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Mary Louis heading upstate after securing ‘D’ crown

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On the eve of their biggest game of the season, coach Joe Lewinger wanted the Mary Louis basketball team members to take their minds off of basketball. Do whatever, go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade — as long as it didn’t involve basketball.

So what did senior Donna Lohrey do?

“I sat home and watched the NCAA Tournament on television,” she said.

The Molloy-bound guard doesn’t have a favorite team, instead she roots for the underdogs because she feels the Hilltoppers have a lot in common with the Kent States and Southern Illinois of the world.

Mary Louis went into Sunday’s Class D Catholic state championship game against Buffalo’s Nardin Academy as the underdog. The Hilltoppers were smaller and had a less-than-stellar 14-13 record, compared to the Gators’ gaudy 19-6 mark.

But in the end, it was the grit of Mary Louis that led it to a 56-48 victory and the first Catholic state crown in school history. Oh yeah, and 26 points from Lohrey didn’t hurt either.

“We’ve had a lot of elimination games the last couple weeks and after each one, I hug Donna and tell her, ‘one more week, two more days,’” Lewinger said. “I’ve been looking forward to this hug…They’ve matured so much from the beginning of the season.”

Mary Louis (15-13) makes its first trip to Glens Falls and will take on The Dwight School (23-6) in the Class D state Federation semifinals Friday at 10 a.m. Bronx Leadership and Watertown play in the other semifinal. The winners meet for the Class D championship Saturday at 10 a.m.

“This feels really good,” said Lohrey, who was 10-of-10 from the foul line. “We’ve worked so hard every day. I’m an extension of [Lewinger] out there and I try my best to do that.”

It seemed whenever Nardin (19-7) tried to take over the game, Lohrey was there to wrestle it back for Mary Louis.

The Gators took an early 21-16 lead on a 7-2 run, but Lohrey answered with a clutch three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Hilltoppers a 24-21 lead with 1:23 left in the half.

Nardin regained the lead, 25-24, on a free throw by Kelly Haslinger, but Lohrey again connected from beyond the arc with 27 seconds left in the first half to give Mary Louis a 27-25 lead.

The Hilltoppers extended their edge to 39-30 on Sue Basile’s 18-footer but three-pointers by Caitlin Corr and Emily Pitek — two of the Gators’ seven on 26 attempts — Nardin went into the fourth quarter trailing by just three, 41-38.

But again, Lohrey had the response, finding Jennifer Forgione on a gorgeous cross-court pass for an open layup to extend Mary Louis’ lead to 43-38.

When Pitek, who led Nardin with 17 points, nailed another trifecta the Gators were again within three, 51-48, with one minute left.

The ball was again in Lohrey’s hands and she buried two of her four free throws in the final 43.6 seconds to close out the game.

Basile, the shortest of Mary Louis’ players at 5 feet, added 11 points, including a clutch 16-foot jumper with one second left on the shot clock late in the fourth quarter.

Basile also stepped up for Ann Marie Molina, the Hilltoppers’ leading rebounder who played limited minutes because of an illness, by grabbing a big seven rebounds. Carol Jeanne Kavanagh added 13 boards for Mary Louis, which outrebounded Nardin, 40-29.

Mary Louis 52, St. Michael Academy 36. Lohrey led all scorers with 14 points, Breen netted 11 and Strein added 10 for the Hilltoppers in the CHSAA Class ‘D’ state semifinal March 13 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.

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

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