By Anthony Bosco
Usually we here in the TimesLedger Sports Department try to alternate the coverage of local high schools, doing our best to give readers a balanced look at the Queens athletic landscape. But as fate (and the schedule-makers) would have it, I found myself for a second straight week at Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood to watch the girls’ basketball team in action.
Molloy, a school rich with athletic tradition and home to one of the nation’s most prominent high school basketball coaches in Jack Curran, didn’t even have a girls’ basketball team a scant five years ago. In fact, the school didn’t even have girls.
But when the brain trust opened the door to the fairer sex in 2000 — which basically cut male enrollment in half — it would not have been a stretch to theorize that it would take the girls’ scholastic teams a while to catch up with the other gender’s counterparts.
Consider them caught up.
While still a ways away from cementing the kind of reputation and reverence bestowed upon the boys’ basketball team, the girls’ club is doing just fine in just its fourth year of existence.
What head coach Marty Towey has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time is truly incredible. He has literally built the program from its infancy and turned it into a true threat to the best teams in the city, if not the country.
And I can say that confidently after witnessing the Stanners’ hard-fought 56-50 defeat at the hands of league rivals and nationally ranked Christ the King Royals.
Now, as good as the Royals continue to be, they aren’t the same program they were say 10 years ago, when a state Federation championship was considered a mortal lock. A few losses to city public school power Murry Bergtraum in recent years has tarnished the Royal luster a tad, but make no mistake, CK is still CK.
So when head coach Bob Mackey and his team swaggered into Jack Curran Gymnasium two weeks ago, I was expecting a typical outcome, maybe a 15 or 20 point Christ the King victory.
Boy, was I wrong. While CK still managed to pull out the win, they didn’t do it without a few anxious moments. The Royals, looking listless, were trailing by six at halftime, 26-20, and seemed on their way to their first league loss in five years.
Christ the King was ahead by just three with 19.7 seconds to play, just a turnover and a three from overtime against a league opponent. But in the end CK eked out the win.
Still, the game was a wake-up call, telling all Molloy can hang with the best teams around.
One of the things the Stanners have going for them is that the nucleus of the team has been playing together for a full four years, three of which on the varsity.
Molloy’s first season of girls’ basketball was played on the freshman level and the team went undefeated, a fact that no doubt played a part in the school deciding to move the girls straight to the varsity level the following year, skipping junior varsity entirely.
The core of the team consists of seniors AnnaMarie Ciorciari, Kristen Connor, Kerri-Ann Jetter and Jennifer Kelleher, all of whom have been on the team for the entire four years. Add juniors Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Jessica McEntee, as well as sophomore E.J. Dreyer, and you have as talented a team as you are likely to find competing on the high school level.
The ascent to the top has been steady. Two years ago the team was surprisingly competitive against the likes of St. Francis Prep and Mary Louis, which Molloy lost to in its bid to make it to the CHSAA ‘D’ state championship, eventually won by the Hilltoppers. The addition of Gold-Onwude and McEntee, the two leading scorers for the Stanners this season, immediately made Molloy that much better.
Not surprisingly, Molloy was a force to be reckoned with last year. While still a step or two behind Christ the King, the Stanners threw a scare into St. Francis, which for a time seemed destined to play permanent bridesmaid to CK’s bride, and went on to win the state Federation ‘C’ championship.
And now this year, the senior season for those first Molloy girls, the last chance to catch CK.
This past Friday I was at Molloy again for the non-league match-up between the Stanners and perpetual Poughkeepsie powerhouse Our Lady of Lourdes, which brought a gaudy 12-0 record into the contest.
It was a pick ‘em game from the outset, with Lourdes’ Julianne Viani going head-to-head with Gold-Onwude in a marquee contest between two of the best players in the state.
Viani won that battle, but Molloy eventually won the war, thanks in part to a total team effort. From Towey’s coaching, to McEntee’s gutsy play under the boards, Jetter’s tireless hustle and clutch baskets by Dryer, the Stanners did everything they needed to do to win — and still needed overtime to do it.
Thanks to the way the state playoff system is run, Molloy will have a shot at another championship this season without having to beat Christ the King to do it. But the Stanners, 0-2 this season against the Royals, will probably get another crack at unseating CK in the Diocesan championship later this season. They will still be the underdogs, but if history is any lesson, they will be tougher to beat the next time around.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130