BRONX, NY - In terms of big time girl’s basketball events in New York City, it's tough to match the quality that The Mecca put together each year. Run by the Gauchos organization, The Mecca brings together some of the best teams from New York, and from up and down the East Coast as well, making it a premier destination for fans and college coaches alike to check out some of the top girls players and teams.
NYCHoops.net was in the Bronx on Sunday to check out the action with a pair of interesting New York vs. New York contests that would certainly have major implications on our Top Ten Girls Rankings as well. It was an excellent three days’ worth of competition, but here now is a recap of some of the action from Sunday, the final day of action.
Cicero-North Syracuse Tops The Mary Louis Academy 55-46
While this was one of the marquee games of the weekend, the matchup did lose a little bit of its luster when star Minnesota bound guard Jasmine Brunson '16 was announced out before the game by TMLA head coach JoAnn Arbitello-Pinnock.
Brunson was out because of what Arbitello-Pinnock said was a "tweaked ankle", and injury the coach said happened in practice on Saturday, and noting that the Hilltoppers have a very big league game with Bishop Loughlin coming up this week, she decided resting her in this one was the best decision for the team going forward.
For Cicero-North Syracuse though this game was another chance to prove themselves. Going into the game 16-0, they are the NYCHoops.net #1 team in New York State, and they are nationally ranked by USA Today as well.
They don't play in the most competitive league up in Section 3, so the opportunities to come and prove themselves like they were hoping to do against Mary Louis, and like they did by beating Archbishop Mitty of California earlier this season, are huge according to head coach Eric Smith.
"That's the reason we play them," Smith said. "We want to play big, athletic, competitive teams so we can see how we matchup, and how we can be even better prepared for what we may see come March."
The attention now is all on the Northstars though as they have now become the favorites, much like they were 4 years ago when now UConn All-American Breanna Stewart was suiting up in a Cicero uniform. As a team Cicero-North Syracuse got to attend the Lady Huskies game on Saturday in Hartford and see Stewart again in action, and this group of CNS stars were ready to prove on Sunday in front of a packed Gauchos Gym that they are primed the success that Stewart achieved in a Northstars uniform.
Early on in the game though CNS came out a little flat as they were not able to find a clear rhythm shooting the ball from the outside, and when they did look to get the ball inside, they were unsuccessful against the length and size of the Mary Louis forwards.
It wasn't just the forwards though as even the guards were blocking three point attempts that Cicero was putting up, and after a while Smith just felt as if his team was becoming too timid for their own good because of the TMLA length.
"We were taking out time to get shots off and they blocked a couple, and because they blocked a couple we got very timid because we became worried about if we were going to get our shots blocked," Smith said about his team's slow early start.
With Cicero struggling it left an opening for TMLA, and even without Brunson in the lineup, and without star wing Danielle Patterson '17 making a huge impact offensively, the Hilltoppers we're finding ways to score and stay in contact with the Northstars.
The keys late in the opening half were sharpshooting guards Kayla Podlovits '17 and Courtney McCool '17 as the junior duo were each able to knock down a pair of threes, and on the heels of a strong finish to the 2nd quarter, The Mary Louis Academy were able to take a 19-18 lead into the half.
It was a half that Arbitello-Pinnock had to be proud about, but it's a half that Smith said he wanted to forget. He didn't like how his team played in the opening 16 minutes, and felt they just needed to relax to get back to playing the basketball that they want to play.
Things did start to click for Cicero in the 3rd as Beth Bonin '16 connected on a three ball to open the scoring in the second half, and then Amani Free '18 started to find a rhythm inside around the rim, and after point guard McKayla Roberts '16 knocked down a three of her own with 2:48 to go in the 3rd, CNS had taken a 33-28 lead.
The small cushion for Cicero didn't last long though as Hilltoppers forward Celeste Moran '16 stepped up her play inside and used her size to finish on back to back possessions, but it was a corner three by Bonin to end the 3rd and give the Northstars a 4 point lead heading to the 4th.
Cicero did look to have the momentum to start the 4th, but that was quickly shifted away as Moran once again finished strong inside, and then threes by McCool and Patterson allowed TMLA to take a 43-39 lead midway through the final quarter, and it looked as if the unbeaten mark of the Northstars could be in jeopardy.
Many may have thought that, but Smith didn't because he knew that he had Roberts on his side. Only 5'3", the LeMoyne bound floor general is a big shot waiting to happen in the eyes of her coach and he had little doubt that something big was going to happen from her when they needed her most.
"McKayla is small in size, but everything else about her is big," Smith said. "Most of the time when she shoots it we are in good shape because when we need her too, she almost always makes them."
The time for Roberts to make them was now and with the Hilltoppers now focused on her, the diminutive guard hit back to back treys from nearly the same spot straight a to give Cicero back the lead with just over 2 minutes to play.
Moran came back on a putback for Mary Louis, but down the stretch Roberts made play after play, and when she found Free, who finished while getting fouled with under a minute to go, the Northstars were up 53-45, and they could finally break easy.
