In just over six months after being granted full membership in the NCAA’s Division III athletic program, St. Joseph’s College’s Brooklyn Campus, Clinton Hill, earned its first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
The Lady Bears basketball team, led by coach Frank Carbone, became the first team in school history to make an NCAA tourney appearance. The team was downed by undefeated Amherst College, Amherst, Mass., in first round action on March 2.
Despite the tough loss, the Lady Bears defied the odds this season and were still excited to be playing in the “Big Dance.”
“It really has been a wild ride,” said Carbone. “We didn’t really even expect it.”
After gaining NCAA status on Sept. 1, 2011, all 12 varsity teams at St. Joe’s chose to remain independent of a specific conference until it found one that met their needs. Each year, the NCAA awards one independent team with a pool ‘B’ tournament berth. Pool ‘A’ is made up of the 43 conference winners, and pool ‘C’ is the 20 at-large teams – for a total of 64 teams from all three pools.
St. Joe’s was originally on the bubble but received the good news during the NCAA’s selection show. The team huddled around the television screen, which revealed the first set of games for the opening round. Sure enough, the Lady Bears had been chosen to play Amherst.
“Right out of the gate to do this…it’s just monumental,” said Carbone. “It really is almost stunning. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
After losing the first six games of the season, St. Joe’s dream of even being considered for post-season play remained a long shot. In fact, the Lady Bears got off to a 1-9 start.
“That was as bad a start as I’ve had in my 15 years,” Carbone said. “It wasn’t really so much that we were playing poorly. We had played some pretty good teams tough.”
But on Jan. 5, the team finally found its groove. St. Joe’s battled to a 72-70 home win against Mount Saint Vincent, the Bronx. From that point on, the Lady Bears closed out the regular season 12-4 – finishing 13-13.
During that stretch, the team won 10 straight games, which matched the longest streak in eight seasons. They went almost a full month (mid-January to mid-February) without losing a single game.
“It’s tough to stay motivated when you’re losing close games,” said Carbone. “They stuck with it, and they persevered.”
The Lady Bears received contributions from a different player every night, which allowed the team to stay consistent throughout its run. Carbone’s style is to incorporate every player into his scheme, so his strategy worked out well.
Senior guard Ashley McQuillan (St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows) was the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 pts. per game. She also led the Lady Bears with 2.7 assists per game. She was selected as an All-Conference player for the fourth time in her four-year career.
Junior forward Janine Doran (Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood) averaged 10.6 pts. per game and led St. Joe’s with 6.3 rebounds per game. She was a strong interior presence on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. She earned her second straight All-Conference selection.
Sophomore guard Kelly McNamee (The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates) and sophomore forward Megan Moran (St. Dominic’s H.S., Oyster Bay, L.I.) each averaged 7.8 pts. per game. McNamee was named to the All-Conference team for the first time as a sophomore.
St. Joe’s currently doesn’t have its own athletic facility, so the teams practice and play anywhere they can in Brooklyn.
“We don’t even know where we’re practicing sometimes,” Carbone said.
Even with these limitations, St. Joe’s was able to accomplish one of its long-term goals in just its first season in the NCAA. The campus and surrounding community were all very excited, and the coach hopes this past season will put St. Joe’s on the map.
“People will now be aware of St. Joe’s in Brooklyn,” he said. “Hopefully, we become more of a destination for high school students who are looking for that kind of opportunity.”
But for now, Carbone and the Lady Bears will be hard at work preparing for a second straight NCAA appearance.
Contact Jim Mancari via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.[hr]
CYO Girls Champions
The Brooklyn/Queens CYO held its diocesan girls’ basketball championships Feb. 26 at St. John’s Prep, Astoria. Here are the final scores of the eight games.
Pee Wee: St. Adalbert (Elmhurst) 20, Our Lady of the Snows (North Floral Park) 9
Novice: St. Francis de Sales (Belle Harbor) 24, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs (Forest Hills) 19
Bantam: Our Lady of Lourdes (Queens Village) 28, Our Lady of Hope (Middle Village) 18
Rookie: St. Adalbert 20, St. Francis de Sales 16
Bantam: Our Lady of Hope 14, St. Joan of Arc (Jackson Heights) 11
Rookie: Good Shepherd (Marine Park) 18, Blessed Trinity (Breezy Point) 17
Intermediate: St. Nicholas of Tolentine (Jamaica) 42, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Point Lookout) 39