A competitive spirit filled the gymnasium on March 2 at the Jack Curran Gymnasium of Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, as the GCHSAA held its annual diocesan basketball championships.
When the dust settled, three girls’ varsity hoops teams capped off long seasons of hard work with diocesan titles.
Cristo Rey Brooklyn Cops ‘B’ Crown
Cristo Rey Brooklyn H.S., Flatbush, battled to a hard-fought 54-36 victory in the Division ‘B’ diocesan championship game over St. Saviour H.S., Park Slope.
The win was a fitting end to an interesting season for the Panthers. The team wound up replacing its head coach midway through the year.
It was a bit of a transition when Frank Carbone took over on the sidelines, but given his impressive pedigree of basketball in the diocese, the team rallied to finish off the season strong.
“It was tough at first, but as a team we stuck together and made sure that we won the ‘chip,’ which we did,” said senior forward Funmi Akeredolu, who recorded a double-double with 11 pts. and 13 rebounds.
Coming off the playoff bye week, the Panthers took some time to get their offense going, but a 12-3 run in the second quarter allowed the team to take a seven-point lead into halftime.
“To St. Saviour’s credit, they really did some good things,” Carbone said. “They forced us to switch out of our base defense. We were fortunate that we made just enough plays and got hot there at the end of the first half to give us a little momentum.”
The Panthers came out on fire from the field in the second half, with twin sophomores Kailey and Alexis Marrero leading the charge from 3-point land. The sisters combined to score 13 of the team’s 19 third-quarter points on a combined four 3-pointers.
“I feel like we needed to start scoring because we didn’t have a good first half, so we needed to improve on our offense,” Kailey said. “I had open shots, so I just took them.”
Kailey finished with a game-high 15 pts. and added seven rebounds, while Alexis tallied 12 pts. – all of which came in the second half – to go along with six rebounds and six assists.
For St. Saviour, senior forward and team captain Brianna Kenny led the way with a double-double, scoring 14 pts. and grabbing 15 boards.
Big Second Half Powers St. John’s Prep
All season, St. John’s Prep, Astoria, and Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, have been fierce rivals in the GCHSAA ‘A’ Division. They even had to play a one-game tiebreaker to determine which team would have the No. 1 seed for the playoff tournament.
Though McClancy won that game, it was St. John’s that came away with the 54-41 victory in the diocesan final.
The Crusaders raced out on a 9-0 run to start the game, but the Red Storm chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the scored at 18. Once St. John’s went up two late in the second quarter, they never looked back.
The Red Storm outscored the Crusaders 19-3 in the second frame, led by eight pts. from sophomore guard Eldina Derisevic. McClancy came out with lots of energy to start the second half, but once St. John’s star player Alexandra Tarul found her rhythm, the Crusaders couldn’t catch up.
Tarul, who averaged 14.5 pts. per game during the regular season, did not make a field goal in the first half. However, she recovered from the slow start in a big way, finishing with a game-high 26 pts., six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I just closed my eyes and said, ‘You got this,’” the sophomore guard said. “I worked so hard to get here so I needed to just keep playing hard.”
“I told her (Tarul) at the start of the second quarter, ‘I believe, we believe, you have to believe,’” said head coach Mike LoCascio, who won his first diocesan title in his third season at the school. “When she hit that layup, I knew things would change. Once she gets going, there’s not a better player in the league.”
After scoring eight of the team’s 11 points in the third quarter, Tarul rattled off her team’s first eight points of the fourth quarter. McClancy got within two points early in the fourth, but Tarul and Derisevic doubled down to guide their team to victory.
“This was our rival team so it means a lot to beat them (McClancy),” said Derisevic, who finished with 12 pts. and eight rebounds. “The competition between us is really great.”
The Crusaders were paced by 19 pts., nine rebounds and five steals from senior forward and team captain Brittany Stenz. Senior guard and team captain Leandra Ortiz added nine pts., seven rebounds and four steals.
Christ the King Takes Home ‘AA’ Title
In the final game of the day, Christ the King H.S., Middle Village, took down St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, 52-34 in the Division ‘AA’ diocesan championship.
Playing without standout senior guard Kaelynn Satterfield – who averaged 17.3 pts. and 6.5 rebounds per game this season, the Lady Royals got off to a slow start offensively and trailed the L’il Terriers by three after the first quarter.
With the score tied 16-16 at halftime, Christ the King regrouped in the locker room and came out strong in the second half.
“After halftime, we came out ready to play,” said senior guard and team captain Nina Rickards, who had a double-double with 10 pts. and 12 rebounds. “Offensively, we worked the ball instead of rushing because it was a fast-paced game at first. We slowed it down and got the shots that we wanted to take.”
“We just needed to push more in transition, and the shots that we took, we just had to keep shooting because they were definitely going to fall in the second half,” said senior center and team captain Klarke Sconiers, who also had a double-double with a game-high 19 pts. and 12 rebounds. “We kept the confidence and mentality that this was our game.”
A quick 7-0 run by the Lady Royals to start the third quarter helped the team open the lead, and 14-2 run to start the fourth sealed the victory. Junior forward Mia Seemadray scored all seven of her points in the final frame. Junior guard MacKayla Scarlett led St. Francis Prep with 10 pts. and four rebounds.
“Our defense was the best offense,” said head coach Bob Mackey. “We changed up the defense and got the tempo going. The game was too slow.”
The Lady Royals dedicated their win to former assistant coach and player Clare Droesch, who was an All-American her senior year of high school. Droesch was just 36 years old when she died in May 2018 after a six-year battle with breast cancer.
There’s no doubt she was looking down proudly on her team as they captured their second consecutive diocesan title.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.