By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s Prep made an unexpected run to the diocesan championship game for the second-straight year because of crisp play, hot shooting and a commitment to defense.
But the Red Storm looked like a different team than the one that beat Fontbonne to make the final for much of the first half of the title game, and dug a hole too deep to overcome.
The fifth-seeded Red Storm fell 55-28 to No. 2 and defending champion Bishop Kearney in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II girls’ basketball title game at St. Francis Prep Saturday. Amailia Downer and Simone Encalada scored nine points apiece.
“As long as we made it here, we did pretty well, so it’s a big accomplishment,” sophomore forward Leeandra Ricks said. “We were a little bit off. We could have done much better.”
The Red Storm had trouble making shots in the first half and early into the third quarter. St. John’s Prep watched Kearney go on a 12-0 run over the second and third quarters to grab a 31-11 lead on an Emily Hiltunen three-pointer. Star Tigers guard Christina Heyer was held scoreless before the break, but Hiltunen went off to the tune of 23 points and five three-pointers.
St. John’s Prep did attempt to rally in the third quarter. It pulled within 31-19 on two Nicole Schweit free throws with 3:07 left in the frame. Hiltunen answered with a trey in front of the Kearney bench and a Kailey O’Grady three-point play made it 37-21 with 1:54 remaining in the quarter.
“It really hurts,” Ricks said.
She believed that despite the loss, St. John’s Prep can use the playoff run and its trip to the finals as fuel for next season. The Red Storm will lose just three seniors, including starter Bobbi Wilkins, and will return with a core group of players, who have plenty of big game experience.
“I feel like we can make it to the championship again,” Ricks said. “I think it should bring us up for next year and keep us motivated.”
Mary Louis (JV) 64, Archbishop Molloy (JV) 58: Sophomore guard Jasmine Brunson scored a game-high 30 points to lead the undefeated Hilltoppers to their first junior varsity title since 2012.
Elizabeth Hanover had 10 points and Courtney McCool added nine for TMLA.
Jessica Verga led Molloy’s scoring with 15 points and Sophia Hyland added 13.