By Joseph Staszewski
Archbishop Molloy was faced with an uphill battle it could not win despite a strong second half.
The Stanners’ season ended with a 61-47 loss to host and eventual champion St. Anthony’s in the CHSAA Class AA girls’ basketball state semifinals March 5.
Molloy trailed 13-4 after the first quarter with forward Aryn McClure in foul trouble, and the Stanners only got as close as 11 points in the fourth. The junior scored 16 points and Manhattan-bound guard Nyasha Irizarry added 15.
“We came close and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” McClure said.
The Stanners bench tried to get them back into the game during the second quarter after the slow start. Molloy Coach Scott Lagas said the team had a bad practice prior to the contest.
He hoped to ignite a spark by having just one starter — Irizarry — on the floor, for much of the second quarter. An Irizarry trey pulled Molloy to 19-12 with 5:20 remaining in the frame after Nicole Tetta and Taylor Kurs brought energy to the court. Turnovers allowed St. Anthony’s to capitalize on fast breaks. It used its size advantage with McClure on the bench to take a 35-16 lead into the half.
“She’s our big [presence] and she is our athletic player, too,” Irizarry said of McClure. “It was really hard to guard when she got into foul trouble.”
Molloy came out of the locker with a renewed energy, and with McClure back on the floor the Stanners were better able to compete with St. Anthony’s inside. The Stanners (13-13) closed the gap to 39-27 with 4:00 left in the third after Irizarry hit a three-pointer and then fed McMahon for a layup.
McClure missed two free throws that would have brought Molloy closer. They got within 12 again on a McClure jumper with 1:12 remaining in the frame, but Gabriella Gangone could not convert two foul shots.
“It’s been our Achilles heel,” Lagas said of his team’s free throw shooting. “We shot in the 60s for the season.”
The Stanners still trailed just 43-31 after three quarters, but Molloy never got closer than 55-44 with 1:44 remaining in the game. Chastity Taylor led St. Anthony’s with 22 points. Charise Wilson had 14 and Kalifa Davy added seven.
Molloy beat the Friars the last two years in the state playoffs, but this wasn’t the same Stanners team. It began the year with eight new varsity players and ended placing third in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens during the regular season, reaching the diocesan championship game and competing in the Class AA playoffs.
“I want them to know that they can play with anybody,” Lagas said, looking ahead to next season. “Now they have the experience.”