By Laura Amato
It was all about the energy.
The Mary Louis Academy basketball team came out running, shooting and defending from the opening tip Friday night, rolling to a 56-32 victory over Archbishop Molloy.
“I think we just kind of stuck to our principals,” senior forward Danielle Patterson said. “We came out with a lot of energy. That really radiated off of each player and we were just able to carry that throughout the game.”
The Hilltoppers jumped out to a 17-6 lead after the first quarter, sparked by a full-court defensive attack that limited Molloy’s chances.
Mary Louis settled into a tough man-to-man attack, racking up double-digit steals in the first half and the Stanners struggled to settle into their offensive game plan.
“The man-to-man is something we haven’t played for the most part all year long, but we definitely brought it all today,” Hilltoppers coach JoAnn Arbitello-Pinnock said. “To watch them actually play is incredible at this point. Because it’s things that we’ve worked on for the last three or four weeks.”
There were a few positive moments for Molloy in the first half – using top-of-the-lane screens to grab a handful of backdoor baskets – but Mary Louis adjusted at halftime and the Hilltoppers’ defense didn’t miss a step in the second half.
“We wanted to deny the ball and not let them get what they wanted,” said junior guard Vanerlie Valcourt, who racked up eight points and 13 rebounds. “We couldn’t let them get the easy baskets on the cut.”
The Stanners made it a 12-point game with 6:17 left in the third quarter, but Mary Louis responded with a six-point run to take a 42-26 lead into the fourth.
Mary Louis’ defense helped set up its offense throughout the game, but the Hilltoppers controlled tempo in the halfcourt battle as well, finding lanes and open looks in Molloy’s zone.
“When we saw open lanes and stuff, we just took them,” said Patterson, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “We didn’t really second guess ourselves.”
The Hilltoppers put six players in the box score and the entire roster saw time on the court before the final whistle. Molloy, on the other hand, struggled for much of the game, unable to find much of a rhythm on either side of the ball.
“We’ve really tried to get them to play at a much higher level than they did at the start of the season,” said Arbitello-Pinnock. “I really love to be able to get everyone into the game and get them to touch basketball.”
It was a solid showing for the Hilltoppers, who fell to Molloy on the road earlier the season. The turnaround was a bit of a statement for Mary Louis, a team that’s faced its fair share of ups and downs throughout the year, but is, finally, starting to feel as if it’s coming into its own.
“I think that’s really big, especially going into playoffs soon,” Patterson said. “It’s kind of like a coming of age type of thing and we’re taking it one step at a time and getting there.”