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St. Patrick Advances To New Jersey Title Game; Now It's St. Anthony's Turn

St. Anthony faces Oratory Prep on Monday for chance to play in unofficial national championship game.

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RAHWAY, N.J. -- Michael Gilchrist and his St. Patrick teammates haven't lost a game all season. And Gilchrist has no intention of ending that streak even if the next game turns out to be the biggest in the recent history of high school basketball.

After he put up 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in St. Patrick's 69-41 victory over Gill St. Bernard's in the North Non-Public B semifinals at Rahway High School, the Kentucky-bound Gilchrist was asked if anyone could stop him.

"Me? No," he said. "Us, no. All of us, nah. Ain't nobody stopping St. Pat's."

"Not today, not tomorrow, not Wednesday," added Gilchrist's stepfather, Vince Richardson.

On Wednesday, unbeaten St. Patrick (26-0), the No. 1 team in the nation, could play for the unofficial national championship against No. 2 St. Anthony (28-0) the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers.

Some 1,750 tickets have been sold for that game and "60 Minutes" has requested a credential because it's doing a piece on the Hurley family. The game will not be televised live, only on tape delay.

"This is going to be the biggest of my life so all of us are excited," said St. Patrick senior guard Chris Martin, who scored 13 points. "I think it's the biggest game of all of our lives, so we're all going to be excited. It's going to be huge and we can't wait."

Before the game is set, the Friars must take care of business Monday night against Oratory Prep in the other semifinal. The Summit, N.J. school had never won a playoff game before this season and will be huge underdogs against Naismith Hall of Famer Bob Hurley's team.

"Obviously, Oratory Prep had a good run but it's just going to be a tremendous, tremendous upset for them to beat St. Anthony," said St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle, drenched in sweat after the victory inside a packed gym. "You're looking at a lot of talent difference and probably a 40-point spread. You have to congratulate Oratory, but I'd be shocked if that happens.

"And obviously we want to play St. Anthony. We always want to play the best teams and obviously St. Anthony is one of the premier teams in the country this year and we want to hopefully go out there and see who's the best."

St. Patrick and St. Anthony are both small, Catholic schools located just 13 miles apart in North Jersey. Together, they have combined to win 15 New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles, with Hurley winning 10 at St. Anthony and Boyle capturing five at St. Patrick.

Boyle said his team had been preparing "for about 10 days on St. Anthony, and we've been working at the same time simultaneously on Gill St. Bernard's."

Because the St. Patrick-Gill St. Bernard game was moved to Sunday from Monday to accommodate the crowd, the Celtics will be able to scout St. Anthony on Monday. Boyle's cousin, Danny Schantz, has already scouted the Friars "about 12-15 times."

Asked if the potential showdown would be the biggest game of his career, Boyle wasn't prepared to go all the way there. "On the one side, you're going to say we've had some state championship games which were obviously very big games to be a state champion," Boyle said. "But it's a double-edged sword and then some. If you win, it doesn't mean you're going to be the state champion overall. There's a good chance in the Parochial B.

"If we win the whole thing and go undefeated, then without question it was the biggest game. There's no question it's a big rivalry, us and St. Anthony. Two of the premier programs in the country. It's an incredible situation. If we don't win, there's a good chance they win everything...You've got to make sure you finish that because they will if you don't."

St. Patrick finished off the Knights (26-3) after they put up a tough early fight.

The game was tied at 9 after one quarter and the Gladstone, N.J. school led 16-15 midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Alex Mitola.

But St. Patrick rattled off a 12-2 game-changing run to go ahead 27-18. Gilchrist hit a 3-pointer from the right wing and followed it up with a driving bucket to cap the run.

After the Celtics led by as many as 11 in the third quarter, Gill St. Bernard's cut it to 38-32 on a 3-pointer from Larry Piretra midway through the third. But the Celtics closed the third on an 11-3 spurt to take a 49-35 lead after three.

The Celtics dominated in the fourth quarter, 20-6, when 6-10, 240-pound Dakari Johnson made a steal at midcourt and then dribbled effortlessly upcourt for a layup.

"That felt good, at least I had the footwork to do that," said Johnson, who is already receiving interest from schools like Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown.

Gilchrist followed that play with a dunk that fired up the pro-Celtics crowd, who stood four to five deep behind the St. Patrick bench.

Western Kentucky-bound guard Derrick Gordon added 18 points and 7 rebounds and Johnson tallied 10 points and 3 boards.

Dom Hoffman, Gill St. Bernard's 6-6 junior big man, led the way with 14 points. Mitola added 11.

Gill St. Bernard's has now lost to both St. Patrick and St. Anthony this season, and head coach Mergin Sina said he was especially impressed with the Celtics' defense.

"I thought that these guys defensively are really tough," Sina said. "They're all over the place. St. Anthony, usually that's their thing. These guys are pretty tough defensively and I think it's going to be a ward.

"Those two teams against each other, it's going to be a fun game to watch."

After the game, Gilchrist was asked about the monumental and historic showdown that looms ahead.

"I'm not really worried about them, I'm not really worrying about them," he said. "I'm just worried about us."


Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and associate head coach Shaheen Holloway attended the game.