BROOKLYN, NY - Having to win two games on Sunday to win the Conrad McRae Youth League Girls Championship meant it was always going to be difficult for D1 Bound to take home the crown.
Add in the fact that they were without their head coach Mike Toro, and had to play a top level team in coach Chez Williams New Heights squad, and the challenge became too much. D1 Bound came out strong, but too much Kiah Gillespie (Capital Prep, CT '15) down the stretch helped give New Heights the 53-49 win.
D1 Bound, because their semifinal against the Lady Bulls was rained out on Saturday, had to play 2 games if they wanted to win the Conrad McRae Title. They were able to get by the Lady Bulls in the semifinals on Sunday afternoon, but after coaching the team in that game, coach Mike Toro had to leave due to a prior commitment, so going into the title tilt, they were already missing a key part of their success.
Without Toro though, D1 Bound still did come out strong, and you can credit a loaded roster of high major talent for that. Arella Guirantes (Bellport '15) scored 8 first quarter points, and the backcourt duo of Bre Cavanaugh (Blair Academy, NJ '15) and Lauren Brozoski (Long Island Lutheran '15) led the fastbreak in pushing tempo as they pushed out to a 20-10 lead late in the opening quarter.
Taylor Brown (Paterson Eastside, NJ '15) started to help get New Heights on track as she connected on a long two from the right side, and then finished going left inside. Gillespie closed the first with a tip in at the buzzer, but the lead was still 22-14 after 1 for D1.
The high scoring pace of the 1st quarter was not able to be maintained in the 2nd as the first points of the 2nd weren't scored until almost 3 minutes in when Gillespie putback a Mimi Reid (Murry Bergtraum '17) miss. New Heights looked more aggressive inside with Gillespie and Brown starting to impose their will in the paint. D1 Bound connected on only 2 FG attempts in the 2nd, but the 2nd one was a Nani Redford (Long Island Lutheran '15) three ball from the right corner near the end of the half to see D1 go up 29-24 at the half.
D1 expanded the lead back to 7 at 35-28 midway through the 3rd when Brozoski finished on a beautiful up and under lay-up off a great pass from Cavanaugh, but Mikaiya Moore (Copiague '16) came out and was her physical self on the offensive glass, stepping up her game in the 3rd where she scored 6 points to see the deficit climb down to just 38-35 heading into the 4th.
The momentum clearly was shifting towards New Heights, and when Moore putback a Gillespie miss on the weak side, New Heights had their first lead since 4-2 early in the first, going up 43-42 with 5:12 to go in the game.
Taylor Byrne (Long Island Lutheran '15) gave D1 back the lead soon after with a nice finish against contact inside, but Gillespie proved to be too big of a challenge late. In the final 4 minutes of the game, the Maryland bound star forward scored 8 points, including two big finishes taking the ball down the lane. D1 Bound did have their chances, but they missed 6 threes as a team in the closing minutes, going cold at the worst time possible. They also missed 3 front ends of one and one's that could've drawn them closer, to New Heights proved to be the best team, celebrating in the closing seconds as they fought back for the 53-49 victory.
Gillespie was named Tournament MVP and poured in a game high 20 points in this one, while her Clemson bound teammate Brown chipped in with 15 as well for the winners.
In defeat, Brozoski led D1 Bound with 14 points, while Guirantes, Byrne, and Redford each added 9 points apiece.
It was a great win for New Heights and head coach Chez Williams, who after the game, gave all the credit to his girls, displaying lots of pride in what Williams says they accomplished.
"As long as you have the willingness and the desire, you have a shot. We got down but we never quit and I'm so happy for my team. This win is all about them. They worked extremely hard and I could not be any more proud of them."