By Will Sammon
Jaws dropped and mouths opened in disbelief when the final buzzer sounded to signal the end of the Monsignor McClancy’s girls’ basketball team’s season.
After McClancy erased an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead with 14.6 seconds left, Good Counsel’s Theresa Egasan made a three-pointer at the top of the key with a hand in her face as time expired.
The Crusaders were left shaking their heads in shock after the stunning 48-46 loss in the CHSAA Class B city final March 12 at Bishop Kearney in Brooklyn.
“All the credit goes to the girl who made that shot,” Crusaders coach Dewey Hopkins said. “That’s a tough shot to make.”
McClancy’s Cailin Fallon made a clutch basket of her own to give the Crusaders a 46-45 lead with 14.6 seconds remaining.
Fallon first received a pass when she was wide open on the left wing. Despite no defender near her, she dished the ball back to a teammate. Hopkins then shouted, “Don’t be afraid to shoot,” from the bench. Still open and in the same spot, Fallon received another pass a second later and drained the deep three-pointer.
“That was a great moment,” Hopkins said. “She’s hit big shots for us all year so I’m glad she decided to believe in herself. That’s what we preached before this game: believe.”
Taylor Aybar scored a game-high 16 points, including eight in the fourth quarter for the Crusaders, who were down 41-33 with about five minutes left. Aybar played the final five minutes as if she were possessed.
She made a steal and layup after dribbling through three defenders to cut the deficit to 41-39. On the Crusaders’ next possession, she got fouled after going hard to the basket and made the ensuing free throws to knot the score at 41-41.
After Good Counsel took a 44-41 lead, Aybar made two more free throws. Good Counsel’s Maggie Murray then made one free throw, but missed the next and the ball caromed a few feet off the rim. Aybar secured the loose ball by hitting the floor to secure the possession that led to Fallon’s big three.
“Taylor is a motivator and all she wants to do is win,” Hopkins said. “I’ve never seen a girl with that type of motivation where it’s win, win, win, win no matter what.”
Aybar also finished with eight assists and five steals for McClancy, which upset St. Edmund in the semifinals. Ashley Martin added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Falton, Kaitlyn Stenz and Kenia Garcia scored six points apiece.
“This group practiced harder than any team I’ve ever coached in my life,” said Hopkins, who has guided the team for three years after spending 20 years as a CYO coach. “I never had a team work as hard as they did. This was a very hard loss to take, but I’m extremely proud of this team.”