with less than a minute proved to be the back breaker for St. Anthony.
“It’s a learning experience, and the good thing is our season isn’t over,” Caveness said.
St. Anthony qualified for the CIF State playoffs by making the semifinals. Brackets will be announced after the CIF-SS championship games are played next weekend.