By Joseph Staszewski
The Monsignor McClancy girls’ basketball team understands the task of ascension it is undertaking and how hard it will be. That is half the battle.
The former all-boys’ school didn’t have girls, let alone a whole team of them, until 2012. The program is starting from scratch, but the Crusaders want to play in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens’ top division sooner rather than later.
McClancy has taken the first steps. It won the junior varsity diocesan title last season and is already a contender at the varsity level in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II with a team of 12 sophomores and two freshmen.
“These girls, they are ready for any challenge,” McClancy Coach Dewey Hopkins said. “They don’t back down from anything.”
If there was any point for that not to be true, it was in an eventual 62-54 road loss to defending diocesan champion Bishop Kearney Monday. McClancy trailed 50-33 after Christina Heyer buried a three-pointer close to the third quarter. On top of that, star point guard Taylor Aybar dislocated her finger and did not return.
The young group could have packed it in, but fought instead. They battled for Aybar and themselves.
“We felt bad because she wants to do well this season,” McClancy center Ashley Martin said. “We felt we needed to play even harder than we were — for her.”
McClancy used a full court press to spark a wild 19-4 run to pull within 54-52 with 1:12 remaining in the game on a layup by Kenia Garcia. Martin scored nine of her 21 points in the fourth quarter, Aybar had 20 and Garcia added 10. Kearney, who made its free throws down the stretch to seal the win, didn’t expect that type of fight from the young Crusaders.
“We were shocked, even though we had the lead, they came back and they were still fighting even though they were down,” Tigers senior guard Christina Heyer said.
It’s a trait McClancy will need during its journey to reach its goal to play in the part of the league regularly considered one of the best in the country. The Crusaders are off to a 3-3 start in Brooklyn/Queens play, including two tight losses to St. Edmund.
There is talent to make it happen. Aybar can break down defenders of the dribble. Martin is a force in the paint and Gina Hopkins, Mariah Steele and Kaitlyn Stenz add to a fine supporting cast. Hopkins knows patience will be needed and said he, his parents, his school and his kids understand that.
Martin said her team has a ways to go in order to win a championship at the varsity level, but nothing is going to stop them from trying to make it happen sooner than anyone expects.
“It’s been hard because we are sophomores playing juniors and seniors,” Martin said. “We put up a fight against all the teams we’re playing. We will always fight each game we play.”
Therefore, they will always have a chance to fulfill their goal.