By Joseph Staszewski
JoAnn Arbitello has to catch herself sometimes and remind herself of the youth and inexperience on her Mary Louis Academy girls’ basketball team.
“I walk into the locker room at the end of the game and I want to go nuts, but then I have to remember really what I have,” the first-year coach said.
A 68-39 loss to Alexander Hamilton, of Section 1, in the Slam Dunk tournament final at the Westchester County Center last Thursday was one of the games that could test a coach’s patience. Arbitello wasn’t upset at her team’s poor shooting, but the lack of effort on defense a night after holding Albertus Magnet to 50 points in the semifinals. A day later TMLA (4-4) saw Rebels guards Maia Hood and Tiffany Corselli combine for 46 points and 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
“That’s what we worked on this year so much,” Arbitello said of defense. “We really stress it.”
Mary Louis, which trailed 33-20 at the half, did make a comeback attempt after the break. Sophomore forward Kadijah Dickson, who was under the weather, rattled off eight straight points. She capped the spurt with a coast-to-coast layup to pull the Hilltoppers within 36-30 with 5:46 remaining in the frame. Someone needed to step up in her mind.
“I was like, ‘We need a basket. We need a basket,’” Dickson said.
Alexander Hamilton (7-0), the defending Section 1 Class C champions, stopped things right there. It exploded for a 12-0 run to go up 48-30 with 1:30 left in the third. Center Kate Goldman led the way with 11 points and six rebounds for TMLA and Simone Hobdy and six points and seven boards. Kim Myers had seven rebounds off the bench.
“We never got back on track,” Arbitello said.
The Hilltoppers found a bad time for a poor shooting night, especially in the first half with the game yet to be decided. Dickson said the rims were tight and Arbitello said it felt like there was a lid on the hoop. TMLA missed layups inside as Alexander Hamilton connected on nine three-pointers for the game. A foul differential of 9-3 with 1:30 left in the first half and a 5-1 early in the fourth quarter didn’t help. The Rebels also shot 29 free throws to TMLA’s five, but Mary Louis didn’t do enough of the little things to overcome it.
Arbitello and her players know they need to be patient and keep working. Dickson noted how hard the transition to varsity can be, even from a junior varsity team that won the CHSAA city title last season. She wants to see the work and effort they put in at practice show up more often in games.
“We have to connect practice to games,” Dickson said. “We all can’t worry about I. We have to start worrying about team.”