- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Cardinal Hickey Academy and Father Andrew White School fought for every rebound and every loose ball.
Every inch of the basketball court inside the St. Mary’s Ryken High School gymnasium in Leonardtown on Wednesday night was a fight in itself.
So, it was only fitting that the Sunday Youth Basketball League girls championship game that pitted the North and South division champions would come down to the last second.
Cardinal Hickey’s Erica Johnston went to the free-throw line with her team trailing 35-32 and only one second left on the clock.
Johnston missed the first free throw and Father Andrew White called timeout before she attempted the second free throw. Johnston made the second free throw, giving Cardinal Hickey one last chance if it could steal the inbounds pass.
Cardinal Hickey did so, but the buzzer sounded immediately after the turnover and Father Andrew White held on for a 35-33 victory to win the championship.
“It’s an incredible feeling for them,” Father Andrew White head coach Jamie Billig said. “They were so pumped up every timeout, every time we got together to talk while we were during the game. They were just so fired up, it was unbelievable.”
Cardinal Hickey trailed by as many as seven points in the final quarter only to come back and tie the game at 32 when Samantha Vanslyke’s second of two free throws went off the glass and into the basket with 1 minute 51 seconds left in regulation.
Teresa Matthias had just one point in the contest, but that one point gave Father Andrew White what would be the eventual game-winning point after making the second of two free throws to put her team up 33-32 with 1:23 to go.
Mackenzie Loewe added a little insurance with a jumper that bounced home to give Father Andrew White a 35-32 lead with 50 seconds remaining.
“We held it together,” Loewe said. “We didn’t get overexcited or anything. We really stayed as a team and made sure we kept calm the whole game and I think that we just really played well together.”
Each team had free throw opportunities in the final seconds, but Father Andrew White was able to prevail.
“This actually was probably the most enjoyable game all year because we actually really got to play and I loved it,” Billig said.
Loewe led Father Andrew White (15-1 overall) with 13 points and received the league tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
“I think we played really well as a team,” Loewe said. “That was our whole goal going in that we weren’t going to play as individuals and just really wanted to go out there and play as a team and I think everyone really showed their best and did 110 percent.”
Kirsten Parker led Cardinal Hickey with 10 points, while Annie Doyle, who received the Coaches’ Hustle Award, had eight and Marissa Laidley added seven.
“I think they executed better than we did,” Cardinal Hickey head coach Mark Laidley said. “I think they made more free throws, we missed a lot of free throws. It’s a two-point game, so I think that’s the difference. I think they’re very even, the teams are very even.”
Cardinal Hickey finishes the season at 13-2.
“These girls have been together for about three years and I can’t be happier,” Mark Laidley said. “We lost to them in the preseason tournament, we went undefeated in the regular season, we beat them on our floor by three and we won our two games in the playoffs and lost tonight. Other than losing tonight, it was great and I hate losing.”
Father Andrew White scored the first six points of the contest, with Loewe having the first four and Cardinal Hickey calling timeout just 37 seconds in.
Cardinal Hickey answered with a six-point run of its own. Parker’s basket, off a pass from Vanslyke, tied the game at 6 and Father Andrew White called timeout with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
After the teams traded baskets, Kayla Goldring banked in a jumper from long range off the glass to give Father Andrew White a 10-8 lead after one quarter.
Father Andrew White led 13-10 midway through the second quarter, but back-to-back Parker jumpers gave Cardinal Hickey its first lead of the night at 14-13 with 53 seconds left until halftime. And that would be the halftime score after an intense first half that only got more intense in the second half.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a dogfight,” Mark Laidley said. “This is 24 minutes, just let it out. You got five fouls, use up all four of them.”
Sydney Guy drained the only three-pointer of the contest 56 seconds into the second half, giving Father Andrew White a 16-14 lead. Parker answered with a floater and Ann Gorman converted a free throw to put Cardinal Hickey back on top, 17-16.
Defensive pressure on both sides kept the score where it was until Loewe picked off a pass, dribbled down the court, scored a layup and was fouled on the play. She missed the free throw, but Father Andrew White led 18-17 with 3:20 left in the third quarter and it would not trail again.
After the teams traded free throws, Father Andrew White scored the final four points of the period to lead 24-19 heading to the fourth.
Father Andrew White had its largest leads of the night at 27-20 and 29-22 early in the fourth quarter and led 32-26 midway through the period, but Cardinal Hickey mounted a comeback and tied the game at 32, though it would fall in the final moments in a very intense battle by both teams that went all the way to the final buzzer.