By Joseph Staszewski
Archbishop Molloy knows a thing or two about watching double-digit leads evaporate in the fourth quarter. Unlike last year, the Briarwood school wasn’t the one having to make the comeback and it was refreshing.
“It felt good having a team coming back from what you did, how hard you played,” senior guard Amani Tatum said.
The Stanners saw host Bishop Loughlin cut a 14-point fourth quarter lead cut to three in the closing minutes, but ultimately held on. Molloy beat the Lions 72-64 in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball Dec. 12. The team drew strength from senior guard Alexa “Weazel” Dietrich, whose father Phillip, 43, died of a heart attack Dec. 3.
He was cremated Dec. 12, but Dietrich, who is headed to Pace next year, still wanted to play. She caused a key turnover on Loughlin point guard Jasmine Alston with 38.2 seconds left that kept Molloy up 67-62.
“She’s an amazing person, and I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” classmate and close friend Caroyln Gallagher said of Dietrich. “We spent half the day with her [Wednesday]. What she’s gone through is horrible. No one should go through that. But we’re her family. We’ll do anything for her.”
The Stanners, who fell in the CHSAA Class AA state semifinals last year, saw their depth shine through. They played most of the first half without the Columbia-bound Gallagher (17 points), who picked up two quick fouls and Patti Dorgler scored six straight points to put Molloy (3-1, 1-0) up 38-25 at the half. Tatum, who is headed to James Madison, fouled out with 2:00 remaining in the game after scoring 14 points and Molloy ahead just 62-58. Daniela Arias would hit a huge three-pointer and Nysha Irrizary had a transition layup late in the fourth quarter.
“They wanted to close the gap between the star players and them and they have,” Molloy Coach Scott Lagas said of his role players. “We have no second thoughts about going to anyone on the best.”
It was Loughlin’s star that nearly did them in. Albany-bound senior Imani Tate scored 24 points and Alston, who is headed to LaSalle, dropped in 22. They lead a 14-2 run that got the Lions (1-0, 1-0) within 61-58 on a Kiana Clark three-pointer with 2:53 left in the game. Molloy shot poorly from the free throw line to open the door. Still there was no panic in this veteran Molloy club, which starts three players in at least their third varsity season. Gallagher calmly sunk two free throws with 20 seconds remaining.
“You just need to block out the crowd,” Gallagher said.
Molloy was able to hold off a valiant Lions comeback to put an emotional week behind them and give Dietrich a lift.
“She’s stronger than anyone I know,” Tatum said. “It was a tough week for all of us .… She made it through and we had her back always.”