By Troy Mauriello
ALBANY—It was a familiar feeling of heartbreak for Monsignor McClancy.
One year after the girls’ basketball team’s season ended on a buzzer beater in the CHSAA Class B city final against Good Counsel, McClancy’s year once again came down to the final shot.
Except this time, it was a narrow miss at the buzzer that left the Crusaders stunned in disbelief.
Trailing by one with 1.8 seconds left in overtime, McClancy senior star Taylor Aybar let go of a leaning shot right in front of her own bench. The shot clanked off the backboard, off the rim, and out, leaving the Crusaders left to deal with a disappointing 61-60 loss to Livonia (Section 5) in the state Federation Class B semifinals at the Times Union Center last Friday.
Aybar, who tied for the team lead with 17 points, seemed at a loss for words just minutes after the game as she tried to process just how her last-second shot—which she believed was good—didn’t drop in.
“It felt good, I had the nice rotation,” she said. “It just hit the backboard. I really thought it was going in.”
Her coaches believed so too, along with what felt like most of those in attendance in the area.
“The whole coaching staff looked and said ‘that’s got a great shot to go in,’” McClancy coach Dewey Hopkins said. “It’s just unfortunate for her, because she’s had a great career at McClancy.”
One that a questionable foul call helped bring to an end.
A three-pointer from McClancy sophomore Kristina Krslovic (17 points) tied things up at 60-60 with 29.8 seconds left in overtime, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Molly Stewart, who led Livonia with 20 points, drove to the basket and got to the foul line with 1.8 seconds left after a questionable foul was called on Garcia in the paint, fouling her out. She made just one shot from the charity strip to set up Aybar’s near miss.
“There’s nothing we can do, I’m not going to sit here and complain about the refs… but I thought it was an unfortunate call at that time,” Hopkins said.
Aybar, along with her fellow classmates, will have a thrilling final high school game to hang her hat on, even though the memory of its ending will be bittersweet.
Down 55-49 with 2:30 left in regulation, things were starting to look bleak for the Crusaders’ title hopes. They had led by as many as eight in the third quarter, but foul trouble for Aybar and Kenia Garcia (15 points) forced them to the bench and opened the door for a comeback for Livonia (24-5) going into the fourth.
McClancy (24-5) was back within three in the final minute, and a Garcia basket and a foul with 14.4 seconds remaining gave it a chance to tie the score at 55-55.
Although Garcia missed the ensuing free throw, Stewart split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left, and it proved a chance for Garcia to redeem herself.
The senior forward banked in a shot off an inbounds play with 6.3 seconds left to tie the score at 56-56 and send the game to overtime after a Stewart heave at the buzzer just rimmed out.
“That play, we just input it this week… we knew it was going to work, we had full confidence in it, and she [Garcia] got the job done there,” Hopkins said.
Another last second hoop was not to be.
Even with the loss, the McClancy seniors will all have exceptional careers to look back on. They helped build the Crusaders from their formation as a program four years ago into a CHSAA state champion that was a break away from a Federation final.
“I’m very proud,” Aybar said, as she looked back on her high school career and then forward into the young program’s future. “These girls, they have grown with us, and they’re going to take it far.”