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Veterans lead McClancy to first varsity diocesan title

By Stephen Zitolo

Four years ago, the Monsignor McClancy’s girls’ basketball program began. The current team’s six seniors, who were on that team as freshmen, have put a successful finish on what they started.

The group powered the top-seeded Crusaders to a 57-53 win over No. 3 Bishop Kearney in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division II championship game Sunday at St. John’s Prep. It is the program’s first varsity diocesan crown.

“It was a great experience,” senior guard Gina Hopkins said. “We worked so hard starting as freshmen. We started this program with a win and we wanted to end it with a win.”

McClancy (22-4) did so, thanks to its ability to hit the three-point shot—nine on the game—when it mattered, as well as making key free throws down the stretch to ward off any potential comeback by the Tigers.

“The threes were huge,” senior Taylor Aybar said. “They were motivation. They got the crowd going and they got us going.”

In the first quarter, both teams seemed to be getting used to each other and dealing with the nerves of playing in the championship game. Both Kearney and McClancy struggled to get any offensive momentum going as Kearney took a slim 6-5 lead into the second quarter.

Kearney’s offense came alive to start the second quarter as it went on a 9-5 run to take a 15-10 advantage. But then the Crusaders found life from beyond the arc and were able to cut the deficit to 20-19. However, Kearney went into the half leading 26-19.

The third quarter was when everything came together for McClancy. The Crusaders defense held Kearney to only eight points, while the offense put up 24 points behind seven-point quarters from both Aybar and Kenia Garcia to jump out to a 43-34 lead.

Kearney refused to go quietly. It opened the fourth on an 8-0 run to cut the McClancy lead to 43-42 and eventually tied the score at 47-47 with 3:04 remaining. But a key three-pointer from Hopkins and clutch free throws in the game’s final minutes preserved a victory for the Crusaders.

“I’m just happy we got the job done because for the beginning of the season we’ve had the motto of unfinished business because we lost at the buzzer [in the CHSAA state final] last season,” McClancy coach Dewey Hopkins said. “For them it’s a great thing because they wanted to win and they played that way in the third quarter.”

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