Eustace battles St. Anthony before falling

Posted: February 16, 2012

Trevor Norton will remember the open three-pointer that kicked off the side of the rim.

Carson Puriefoy will remember the layup that didn't fall.

Sho DaSilva will remember the rebound that slipped out of his hands.

These guys are seniors for Bishop Eustace Prep. They are competitors. They play to win.

So for now, they will remember the plays that got away when they look back at their shot at the best high school basketball team in the nation.

They will remember the reasons why St. Anthony of Jersey City was able to pull away for a 53-43 victory before a capacity-plus crowd Thursday night in the Crusaders' field house.

"It's like you have to get every rebound and you have to make every shot," Norton said of playing against a team that is 22-0, with a 55-game winning streak, and is ranked No. 1 in the country in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 and No. 3 in the country in USA Today's Top 25.

No team can get every rebound and make every shot. No team can play the perfect game - which might be what it takes to beat St. Anthony and its legendary coach, Bob Hurley.

Bishop Eustace (19-4), the No. 3 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, was far from perfect. But the Crusaders played a tough, gritty game, staying in contention for 32 entertaining minutes.

"I didn't think we ever were going to lose the game," Hurley said. "But we could never pull away, either."

Bishop Eustace made St. Anthony sweat to the final buzzer.

The Crusaders were down by 37-31 entering the fourth quarter, and were still within 42-36 when Norton made a baseline jumper with 3 minutes, 15 seconds to play.

Norton finished with 11 points, two steals, and four rebounds, and Puriefoy scored 10 with four assists and three steals.

"The point guard is terrific," Hurley said of Puriefoy.

But this was a complete team effort for Bishop Eustace before a standing-room-only crowd of around 1,400 spectators that included Temple coach Fran Dunphy and St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli.

Sho DaSilva scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked two shots. Ry'n Bland scored eight and grabbed three rebounds. Dexter Harris had five points and three assists.

"I thought we played great," DaSilva said. "We couldn't have played defense any better."

It was a great experience for the Crusaders, with the big crowd in the building, with the buzz that accompanies Hurley's team when the Friars get off the bus and walk into another gym.

"We played the best public-school team in New York last night, and we had to drive an hour and 45 minutes down here," Hurley said. "That [Bishop Eustace] is a senior team. They are tough and physical. They are smart."

It was a tight game from start to finish. Bishop Eustace never led after the first quarter, but the Crusaders never lost contact, either.

"I'm so proud of my team," Puriefoy said. "That's the No. 1 team in the nation, and the whole time we were within four or five points of them."

Early in the fourth quarter, Bishop Eustace had three chances to cut the lead to 37-33 - as Puriefoy missed a contested layup, and Harris missed a pair of contested putbacks. At the other end, Hallice Cooke hit a three-pointer to make it 40-31.

"The big thing after that was the way we battled back," Bishop Eustace coach Bob Falconiero said. "Our kids never gave up."

There's no margin for error against St. Anthony, no way to miss a couple of open three-pointers or rim out a layup or lose the handle on a couple of rebounds and still find a way to win.

You know, like you can against 99.9 percent of the high school teams in the country.

So Bishop Eustace's proud seniors will remember the plays that got away - for a little while, anyway.

But they're smart. They'll soon step back and remember what a great game they played against a great opponent.

They'll remember the crowd, and the atmosphere, and the night they pushed the best team in the country to the brink.

"I'll remember this the rest of my life," Puriefoy said.

St. Anthony   12 11 14 16 – 53

Bishop Eustace   10 8 13 12 – 43

SA: Kyle Anderson 7, Hallice Cooke 8, Josh Brown 15, Jerome Frink 16, Kody Jenkins 4, Jimmy Hall 3.

BE: Carson Puriefoy 10, Sho DaSilva 9, Dexter Harris 5, Trevor Norton 11, Ry'n Bland 8.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/

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