By Joseph Staszewski
So far, 2015 has been good to Christ the King after a tough end to 2014.
The young Royals girls’ basketball team struggled through the first part of arguably its toughest stretch of the season, losing four of five games to Paul IV, Bishop Loughlin, Springfield Central (Mass.), Braintree (Mass) and were beaten soundly by Capital Prep (Conn.).
“December was difficult,” Royals coach Bob Mackey said. “We lost to four really good teams. But you know what, you’ve got to learn. You’ve got to go out and play good teams.”
Injuries played a role as CK was down to seven healthy players at one point, but it wasn’t used as an excuse. The rough patch made the inexperienced team look at itself and realize it needs to play more as a unit and less as individuals if things were going to turn around.
“We are young and inexperienced, they really had to look inside and say. ‘Hey, what are we doing? Why aren’t we doing this?’” Mackey said. “I think those losses helped them learn to play as a team.”
Since the calendar turned to January the Royals are a perfect 4-0, including a 66-53 victory over PSAL power South Shore at home last Sunday. CK also has league wins over Molloy and Nazareth.
“We showed we can grow up and get used to the fact that we are not used to playing with each other and be in sync,” junior guard Dominique Toussaint said of beating South Shore.
It showed when Christ the King maturely and swiftly turned back each of South Shore’s attempts to get back into to the game. The most important came in the third quarter. South Shore pulled within 33-32 with 4:35 to go in the frame and couldn’t cash in on three chances to go ahead.
The Royals (8-4) responded by converting turnovers into transition points during an 11-0 run to end the frame. Sydney Zambrotta, who led all scorers with 21 points, ended it with a steal and a three-point play as the buzzer sounded to put CK up 47-35. South Shore (10-4) got with 51-47 in the fourth, but Christ the King quickly turned the run aside.
What Christ the King coach Bob Mackey liked most was they won thanks to contributions up and down the roster. Kaela Kinder and Toussaint each scored 16 points. Ashlie Howell added eight off the bench. Howell and freshman call-up Emily Engstler (seven rebounds) did a good job containing Maryland-bound post Brianna Fraser (21 points) after she got off to a good start.
“After we lost all those games, we realized that we just need to pick it up and play as a team,” Zambrotta said. “I think that is what we are doing right now.”
When the Royals were at their best, the ball moved from one player to the next with ease and precision. With the additions of Engstler and sophomore guard Jhayliene Fisher, depth has joined balance as one of Christ the King’s strengths.
There is more growing to do, but the Royals have already taken a major step forward, thanks to some trial by fire. It means 2015 should continue to be a good year if this keeps up.