Catholic high school alums part of history-making college basketball team
Few people noticed it at the time, but when the Monmouth University women’s basketball team won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship for the right to play in the recent NCAA women’s tournament, four graduates of Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Trenton were on the roster.
While the team’s make-up was notable, its accomplishment was historic: Despite being seeded seventh in the tourney, the team secured Monmouth’s first CAA championship title in any sport since joining the conference last year. Coached by Ginny Boggess, the Hawks were considered underdogs when they defeated the Towson Tigers 80-55 for the crown.
Of the four Catholic school alums, three came from St. Rose High School in Belmar. Lucy Thomas, Jen Louro and Lovin Marsicano, all of them fifth-year seniors, ended their collegiate athletic careers together on a high note. The fourth Trenton diocesan alum is rising star Antonia Panayides, a junior. Panayides hails from the Red Bank Catholic Class of 2021 and started all season as the team’s point guard.
“I couldn’t have done it without Lucy and Jen; the journey’s been incredible,” said Marsicano, a member of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish in Spring Lake. “I played with Jen since third grade and knew Lucy Thomas since high school. They were the reasons why I chose to do my fifth year.”
Marsicano played four years at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia before choosing to return home for her last season – Monmouth is in West Long Branch, 10 miles from Spring Lake – while Louro transferred her sophomore year to Monmouth from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in 2018.
Thomas, a member of St. Rose Parish, said, “St. Rose High School for sure prepared me for college and life. We had good coaches and a support system when I was there. We competed to get where we are now.”
She added, “It was unbelievable how we ended it like that. There were many highs and lows during these last five years, like critical games we lost. We never went far during the conference championship before. During it all, my faith in God was always important to me.” Thomas played all five years at Monmouth and ended her collegiate career scoring 1,000 points.
“Looking back, I believe everything happens for a reason. I tore my ACL my sophomore year, but if that (hadn’t happened), I wouldn’t have had eligibility to play where it was critical this year. It was challenging before,” said Louro, a member of St. Rose Parish in Belmar.
“I believe it was all in God’s plan. We also couldn’t have done this without the support of our families. They supported us at St. Rose, they went to all our games, including the conference (finals) in Maryland and the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis.”
During their years on the St. Rose High School girls’ basketball team, they won the Shore Conference tournament in 2017 defeating St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and New Jersey state championships in 2015 and 2018.
The team’s historic run ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Tennessee Tech. Despite the loss, for Thomas, Louro and Marsicano, the Catholic lessons of faith, friendship and teamwork made an impact on their student-athlete careers and in life.