By Brandon Mauk
This could be the start of something special for Monsignor McClancy.
The veteran Crusaders started out fast against reigning CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II basketball champion St. Edmund and never looked back. McClancy won its first league game of the season by defeating the Eagles 67-52 Monday.
“Today was a good win,” senior guard Taylor Aybar said.
It was an important victory for the four-year-old program, which wants to get over the hump and win its first crown.
“Beating the defending champs gives us the confidence to beat anybody.” senior Gina Hopkins said.
McClancy went co-ed in 2012, and this 12-player class of seniors have been together for all four years. Their familiarity with each other gives them an advantage over most teams in their league. After reaching the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II semifinal and the CHSAA Class B final last season, the Crusaders have their sights set on finally bringing home a championship.
“Playing four years with these girls has really built a great chemistry,” Hopkins said. “We have the most experience out of everyone else in the league.”
That cohesion showed on the court. McClancy (3-1) was at its best in transition, as it forced St. Edmund (4-1) into turnovers and created easy baskets. The Crusaders took advantage of St. Edmund’s less-experienced backcourt with double-teams and pressure defense.
They contained the Eagles on offense with the exception of star Kelly O’Donnell, who scored 43 of her team’s 52 points.
“The big key to the turnovers is that we were just a little bit quicker on the guard play, and I figured we’d be able to force turnovers easily and get quick baskets in transition,” McClancy Coach Dewey Hopkins said.
Aybar got McClancy going early, with nine of her team-leading 17 points in the first quarter. The Crusaders used a 12-2 run to go up 19-15 headed into the second. They trailed for just a little more than two minutes in the first quarter.
“We communicate well,” Aybar said. “On offense we move the ball well and we have a lot of chemistry together.”
An 8-0 run in the second quarter put McClancy up by 12, as Kaitlyn Stenz scored all seven of her points in the period. The Crusaders led 37-25 at the half and went up by 18 midway through the third quarter.
St. Edmund showed signs of life with a 9-2 run to cut their deficit to 11, but a three-pointer by Caitlin Fallon and back-to-back layups by Rhona McCaughey put McClancy up 56-37. The Eagles never got closer.
“It’s a great win for us, it’s a great win for the program.” Hopkins said. “Sky’s definitely the limit, confidence is through the roof. We’re ready to play anybody.”