By Eric Braun


BELMAR – Tournament time and St. Rose girls basketball go hand-in-hand over the past seven years, having made the Shore Conference Tournament finals four out of the past six years, winning the tournament twice in that time frame.  This year’s group has the similar characteristics as the last group of Purple Roses to walk out of the Monmouth University gymnasium as champions.


The last time St. Rose was the champion of the courts at the Shore was back in 2017 when they knocked off heavily favored St. John Vianney, 56-31. The Purple Roses then and now did it with defensive pressure and controlling the glass on both sides of court.


On Thursday night in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament, St. Rose put on a clinic in the rebounding category pulling down 31 rebounds.  This, along with their stifling defense that created nine steals and three blocks, kept Donovan Catholic under constant pressure from midway through the first quarter through the rest of the game. 


The Griffins won the opening tip and immediately sophomore Jordyn Keating put Donovan in front, 3-0.  For the next couple of minutes both teams traded possessions and missed shots.  With a little over five minutes to play in the first quarter, St. Rose started to find their lanes and pressure the Griffins inside with great success.  Junior Brynn Farrell and senior Lauren Lithgow drained four straight free throws as a result of driving the lane and taking the fouls to give St. Rose the lead they would never relinquish. 


St. Rose would make a living at the line against Donovan Catholic, making 15 of 18 from the line. This is a telling stat line for St. Rose who has already scored more from the line this year than they did the past two seasons.


At the end of the first quarter with both teams starting to settle in, the Purple Roses led Donovan Catholic, 11-4. St. Rose then went on a run to increase their lead to ten, but then Donovan Catholic cut the deficit to six points, but that is as close as the game would get.  St. Rose dialed up the pressure on both ends of the court and jumped out to a 30-14 halftime lead.


Farrell led all scorers at the half with 15 points, followed by teammate sophomore Abby Antognoli with nine points and Donovan Catholic’s Keating with 12 points.


The second half was more of the same, as the Purple Roses continued to pound the rock into the paint and create offensive production.  By the time the third quarter ended, St. Rose had the contest in hand with a 22-point lead, 45-23.


St. Rose secured their trip to the next round of the SCT against Marlboro, winning, 58-38, despite a gutsy performance from the Griffins.  When great teams start to click you can only hope to slow them down, and that’s what Donovan ran into against St. Rose, which displayed too many offensive weapons and tremendous rebounding on both ends of the court.


The trio of Farrell, Antognoli and Lithgow, who have been the top three scorers for St. Rose this season, once again led the Purple Roses against Donovan Catholic.  Farrell led with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Antognoli finished with 13 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals.  Lithgow finished with 12 points and five rebounds.


Saturday afternoon, the Purple Roses took to the hardwood against Marlboro in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament and wasted little time getting to work.  St. Rose jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead before Marlboro could settle in. The Mustangs would find their legs and closed out the first quarter tied, 15-15.  St. Rose finished the second quarter on a 13-6 run to take a 42-31 halftime lead. 


The second half started the way the first half finished, with the Roses on fire as they raced out to a 7-0 run and would close out the third quarter outscoring Marlboro, 26-3, to enter the final quarter up, 68-35.  St. Rose closed out Marlboro with an 88-49 victory, with Farrell once again leading all scorers with 25 points. 


St. Rose will now take on Manchester in the semifinals Tuesday night.


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