It wasn't easy, but it was a test that will help Cicero-North Syracuse the rest of the way as against a long and athletic Mary Louis Academy team, the Northstars found a way without playing their best to come away with a strong 55-46 victory.
Free was the leading scorer for Cicero-North Syracuse as the impressive looking sophomore forward had 20 points in the win, while Roberts added 16 points, with her most important points coming when her team needed them most.
The Mary Louis Academy came out and once again proved they could play with the best as just 2 days after losing on the road to Christ the King by 7, they hung in the whole way against a tough and talented Cicero-North Syracuse team. Moran was the high scorer for the Hilltoppers with 11 points in the defeat, while McCool added 9 points, and Patterson had 8 in the loss.
It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a win that keeps Cicero-North Syracuse undefeated. The unbeaten mark is a not big talking point for the Northstars though as Smith, Roberts, and Free each said it's something that is rarely discussed. They try not to follow national rankings, as they don't want to get caught up in what others think of them, they just want to go out and keep winning, with their eye on a March prize, a NYSPHSAA Championship.
St. Anthony's Derails Shenendehowa, 60-48
Our #2 ranked Plainsmen made the trip down from Albany and fell to Capital Prep, the top team in Connecticut on Saturday evening at The Mecca by a 57-48 score. They were leading at the half by 8 but couldn't hold on and we're hoping to rebound from their first loss of the season with a rebound victory over a talented St. Anthony's team from out on Long Island.
The Friars had other ideas though as they jumped out to an 11-0 start, and led by as many as 23 before coasting home in the 4th quarter to a big 12 point upset win.
It really was all St. Anthony's to start as Central Florida bound forward Jayla Jones-Pack '16 was able to get position inside against a smaller Shen team and finish around the rim, and with Sarah Edmond '16 and Taylor Goode '16 also getting off to strong starts, the Friars were off and running.
Shenendehowa did look at if they were going to get back into the game as the 11-0 St. Anthony's start was followed up by a 10-2 Plainsmen run as Binghamton bound guard Carly Boland '16 scored 7 during the run to get them back into it.
A sloppy end to the 1st quarter though by Shen allowed St. Anthony's to get out in the open court and score in transition as a wing three by Edmond, and a bucket going all the way by Maia Moffitt '17 allowed the Friars to score the last 7 of the quarter to go up 20-10 after one.
The second quarter saw St. Anthony's put their stamp on the game as the pressure of the Friars allowed them to get numerous fastbreak buckets, and their perimeter shooting was superb as Edmond and guard Allyson Murphy '16 both were able to connect from long range as St. Anthony's took a lead as big as 21 in the 2nd.
Just before the end of the half it was wing Sydney Brown '17 who put back a missed Shen three point attempt to bring the deficit back to under 20, though the Plainsmen were in serious trouble going down at the break to the Friars, 38-19.
While Shenendehowa did play better in the 3rd, managing to get Brown going alongside of Boland for the Plainsmen, they just couldn't contain Jones-Pack inside, and struggled to maintain the quickness of St. Anthony's as the Friars lead stayed at 19 through 3.
St. Anthony's started to slow down the pace in the 4th, not being as aggressive defensively, something that Friars head coach Ken Parham said took his team out of the good rhythm that they had, and Shenendehowa took advantage of that as Alexandra Tudor '18 connected on a three, and Boland was able to get more space to create, but it was just took little too late as even with the Plainsmen 13-4 run to close the game, it was still a comfortable 60-48 win for St. Anthony's.
Jones-Pack had 14 points, with Goode and Edmond each scoring 10 a piece in what was clearly one of the top performances of the year from a Friars team that is certainly trending in the right direction as we hit the month of February.
The Plainsmen in the loss were led by Boland who had a game high 16 points, with Brown adding 11 as well for Shen is what was a disappointing weekend for the Albany area team, but shouldn't take away from the fact that they are still among the favorites to claim the NYSPHSAA Championship come March.
St. Anthony's though now has to be considered a serious contender to win the CHSAA this season as they are getting better and better each time out, but this is far too early for talk of just how good this team could be in March according to Parham who is focused on only the here and now.
"We have a long way to go," Parham said. "This is a good win and we will take it, but we have got to keep working and keep getting better because there is still a long way to go."
Harry Truman Over Amsterdam, 55-43
In one of the earlier games on Sunday it was star sophomore guard D'yona Davis '18 who poured in 25 points as the Lady Mustangs racked up another big win with a very impressive performance over a strong Amsterdam team from the Albany region for a 12 point win.
Nina Fedullo '17 was the high scorer for Amsterdam as she had 17 points in the loss, though the inside/outside combo threat showed that she is quickly becoming one of the Section 2 regions top prospects with her development as a threat all over the floor.
Forest Trail Academy (NC) Runs Down South Shore, 50-37
It wasn't the outing that South Shore head coach Anwar Gladden was hoping for as his Lady Vikings were shut out in the opening quarter, going down 6-0 after one, and while the team did step up and play better the rest of the way, they couldn't find enough offense to down a strong Forest Trail team, falling in this one by 13.
Jordan Washington '16 had one of her better games of the year for South Shore as the tough senior forward had a team high 16 points to lead the Lady Vikings in the loss.