By Joseph Staszewski
This time Monsignor McClancy was leaving nothing to chance.
Ahead just 10 points at the half in its CHSAA Class B girls’ basketball state title game, coach Dewey Hopkins reminded his senior-laden team about the heartbreak it felt when its season ended on a buzzer beater in the city title game last season.
“I told them, ‘What happened last year, we have to really reflect on that now and understand why we had this motto, unfinished business.’” Hopkins said. “We have to finish business.”
The Crusaders went on to turn a tight game into a comfortable 62-32 victory over Sacred Heart [Yonkers] March 12 at St. John Villa. It is the first CHSAA state title in the program’s four-year history
“We were just determined this year because we had a bitter taste in our mouths from last year in the city,” senior guard Taylor Aybar said. “We kept saying [Sacred Heart] is known for coming back and last year the team came back. We just wanted to play until the buzzer.”
Aybar is a big reason why McClancy is heading to the state Federation tournament. She scored 25 points in a 63-49 semifinal win over St. John the Baptist and followed that up by dropping in 31 points and eight steals in the title game. She was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line in the win over Sacred Heart. Hopkins told her before the state playoffs that the team was going to live and die with her and he wanted the ball in her hands as much as possible.
“I was just determined,” Aybar said. “It’s my senior year. I just wanted to leave it all on the court.”
Gina Hopkins, Kristina Krslovic and Kaitlyn Stenz added six points each to earn this group another weekend together and another title to try to bring home. The seniors started the program when the school went co-ed and won its first Brooklyn-Queens Division II regular season and postseason crowns. It is special for Hopkins to see them put it all together.
“I just don’t know if I am ever going to get a group of girls like this again,” Hopkins said. “I’m cherishing every single moment.”
His players want to create one final memory together, starting with a state Federation semifinal game against NYSPHSAA winner Livonia Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany.
“We came a long way,” Aybar said. “We just want to take it all now.”