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Mary Louis edges Molloy for spot in ‘D’

Sixteen days of preparation and the only thing standing between the Mary Louis Academy basketball team and its goal of playing for a state title was 12 seconds.

The crowd at St. Francis Prep, which roared when Molloy freshman Jessica McEntee tied the game at 63 six seconds earlier, grew eerily quiet as Mary Louis senior guard Donna Lohrey stepped to the foul line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Remembering the disappointment of a year earlier, when the Hilltoppers were edged out by Bishop Ford for the right to represent the Brooklyn/Queens diocesan in the state tournament, and knowing how hard this year’s team worked to go one step further, Lohrey calmly drained both free throws.

McEntee had another chance to tie the game with 2.9 seconds left, but after making the first free throw, the second clanged off the front rim and into the arms of Mary Louis senior Ann Marie Molina as the Hilltoppers hung on to a 64-63 win last Wednesday.

“We’ve been preparing for this for so long. We’ve been imagining so long how this would feel when the buzzer goes off,” said Lohrey, who scored a game-high 22 points. “This win shows how hard we’ve worked for this.”

Mary Louis (13-12) advanced to the Brooklyn/Queens semifinals to face top-seeded Christ the King, but more importantly it became the B/Q Class D representative in the state championships. The Hilltoppers will face the Manhattan/Staten Island/Bronx winner Wednesday at St. Francis College in the Class D semifinals.

“We don’t want this to end,” said Molloy College-bound Lohrey. “Basketball is more than a game for us. We do so much more than just play together. We’d do anything to not have this season end.”

A 16-day layoff is usually the last thing a team wants heading into a key game, but instead of hurting the Hilltoppers, the break actually brought the team closer together.

The players went to a pair of college games together and spent the last six days in the gym preparing for a Molloy team that split its pair of regular season games.

“We had the Xs and Os down, we just needed to bring it all together and we did it in that week,” said Mary Louis head coach Joe Lewinger. “Everything we did was productive.”

Beating Molloy, though, was just half of the equation. Mary Louis still needed St. Francis Prep to beat Bishop Ford to earn its spot in the state championships. So while the Hilltoppers hugged and hollered after their game, they were still not officially in.

To make matters worse, Mary Louis had to wait through a junior varsity game between St. Francis Prep and Bishop Kearney before the Terriers and Bishop Ford tipped off shortly after 8 p.m., about 2 1/2 hours after their game.

After dinner at a nearby diner, there were the Hilltoppers, sitting in the stands — most still wearing warm-up suits — as they cheered, at least quietly, for a St. Francis Prep win.

Mary Louis got its wish, as the Terriers broke the game open in the third quarter to cruise to a 64-45 win.

“This is an unbelievable feeling. I’m in awe right now,” said Mary Louis junior Rachele Burriesci, who added 13 points. “It’s all heart. [Molloy] wanted it too, but we left our hearts on the floor. We gave it our all and that’s what the outcome shows.”

Sophomore Annamarie Ciociari had 14 points, while McEntee added 13 for Molloy (13-12), which rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game at 61 on a three-pointer by Keri Anne Jeter with 40 seconds left only to lose the game in the final seconds on Lohrey’s heroics.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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