No Rose Without a Thorn – St. Rose Ready to Bloom Again By Eugene Stewart

BELMAR – The Purple Roses of St. Rose are tough. They ended their 2018-19 season with an overall record of 28-3 and the champions of the Non-Public A division. Their last game was a five-point Tournament of Champions semifinal loss to Franklin, the eventual TOC champion. A final ranking of No. 1 in Non-Public A, No. 3 overall in the state and a No. 96 ranking nationally, last year was last year.  Speaking with players from St. Rose, this is a new year and the goal is an even better performance for 2019-20. 


The season, which opened on Dec. 20 against Holmdel, is coached by Mary Beth Chambers. The squad is anchored by two seniors – 5-foot-11 forward/guard Makayla Andrews and 5-foot-11 guard/forward Brynn Farrell; and two juniors – 5-foot-7 guard Abigail Antognoli and 5-foot-11 forward Maureen Stapleton. 


“We’re looking good, but the returning players will keep with the St. Rose level of play expected.  We’re really homing in on our defense this year,” said Andrews, who spoke of losing a few key players from last year, but the returning players are up for the challenge. “We fell short of our goal last year against Franklin. Our goal is to finish the job this year – run through the finish line, bring it home! 


“I’m very excited about this year,” exclaimed Andrews, a Lafayette University commit. 


St. Rose’s 2018-19 season began with win an 18-game winning streak against Holmdel (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), Shore Regional (2), The Patrick School, Gill St. Bernard’s, Rumson-Fair Haven (2), Manasquan(2), Raritan, Stuart Country Day, Monmouth Regional, National Christian Academy, Lincoln, Albertus Magnus, establishing its dominance.


After a 15-point loss to Rutgers Prep, they won another five straight against Raritan, Monmouth Regional, Putnam Sience Academy, Donovan Catholic and Marlboro. A loss against Manchester was followed by wins against Mount St. Mary Academy, Saint John Vianney and University. The loss Franklin in the TOC semifinals closed out the season. 


This year’s version of the Purple Roses is led by Antognoli.  At point guard, she runs the show and sets the pace for the team.  When asked what the fans should expect from St. Rose this year, Abby was not shy with challenging her teammates, while remaining humble. 


“Seedings and what we’re ranked doesn’t mean anything until we earn it. We have to prove we’re as good as they say we are,” she said. “We have to work hard everyday and show everyone we’re good.”


When asked about the type or style of play to expect from St. Rose this year, Antognoli was very direct.  “Up tempo, fast pace, run and gun where we play together like a unit.”


The St. Rose schedule is relentless in its challenges to return as Non-Public A champs. St. Rose’s upcoming schedule includes games at RBC (Jan. 3), at RFH (Jan. 10) and home versus Manasquan (Jan.13). Other key contests include away games at Raritan (Jan. 16), at Franklin (Jan. 18) and home against RBC (Jan. 28).  


A program looking to stand on past achievements and grow beyond their schedule and challenging by all estimations. 


Farrell shed a little more light on last year, this year and what it’s going to take to get back to the TOC. “Off of a great year last year, we have a big target on our backs this year. We just have to go out this year and keep up the tempo,” said the University of Florida commit.


The successes of a vibrant program at St. Rose are well documented, but the program hasn’t been without its distractions – the thorns.


The 2017 season was marred by a self-reported coaching violation resulting in coach Chambers serving a NJSIAA-sanctioned year-long suspension. Andrews, a Neptune transfer, had to sit out 30 days in connection with transfer regulations. Through the latter situation, Andrews took it in stride and even used the forced absence through the first month of the 2018 regular season growing on the sideline.


“I had to learn to sit there and watch my teammates while I couldn’t play. I enjoyed it, but it’s helped me to look at the game a little differently,” reflected Andrews. “It helped me see what the coaches see, not just as a player playing the game.” 


For the Purple Roses, this insight could be just another element to help propel St. Rose over the top and to the TOC championship.


Through it all, the St. Rose girls basketball team continues to rise each winter, as a perennial always does. Each season, the rose loses its petals to retreat and prepare for the next season. Proper nurturing – water, sunlight and food from the soil around it – provide what’s needed to grow tall and strong and capture the eye of those who admire “the work.”  This year’s St. Rose team is ready to put in that work!


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