Year’s best in Queens high school sports

By Joseph Staszewski

The last 365 days brought plenty of highlights, produced many stars and created memories to last a lifetime.

TimesLedger Newspapers Sports Editor Joseph Staszewski takes a look back at the year in Queens high school sports and picks the best of the best. Here is what stands out from 2014:

Program of the Year: Christ the King

The Middle Village school has been a standard of excellence in basketball for many years, but the Royals succeeded at a high level in numerous sports in 2014. The boys’ hoops team won their second straight CHSAA and state Federation ‘AA’ crowns and the girls took home the Brooklyn-Queens chip. The CK girls’ soccer team won a third consecutive diocesan title and reached its first ever CHSAA state final. The boys’ squad finished second in Brooklyn/Queens and the school’s football team enjoyed revival.

Boys’ Athlete of the Year: Keith Rogers, Cardozo baseball

No one player was more important to his team’s success than Rogers as he hit and pitched the Judges to their first PSAL title since 1988. He was undefeated in 11 starts and won four playoff games. Rogers, who allowed just three earned runs all season, was the victor in the quarterfinal, semifinal clincher and the title game at Yankee Stadium. He also drove in the go-ahead run against Tottenville in the final.

Girls’ Athlete of the Year: Sierra Calhoun, Christ the King

Calhoun, who is now starting at Duke, etched her name into Royals lore as a senior. She was named a McDonald’s All-American and led CK to a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title, a 21-4 record and a berth in the Catholic state semifinals. Calhoun averaged 24 points, 9.3 rebounds and four steals per contest.

Team of the Year: Christ the King boys’ basketball

The Royals put together quite a title run in a season where the CHSAA was its deepest and most talented in years. CK beat Cardinal Hayes and Bishop Loughlin en route to a fourth city championship in the last five years. It then took down Queens rival Cardozo and Long Island Lutheran to claim a state Federation Class AA crown in a year it was far from favored to do so.

Coach of Year: Mario Cotumaccio, Aviation boys’ soccer

No one believed Aviation could win a PSAL Class AA city title, but Cotumaccio, and he made his team feel it and do it. The superb playoff tactician completed a five-year journey to the top with upsets of Beacon, MLK and Susan Wagner. He gave his kids both the confidence and the strategy to make it happen.

Best Newcomer: Kevin Zepeda, Aviation boys’ soccer

The senior played his first season with Aviation after focusing on working after school for the first three years. Zepeda made an immediate impact. He scored 16 goals, including the winner against MLK and tied the score in the final. Zepeda never shied away from the big moment and thrived in them.

Best Upset: Mary Louis girls’ tennis ends 16-year CHSAA state title reign

The Hilltoppers had been closing in on this feat over the last three years and finally did what no Catholic school team could for nearly a decade. TMLA topped St. Francis Prep 3-2 in the semifinals before beating St. Joseph Hill for the school’s first state crown.

Best Clutch Performance: Nicole Hubert, Mary Louis softball

The senior single-handly led her team to a 1-0 semifinals upset of top-seeded Archbishop Molloy and helped TMLA reach its first final since 2005. Hubert tossed a two-hitter and walked just one. She also drove in the game’s only run when she came home on a Katherine Barbaro single in the first inning after getting a hit to lead off the frame.

Game of the Year: Beach Channel vs. Bronx Science, PSAL Class B baseball final

The Dolphins’ first city title certainly didn’t come easy and without drama. Beach Channel, which blew a two-run lead, got a game-saving throw by centerfielder Antonio Moccia to cut down the potential winning run at home. Senior Kely Aponte sparked a ninth-inning rally that secured the title.

Story of the Year: Francis Lewis girls’ basketball wins PSAL ‘AA’ city title

Lewis took home its first crown since 1979 and ended Murry Bergtraum’s 15-year reign in the process, but the championship didn’t come without controversy. The PSAL waved its own rule to allow Taft School transfer and center Chelsea Robinson to suit up for the Patriots for the first time in the playoffs. It sparked plenty of questions and the ire of league coaches.

Quote of the Year: “The pressure was on and I tried to dismiss it,” said Scholars Academy’s Felicia Saravo on her winning hit to cap a six-run seventh inning in the PSAL Class B softball final. “I was scared, but I guess I have to hit it.”

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