They listened, they executed and it all worked perfectly.
The Mary Louis Academy bounced back in a big way Sunday afternoon, notching a 62-49 victory over nationally ranked Neumann-Goretti in the Hoops Queens Winter Ball Tournament at Francis Lewis High School.
It was a big-time victory for a Hilltoppers squad that was coming off back-to-back losses, including an 86-58 loss to Paul VI Dec. 11.
“We committed ourselves all week long to focusing on three things – rebounding, defense and a new offense,” Mary Louis coach JoAnn Arbitello said. “And within a five-day period, they picked that up and it showed today.”
The Hilltoppers got off to a quick start in the first quarter, settling into a zone defense that set Neumann-Goretti back on its collective toes, forcing bad shots from difficult angles. Mary Louis rotated through its defensive scheme with ease – forcing six turnovers in the first eight minutes of play – and jumped out to a 24-10 lead early.
“We worked on keeping our hands up and talking,” junior guard Vanerlie Valcourt said. “I feel like since we had our hands up and out we looked bigger and they got frazzled. That helped us.”
Neumann-Goretti did its best to claw back in the second half – sparked by Ole Miss-bound senior Chyna Nixon – but the Hilltoppers had an answer for every basket. That answer, more often than not, came in the form of Danielle Patterson’s jumpshot.
The Notre Dame commit racked up 16 points in the first half as her teammates continued to get the ball in her hands.
“Once we get her moving, then that’s it because they can only guard here in so many places,” Arbitello said of her senior star. “And our guards did a great job getting her the ball.”
Neumann-Goretti dropped into a zone in the second half, looking to get some sort of defensive edge on Mary Louis, but the Hilltoppers didn’t bat an eyelash. Instead, the squad continued to move the ball around, bouncing in and out until a shot opened up.
It was a far cry from their performance in those two earlier losses and every basket felt like an extra boost of confidence for the Hilltoppers.
“I think [the game] was a wakeup call that teams aren’t going to lay down despite the names we have on our chest,” said Patterson, who finished with 22 points. “We took that and I think we made something big happen today.”
If there was a downside to the Hilltoppers’ performance, it came on the boards, as Neumann-Goretti dominated on the glass, hauling in a handful of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive in the second half. Neumann-Goretti used those rebounds to make it a five-point game midway through the fourth quarter, but Mary Louis answered with a Jordan Nixon transition jumper to silence the Saints.
“I remember telling my team in the huddle, they can’t get a lead,” Patterson said. “It kind of just sparked something in us and it was like, we’re going to play and we’re going to have some heart.”
Mary Louis scored the final seven points of the game as seven different players put points on the board. It was a much-needed victory for the Hilltoppers and, more importantly, proof that this squad can rebound from disappointment.
“We went back to basics,” Arbitello said. “They are a group of girls that committed themselves to understanding, if we don’t do that then we won’t have good results. Today we had great results.”