A CHSAA Class AA title will have to wait, but Monsignor Scanlan provided it belonged playing at the highest classification.
The Crusaders’, who expect to be an ‘A’ team when the year began, more than competed with St. Anthony’s in the program’s first ever Class AA girls’ basketball championship game. They pushed the Friars often, but never enough to finally surpass them in a 57-43 loss at St. John Villa on March 12.
“We were the doormat of the ‘B’ league [four years ago],” Crusaders coach Tom Catalanotto said. “Now we are playing AA, playing top competition. We are here to stay.”
His club, which trailed by six at the half, used seven straight points from junior guard Delphynia Sparks to get back in the game. Her three-pointer cut the Friars’ lead to 33-28 with 3:12 to play in the third quarter. St. Anthony’s responded to of Scanlan’s advances, including an 8-0 run to go back up 41-28 going into the fourth.
“We lost a lot of focus,” guard Janier Cooper said.
Scanlan got as close as nine twice early in the fourth, but turnovers and missed jumpers kept them from creeping closer.
“Every time we would get a break they would score right back,” said Sparks, who scored a game-high 16 points.
Cooper had 12 points and Towson-bound wing Nukiya Mayo was held to just five before following out in the fourth. Center Jayla Jones-Peck paced St. Anthony’s with 15 points, Taylor Goode scored 12 and Allyson Murphy chipped in 11.
Scanlan (21-8), the Archdiocesan champ, got the game thank to a 59-51 win over Cardinal O’Hara (Buffalo) in the semifinals the day prior. The score was tied at 44-44 with 7:28 to play in the game, before the Crusaders used a 14-3 run to finally gain separation thanks to the pressure its man-to-man defense put on the opposing ball handlers.
“They were getting frustrated because we were locking up,” Sparks said. “They weren’t doing as much as they were doing in the 3-2.”
Sparks, who scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half got it started with a corner three and added layup off a steal. The spurt put Scanlan up 58-49 with 33.6 seconds remaining.
“That’s Del though,” Catalanotto said. “We expect that. When that [three] don’t go in there is something wrong with Del.”
While Sparks powered her team after the break, but it was junior Chanell Williams tallying 12 of her 15 points in the first half that helped the Crusaders take a 34-29 lead into intermission. Mayo chipped in 10 points and Anndea Zeigler paced Cardinal O’Hara with 11.
Scanlan couldn’t replicate the effort in the final, but is excited for a future of more chances to get it done.
“I can’t wait until next year,” Sparks said. “Hopefully next year we have a better outcome.”