By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King fought and clawed to give itself a shot at a big last-minute victory, despite an out-of-sync performance, only to literally throw the opportunity away.
The Royals turned the ball over eight times in the fourth quarter—including three once they pulled within four points with just 2:18 to play in the game. St. Anthony capitalized on that and held on for a 59-51 win in the CHSAA Class AA state girls’ basketball semifinals at St. John Villa last Friday.
“We looked pretty good [there] considering I thought we played terrible,” CK Coach Bob Mackey said. “You can’t turn the ball over against a quality team… We turned the ball over too, too many times in key situations.”
The loss ends the Royals’ quest to return to Albany for the state Federation tournament, after reaching the title game last season. Christ the King (18-8) didn’t play with the poise expected from a veteran team that has won three diocesan titles and a Catholic state crown. Virginia Tech-bound wing Kaela Kinder said the group slipped back to its old ways and didn’t play as cohesively as it needed to.
“We had that problem in the beginning of the year, then we got past it,” Kinder said. “The past two, three weeks we have been fine and then tonight it just happened again.”
CK’s lack of ball movement, combined with the shot blocking ability of Central Florida-bound St. Anthony center Jayla Jones-Pack kept the Royals from getting into any kind of rhythm offensively. Pack, who is nicknamed “Block Party,” said she saw the CK players growing more and more tentative attacking the basket.
“She did excellent,” guard Dominique Toussaint said. “It made us hesitant to go to the basket.”
Still despite it all, Christ the King, which trailed by as much as 10 earlier in the fourth, was within striking distance after eight straight points from Kinder, including a layup to make it 51-47 with 2:18 to go.
It then got the needed defense stop, but two straight turnovers followed from Toussaint and Sydney Zambrotta—the team’s two most experienced players. Christ the King didn’t score again until a layup at the buzzer by Kinder.
“You hope that the experience would pay off and we would step up,” Mackey said.
Toussaint, who was named New York State Miss Basketball earlier this weekend and St. Peter’s-bound center Ashlie Howell each had 13 points. Toussaint scored just two points after half time as St. Anthony’s took her away and Mackey said the team didn’t do a good enough job getting her back into the game. Zambrotta, who is headed to Lousiville, scored just six.
Towson-commit Etalyia Vogt paced St. Anthony’s with 15 points and Jones-Pack added 12 despite missing time in the third and fouling out in the fourth.
The Friars’ duo was a big reason the script for Christ the King didn’t end the way it had hoped, but that won’t diminish what the group accomplished during their three seasons on the varsity in Middle Village.
“I’m very proud of them,” Mackey said. “I’m disappointed the way it ended… As people, they are a great bunch of kids to coach.”