JFK’s LaMonica shoots down Western Reserve with 37 points
By JOHN HARRIS
When Warren JFK girls basketball coach John Condoleon revived the program a few years ago, the team featured a freshman guard with a deadly outside shot.
JFK senior Antonella LaMonica is all grown up now, and her shot is as deadly as ever.
LaMonica drilled a game-high 37 points — one under her career high — in No. 8-seed JFK’s 63-51 win over No. 4 Western Reserve on Saturday in a Division IV sectional final.
LaMonica knocked down seven 3-pointers, including back-to-back triples to open the second half after host Western Reserve rallied within 28-26 at halftime.
LaMonica’s timely 3-pointers broke Western Reserve’s momentum and extended JFK’s lead to 34-26. When Alyssa Serensky hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 34-32, LaMonica answered with four free throws and another 3-pointer to make it 43-36.
JFK led 45-39 after three quarters and led by as many as 14 points, 59-45, in the fourth quarter.
“Antonella stepped up big time. Whenever we needed a bucket, we went to her,” said Condoleon, whose team improves to 14-10 and meets McDonald in a district semifinal on Wednesday at Mineral Ridge.
“We brought the program back four years ago after it went away for a year. We took our lumps at the beginning,” said Condoleon. “Antonella was a freshman on that first team. She’s been a leader for four years.”
LaMonica, who set a JFK scoring record (boys and girls) when she surpassed 1,600 career points this season, keyed a 12-0 run with two 3-pointers to help build a 20-7 lead after one quarter.
“I can tell early when I’m feeling it,” said LaMonica. “I felt really good.”
Reserve (13-10) always seemed to be on the verge of tying the score or taking the lead. But the Blue Devils could never get over the hump.
Alexis Hughes scored a team-high 15 points and Gabbie Baranowski added nine to provide a balanced scoring attack, but it wasn’t enough to offset LaMonica, who was the only JFK player to reach double figures.
“Any time the season comes to an end you’re disappointed and at a loss for words what to say to the girls in the locker room,” said Western Reserve coach Steve Miller. “It was one of those games I felt like if and when we could get the lead, but every time Antonella would get to the foul line or knock down a big 3-pointer. There’s a couple of special girls in every tournament, and she’s one of them.”
JFK’s Taejah Burney scored nine points, including two baskets in the fourth quarter to keep the hosts at bay. It was Burney’s first points since scoring her team’s first five points to open the game. Caitlyn Condoleon added seven points for the Eagles.
But, mostly, the game belonged to LaMonica, who looked for opportunities to fire away from long range and inspired her teammates in the process.
“We’re pretty young with a lot of sophomores, so I try to step my game up,” said LaMonica. “We believe in ourselves.”
Said Condoleon: “When things go good for Antonella, they usually go good for us.”