St. Rose’s Abby Antognoli, center, celebrates scoring her 1,000th point this season with the Belmar team.  Courtesy photo
St. Rose’s Abby Antognoli, center, celebrates scoring her 1,000th point this season with the Belmar team. Courtesy photo

When St. Rose High School girls’ basketball coach Mary Beth Chambers starts discussing the attributes of Abby Antognoli, the conversation can turn into a marathon session.

“I could just go on forever saying good things about her,” Chambers said.

The parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, is not only a 1,000-point scorer for the Belmar school, she is also the senior class president and valedictorian for the Class of 2021, and her grade point average is “near 103 in all my classes.”

On the court, the lifelong point guard led the Purple Roses in scoring (21.8 points per game), assists (53) and steals (31) through their 10-2 start this year. She also led St. Rose in steals and assists the previous two seasons, and helped her team to NJSIAA Non-Public B titles as a freshman and sophomore.

“Being on a state championship team for two years pushed me to learn how to lead, how to compete, and how to win,” Antognoli said. “It was an adjustment going from a role player my freshman year coming in off the bench, to the leader and floor general my sophomore year. It was a great experience as well as a learning curve. Winning states is an amazing feeling, and those memories last forever.”

Another great remembrance was scoring her 1,000th point this season, which is an accomplishment that seemed precarious due to the campaign being shortened by COVID-19. Not to mention her role on the floor is to help others score instead of looking to score herself.

“I am so happy that I reached the 1,000 point mark, but it would not have been accomplished without my amazing teammates and coaches,” Antognoli said.

Those coaches and teammates feel the same way about Antognoli, too.

Chambers praises Antognoli’s leadership prowess and calls her a “role model for any young player because she plays hard every possession. She’s a very competitive leader that makes everyone around her better.

“Her work ethic is off the charts,” Chambers continued. “Her skill sets have improved exponentially every year – to the point where it’s just hard to guard her this year.” 

It is the result of constant hard work, even though her athletic career started in soccer. Since was the sport her mom played, Antognoli initially played travel soccer more than basketball.

“But when I started dribbling the soccer ball on the sideline, my mother knew she was in trouble,” said Antognoli, who quickly switched to AAU hoops with the Toms River Stars in fifth grade. She moved to John Mayo’s Lobos a year later and then played with the Jersey Shore Wildcats (now the CJ Hawks) to play for Joe Whalen.

Whalen was the St. Rose coach at the time, which prompted Antognoli to want to play for the Purple Roses. He resigned prior to her freshman year, but she still enrolled and has never looked back. She ran track as a freshman to stay in shape for basketball and won the Non-Public B gold medal in the 1600 and silver medal in the 800.

But track was one and done as she continued to work on basketball.

And she has a faith that is just as durable. “I know that any of my accomplishments have been due to God's grace,” she said. “I believe that God has a plan for me, and with his graces, I am able to accomplish many of my goals.”

Her next goal is to excel at the collegiate level, with plans to play for Pennsylvania’s Lafayette College next year. Leopards coach Kia Damon-Olson and her staff have been following Antognoli’s exploits since she was in eighth grade.

“My main priority was to play at a school that has an equal focus on academics and basketball,” Antognoli said. “I also wanted to go close to home, so Lafayette was the perfect pick for me.”