In the 15-year history of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I championship, there has been just one name on the championship trophy. On Saturday at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, the Christ the King girls' team ensured its name will remain the only one on the hardware as the Royals defeated a pesky St. Francis Prep team, 57-54, to win its 16th straight title.
"The coaches told us that the whole week in practice, that if St. Francis Prep beats us, it's not just going to be Christ the King anymore," said Christ the King junior Clare Droesch. "That motivated us a lot because we didn't want someone taking away what we have."
Despite 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, Droesch, who is still suffering the ill effects from a sprained right ankle, had an off game. Thank goodness for Trish Tubridy.
The 6-foot senior forward from Broad Channel picked up where Droesch left off, carrying the Royals. The lone senior in the starting lineup, Tubridy finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for Christ the King (22-5). Sophomore point guard Cigi McCollin added 10 points for the Royals.
"I know if Clare can't step up, then I have to," Tubridy said. "The coaches told us at halftime they can't stop all three of us at once."
"She's the captain," Christ the King head coach Bob Mackey said of Tubridy. "She's pretty much the leader of the team for most of the year. She's prolific at scoring, she's got great hands inside and she's done a great job this year."
Christ the King seemed to have the game under control when St. Francis Prep senior Lauren Kilduff, who had punished the Royals for most of the game from inside and out, picked up her fourth foul on a questionable call with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Flushing native, who led the Lady Terriers with 15 points and five rebounds, was forced to sit.
Without Kilduff in the lineup, the Royals extended their lead to 10, 48-38, on a bucket by McCollin from a no-look pass by Droesch with 6:02 to go.
But St. Francis Prep (20-7), which lost to Christ the King in overtime in their last meeting, would not die. The Terriers went on a 7-0 run, capped by an NBA three-pointer by guard Liz Fryer, one of eight seniors on the experienced St. Francis Prep squad, to get within 48-47 with 3:04 remaining.
On a layup by freshman Corinne Turner, the Royals led, 53-48, with 1:59 left. But then Fryer struck again, nailing a three from the top of the key to cut Christ the King's lead to two, 53-51 with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter.
"Basically they did what I asked them to do," said St. Francis Prep head coach Tom Finn. "They played from the time it started to the time it ended. We were on the floor for every loose ball. They did what we were capable of doing."
After missing several open looks, Droesch answered right back with a three of her own from beyond the arc to put CTK up, 56-51, with 59 seconds left.
Nine seconds later, St. Francis Prep senior Meghan-Ann Collins (13 points) pump-faked and then drained a three to again bring the Lady Terriers to within two, 56-54.
St. Francis Prep had a golden opportunity to tie the score when senior guard Victoria Wancel found a hole in the Royals defense and drove to the basket untouched, but the Flushing native missed the layup and Droesch ended up with the ball when she was fouled with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Droesch hit the second of two free throws and Wancel tried to pass to Collins for a last second shot but time ran out.
"It hurts because every year we play them twice," Kilduff said. "This year, I think we were the closest. We have eight seniors, a lot of experience. We had the chance and we were capable, but it didn't work out."
The first half was a nip-and-tuck affair as Christ the King led by just one, 13-12, at the end of the first quarter. The Royals then went on a 9-2 run to close out the half, capped by a putback and a foul by Tubridy. The made free throw put the Royals ahead, 31-26, at the break.
"Every game this season we have improved, whether it was an overtime game or a loss, you have to learn," Mackey said. "That's the whole process here. You hope by the states you're playing your best ball."
Christ the King advances to the CHSAA state championship game when the Royals take on the winner of St. Peter's/Holy Trinity at St. John's University on Saturday.
St. Francis Prep hosts Nardin Academy from Buffalo in a CHSAA State 'B' semifinal game Friday at 8 p.m.
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