By Joseph Staszewski
For the first two months of the season, all an injured Kaela Kinder could do was watch when things got tight and tough for her Christ the King team.
The Virginia Tech-bound wing made up for lost time, with first place hanging in the balance, in a back-and-forth game against Mary Louis, her fourth since returning to the lineup. Kinder scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Royals to a 58-51 victory in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens girls’ basketball in Middle Village last Friday. She had 10 points in the fourth.
“It’s just showing me that I’m still a part of the team,” Kinder said. “I was gone for so long, but I am still part of everything that is going on. It feels good.”
Kinder’s layup off a feed from Virginia-bound guard Dominique Toussaint put CK (11-5, 6-0) up for good at 51-48. Her efforts on the glass and 10 boards from freshman Kaelynn Satterfield made a difference. They allowed CK to limit TMLA’s second chances and get out in transition to close the game on a 12-3 run.
Kinder broke her ankle in tryouts and spent six weeks in a boot and two more of rehab before she even began practicing. Her performance against Mary Louis (12-4, 3-2) was a leap forward.
“She still struggles a bit,” CK coach Bob Mackey said. “It’s hard for her to get through a full practice at 100 percent, but tonight showed there was definitely marked improvement.”
The Royals leaned heavily on its battle-tested seniors down the stretch. Toussaint stole a pass in the backcourt with CK up 53-51 and 35 seconds left in the game. Sydney Zambrotta (10 points), who is headed to Louisville, battled foul trouble all game, but made three of four free throws in the final 28 seconds. Ashlie Howell chipped in 10 points.
“We kind of just gutted out the win,” said Toussaint, who scored 14 points, including the 1,000th of her career. “It’s just hard work and we have been through it, so we know how hard we have to work to get that win.”
Mary Louis, on the other hand, scored just three points over the final 5:00 of the game. It missed chances to put Christ the King on its heels early. TMLA, which went 8-for-20 at the free throw line, had a 10-0 run late in the first quarter, but led just 16-11 after a Toussaint three at the horn.
The Hilltoppers answered a CK spurt with a 9-0 run in the third quarter, but needed Brunson to bank a long jumper to grab a 41-40 advantage going into the fourth. They then watched CK score the first four points of the final frame.
“Just learning that we have got to play every possession is going to help us,” said Mary Louis coach JoAnn Arbitello-Pinnock said. “The game wasn’t lost at the end of game. The game is lost in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter.”
Minnesota-bound guard Jasmine Brunson paced the Hilltoppers with 24 points, but star junior Danielle Patterson had nine of her 12 points in the first half. Courtney McCool chipped in eight. CK rotated three defenders on Patterson and blanketed her when she drove to the hoop. Arbitello said Patterson, a Medgar Evers transfer, is still adjusting to playing in a new league and isn’t worried about her off night.
“This is just something she learns from,” she said.
What the Christ the King players wanted everyone to learn is that the defending CHSAA state champions are still the class of league, despite strong challenges from TMLA and Bishop Loughlin.
“Everyone is talking, ‘[The Hilltoppers] are better than you. They have the best girl in the city,’” Kinder said. “We just wanted to come out and have a great team win and beat them.”