By Joseph Staszewski
Dominique Toussaint, like many of her teammates, has waited her turn to take the reins of the Christ the King girls’ basketball program.
The junior guard, while getting plenty of minutes, spent the last two years playing in the shadow of an 11-player senior class that included McDonald’s All-American Sierra Calhoun. The pressure and responsibilities, especially on offense, now fall on Toussaint and backcourt mate Sydney Zambrotta. Toussaint, one of the city’s top defensive players, couldn’t be happier to be given them by Royals coach Bob Mackey.
“I have been waiting for this opportunity for two years,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for Mackey to come tell me to score more. For the last two years I have just been like a role player.”
The team is filled with players who were peripheral pieces to team success last year. Christ the King claimed the Brooklyn/Queens championship before losing to Nazareth in the CHSAA Class AA state final.
This year’s group wants to show it can keep the program among the state’s elite clubs.
“I think everybody feels that way,” Zambrotta said. “I feel like after last season losing to Naz, I feel like we have something to prove to everybody that even though we lost all those seniors I know that we still have a great team.”
Toussaint and Zambrotta each saw major minutes last year. They both handled the ball well enough to play point guard, but will each play on the wing instead because Christ the King needs them to score.
Senior Raven Dowling will run the offense at the point. Toussaint has the ability to get to the basket and has worked on her jumper and Zambrotta has proven throughout her career she can fill up a state sheet.
Mackey called athletic forward Kayla Kinder the team’s missing link. Her ability to score, rebound and defend girls bigger than her could be a major weapon for the Royals.
Ashlie Howell, a 6-foot-3 center, is fully recovered from a foot injury and is CK’s only true size. That hasn’t stopped Mackey from seeing what could be from a team that’s going to rely on its speed and versatility.
“When they are all on one page, it is really fun,” he said. “We have had a couple of runs where they really got it going. Wow. Maybe we are a lot better than we thought.”
Evy Coles is the team’s backup point guard and 6-foot-2 Jully Medna will provide size and rebounding off the bench for a squad that will go eight deep to start.
The Royals will not have dynamic guard Cynthia Perez after an she tore a ligament in her thumb and Mackey doesn’t expect her back until mid-January at the earliest.
Christ the King understands this season is about a talented group growing up and flourishing in bigger roles after the departure of a successful senior class.
“We have to step up,” Toussaint said. “We were underclassmen last year. We have to prove we are just as good as they are.”