Fortunately for St. Anthony, Cooke got into a groove at just the right time.
The 6-foot-3 Oregon State-bound shooting guard earned MVP honors at the SNY Invitational after putting up a game-best 22 points as St. Anthony won its 81st consecutive game, 52-45, over Long Island Lutheran at City College.
St. Anthony (16-0) has now won the SNY Invitational the last two years it has been held — 2011 and ’13.
“Coach [Bob Hurley] didn’t really have the leash on me today,” Cooke, who went 7-of-13 overall and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, said with a broad smile. “He kind of let me play and he told me that he wasn’t going to take me out of the game. So I just had to be smart and play through mistakes.”
Temple-bound Josh Brown was also named to the All-Tournament team after adding 10 points and eight boards for St. Anthony, which has three games this week, including Friday’s big showdown against fellow undefeated New Jersey power St. Benedict’s Prep (17-0 )in the Newark National Invitational.
St. Anthony is No. 6 in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings, and St. Benedict’s is No. 9. A year ago, St. Benedict’s led St. Anthony by eight points in the third period, before falling, 51-50, in a January game in Hackensack.
“Definitely we’re thinking about next Friday but we gotta take it one game at a time because it’s all about getting better each day,” Cooke said. “It’s not about the next big opponent.”
After going scoreless in the first half of Friday’s win over Boys & Girls, Cooke tallied 12 points in the second half of that 43-28 win. He then came out cooking again in the final.
After a fearless Lutheran team (16-2) jumped out to an 8-0 lead, Cooke hit his first trifecta and had another as St. Anthony closed the quarter with a 14-12 lead.
“We run a lot of plays for him to get shots because he’s a really good shooter and he passes up on a lot of them to just put it on the floor and whatever ropportunites he doesn’t t always take advantage,” Hurley said.
“He shot more shots today.”
Led by UConn-bound forward Kentan Facey (13 points, seven rebounds, four blocks) and senior guard Mical-Ryan Boyd (13 points), LuHi trailed just 24-22 at the break. Both Facey and Boyd made the All-Tournament Team.
But the smooth-shooting Cooke hit three more 3-pointers over the LuHi defense in the third period and Brown scored six straight points during one stretch as St. Anthony outscored LuHi, 21-11, to lead 45-33 after three.
Luhi closed to within 48-45 on a 3-pointer by Chris Atkinson with 53 seconds remaining, but Brown and Cooke went a perfect 4-of-4 from the line in the final seconds.
“It’s big,” Cooke said. “It’s going to be easier for me to get through practices and I’m going to be a lot more confident with the other aspects of my game.”
Which will be critical with St. Benedict’s looming on Friday.
CARDINAL HAYES 67, BOYS & GIRLS 59
Junior guard Chris Robinson scored a game-high 24 points to lead Cardinal Hayes to a 67-59 victory over Boys & Girls in the consolation game.
With Hayes clinging to a 46-45 halftime lead, Robinson came out and scored nine straight points for his team, including two 3-pointers, to push the lead to 55-47.
“I saw my team was down a little bit and I just kept shooting,” said Robinson, who made the All-Tournament Team along with teammate Shavar Newkirk. “My coach [Joe Lods] told me to keep shooting so I kept putting the shots up and they happened to fall. So I played with confidence on my shots.”
Newkirk, a junior guard, added 17 points and 6-7 junior forward Mustafa Jones had 12 points and five rebounds for Hayes (13-5).
Romario Allen scored 12 points for Boys (8-7), which went 0-2 in the event.
While Newkirk holds offers from Seton Hall, Providence, Miami, Iona, Fordham and Dayton, among others, Lods believes Robinson and Jones, who is only 16, can play at the mid-major level.
“Especially since they’re only juniors, a year from now how good are they going to be when they put a little muscle on and get a little more game experience,” he said.
SNY INVITATIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP: Hallice Cooke, St. Anthony
Josh Brown, St. Anthony
Kentan Facey, Long Island Lutheran
Mical-Ryan Boyd, Long Island Lutheran
Chris Robinson, Cardinal Hayes
Shavar Newkirk, Cardinal Hayes
Honorable Mention: Kentrell Brooks, St. Anthony; Chris Atkinson, Lutheran; Tyler Wilson, Cardinal Hayes; Mustafa Jones, Cardinal Hayes; Romario Allen, Boys High.