BRONX, N.Y. -- Stardom being a process, Chastity Taylor brought her young career's most recent misstep to the free-throw line on Saturday night with 2.5 seconds left and a national high school landscape-altering result in the balance.
Less than a month ago, Taylor and St. Anthony's (Huntington, N.Y.) were trailing South Shore (Brooklyn, N.Y.) by one point and the sophomore guard was supposed to hit the game-winning layup, but missed instead.
Similarly, with the scored tied against Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), ranked No. 2 nationally in the POWERADE FAB 50, Taylor beautifully anticipated a skip pass over the St. Anthony's press, pilfered it and rumbled inside but was fouled. She missed the first foul shot, filling her with dread.
"I was pretty nervous," Taylor admitted afterward. "I was nervous because I missed the first one. I knew I just had to concentrate and relax. I didn't want to go into overtime because it would have given them a chance to catch up."
Apparently not one to put stardom on hold for too long, Taylor sank the second free throw and, when Kelila Atkinson's desperation heave from beyond midcourt went astray, the 5-foot-10 whippet of a guard had a defining moment for her career and St. Anthony's had an improbable, 49-48 shocker during the first day of The Mecca, hosted by South Shore and the Lady Choz club team at the Gauchos Gym.
The result was eye-popping because Riverdale Baptist had navigated the most turbulent portion of one of the nation's toughest schedules and appeared poised to run the rest of its table to finish off a once-beaten, national No. 2 season. The Lady Crusaders had lost only to No. 1 St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) but beaten seven other nationally ranked teams. After this challenge game, Riverdale was off next week to the Bahamas, home of its star senior, Jonquel Jones.
Though no vacation, St. Anthony's, on the other hand, already has lost four games, including those to No. 31 DuPont Manual (Lousiville, Ky.) and No. 49 Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.). The Friars were toppled by Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.) at the buzzer during last year's state playoffs. Now the No. 7 team in the FAB 50, Nazareth lost earlier this season by 36 points to Riverdale Baptist.
Everyone, most of all Taylor, could do the math.
"At the start of the game we were really nervous," she said, "because we knew they beat Nazareth by so many points."
If so, the Friars channeled that nervousness into an early lead. Riversdale established control, as Jones took ownership of the paint at both ends, during the second and third quarters, but St. Anthony's held tight. Junior Rebecca Musgrove, who led all scorers with 15 points, hit a 3-pointer, then a running hook to give St. Anthony's its first lead, 44-43 with 2:25 to play, since the first period.
Taylor, rated a four-star prospect in the 2014 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, nearly snagged the lead for good with 10.3 seconds remaining but her driving shot just spun in and out. She drew a foul, however, and calmly made the two ensuing free throws to produce a tie. It was Taylor who set up St. Anthony's final thrust by snaking inside Riverdale's long-limbed defenders and, with coach Ken Parham yelling, "Use your body,"finishing two straight driving forays.
"You can't go up soft," said Taylor, who had seven of her 11 points during the game's final five minutes. "First of all, you most likely will not get fouled. Then, you'll probably also miss the shot."
Further revealing her quick-study habits, Taylor also said of the upset, "Now that we beat them, we can beat any other team."
Sometimes a season, even a career, needs only a moment like this to transform a process into a mission.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.