By Stephen Zitolo
Christ the King guard Sydney Zambrotta is known for her ability to score and carry her team’s offense. The junior certainly didn’t disappoint on that end in the CHSAA state title game by scoring 32 points, but what really made the difference for the Royals was her relentless hustle on the defensive end.
“She turned it up,” Christ the King head coach Bob Mackey said.
Zambrotta added six rebounds, four assists and drew two offensive fouls on Archbishop Molloy’s Aryn McClure to go along with her big fourth quarter hoops. It was enough to help CK rally for a 62-55 over the host Stanners in the CHSAA Class AA State girls’ basketball championship game March 13.
“I knew my coaches and teammates have been relying on me to step my game up defensively,” Zambrotta said. “I thought today was the perfect day for me to do that. I hope from here on out I’ll be able to play like that defensively.”
CK (22-6) advances to its first state Federation semifinal since it won it all in 2010. It faces PSAL champion South Shore March 27 at the University of Albany. This clash was the fourth time Christ the King and Molloy played each other this season and the third time on the Stanners home floor. Christ the King was able to handle Molloy in the first three matchups.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” Zambrotta said. “These games have gotten closer and closer. I knew this was going to be the toughest one, but we pulled it out in the end.”
Molloy (21-8) led for most of the night, but Christ the King was able to keep the game close. Heading into the fourth quarter Molloy had a narrow 37-35 lead. Molloy opened the frame with a three pointer from senior Nicole Teta for a 40-35 advantage. Christ the King responded with an 11-0 run over a three-minute span, that included a big 3-point play from Zambrotta. Junior forward Kaela Kinder (six points, 15 rebounds) capped the spurt to put CK up 46-40 with 3:46 to go in the game.
Christ the King would never relinquish the lead after that point due in large part to the toughness shown by junior center Ashlie Howell and Zambrotta’s defensive hustle. Howell scored six points and grabbed seven key rebounds.
“I saw my team was going down,” Howell said. “We weren’t playing good defensively. Aryn [McClure] was getting to the basket. I had to step up defensively.”
Dominique Toussaint scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds for CK. The Qunnipiac- bound Aryn McClure tallied a team-high 25 points for Molloy and Teta added 10. It ended a season that saw a veteran Stanners team battle injuries to reach its third straight Brooklyn/Queens final and it first state ‘AA’ title game since 2008.
“This team is amazing,” Molloy coach Scott Lagas said. “They fought so hard for this win. Win or lose, Molloy really does things the right way. These girls should keep their heads up about that. These seniors were my first group of freshman when I first walked into this program and they have made this program what it is today.”