Photo by Ken Maldonado
By Joseph Staszewski

It has become an unconventional season at Mary Louis with a key injury and plenty of inexperience making wins hard to come by. Its first league victory was all the more gratifying because of it.

The Hilltoppers held on for a 63-57 victory over visiting St. Francis Prep in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball last Friday night.

“All we do at practice is two hours of skills, dribbling, rebounding,” Mary Louis Coach JoAnn Arbitello said. “If you came in here, you’d probably think it was a clinic, not a varsity basketball practice.”

TMLA (3-10, 1-5) has played much of the year without star junior wing Kadijah Dickson after she tore her ACL in late December. The Hilltoppers have three sophomores — guard Dominique Gay and forwards Jenna McCann and Celeste Moran — all seeing major minutes. Simone Hobdy, the team’s lone starting senior, understands it is a process for this club.

“I just look at it as a learning experience,” Hobdy said. “We are young. All we can do is get better.”

She made sure of that for a team that has struggled to finish games this season.

Hobdy, who has interest from Niagara and St. Francis (Pa.), scored 22 points and got the Mary Louis surge started after St. Francis Prep took a 48-46 lead with 5:30 to go in the game. Her three-point play to answer ignited a 12-2 TMLA run that gave it a 58-50 advantage with 1:52 remaining in the contest. Hobdy also made key free throws down the stretch to preserve the lead.

“We can always count on her,” said Moran, who scored six of her nine points in the fourth quarter. “I don’t expect anything else.”

Brianna Rydberg had 10 points and Matich added eight for TMLA. Senior forward Kayla Hourany paced St. Francis Prep (8-9, 1-4) with 28 points. Sofia Recupero had 11 points and Monica Zhivanaj chipped in seven.

The physical and tenacious Hourany gave the Terriers their first lead in the third quarter by scoring six straight points. She helped her club overcome poor free throw shooting and an inability to handle the Hilltoppers’ press during different points of the game. Hourany and Recupero both fouled out in the final 2:00, making the pressure even tougher to crack.

“It was those stretches that we didn’t break [past Mary Louis’ press] that hurt us the most,” SFP Coach Kevin Wagner said. “The few times we got it up the court, got it to Kayla’s hands, good things happened.”

He saw the loss as a missed opportunity for his team to build momentum in the division. St. Francis Prep was coming off beating Bishop Loughlin on the road for its first league win in three years and still has to face the Lions, Mary Louis and third-place Molloy in Fresh Meadows.

“If you win another road league game here, you have two under your belt and you get those teams at home,” Wagner said. “We missed that opportunity.”

Mary Louis didn’t let its chance for a league win get away. The young group hopes to build off it as the regular season moves into the home stretch.

“We got our first league win,” Moran said. “We are going to keep accelerating from there.”

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