PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Kyle Anderson walked off the court with tears in his eyes and his finger raised in the air. After an emotional year, the St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J) junior finally had the signature win he always dreamed about.
That it came in a dominating performance against the No. 3 player in the nation, Michael Gilchrist, only made it sweeter.
Anderson was the key to POWERADE FAB 50 No. 2 St. Anthony’s 62-45 comeback win over No. 1 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) in the de facto national championship game.
He outplayed Gilchrist on both ends of the floor and set the tone early in the fourth quarter with a decisive three-play stretch that gave St. Anthony a lead it would never relinquish.
After what Anderson has been through in the last year, this win was a long time coming.
"It was really emotional for me," Anderson said of winning the NJSIAA North, Non-Public B State title. "After what happened last year, I feel like I won for two teams: St. Anthony and Paterson Catholic."
The second team Anderson mentioned, Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.), doesn’t exist anymore. It was closed for financial reasons last year, leaving the then-sophomore Anderson without a school to call home.
He battled with his decision on where to play next before eventually deciding on St. Anthony, the same team that ended Paterson Catholic's perfect season last year in the championship game.
Given another shot to claim the title that eluded him at Paterson Catholic, Anderson took out his year-long frustration on Gilchrist.
"Last year, being on the other end and walking off and losing was tough," Anderson said. "It means a lot to come back and win. We did it for all the guys who were on the team last year and lost."
Anderson, the No. 25 rated junior in the ESPNU Super 60, did it for his new team too.
He knew he had to play well against Gilchrist, a Kentucky signee who is the No. 3 ranked player in the ESPNU 100, for the Friars to win. And he wound up putting on the best performance when it mattered most.
Anderson scored 11 points, grabbed eight boards and added five assists. But it was his monster block on a Gilchrist layup attempt early in the fourth that sent the crowd into a frenzy and capped a three-play sequence that turned the Friars one-point deficit into a five-point lead.
Anderson had a hand in all three plays -- assisting on a backdoor layup to put St. Anthony ahead 41-40, making a close jumped to put it up by three and blocking Gilchrist’s pointblank layup attempt that led to a breakaway for the Friars -- and everyone pointed to that stretch as the deciding sequence.
"That was monumental," St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley said of Anderson's plays to start the fourth quarter. "We did a great job of taking a great player and stopping him from dominating the game."
Anderson did the most damage to Gilchrist, adding two steals against the McDonald’s All American and blocking another one of his shots. Even though he credited the team defense for holding Gilchrist scoreless in the second half, it was his play early in the fourth that made the difference in helping St. Anthony win.
“To play well against Mike Gilchrist is really big,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want it to get into an individual match. I just knew what I had to do to help our team win.”
What he did was outplay Gilchrist and win, a double-dose of delight for player who was waiting a year for it.