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Christ the King girls hold off St. Francis

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Before the season began his assistant coaches said he was crazy and with his team trailing St. Francis Prep 36-29 at the half, Christ the King girls’ basketball coach Bob Mackey wondered if they were right.

Less than 24 hours after losing a hard-fought 63-57 decision to an Our Lady of Lourdes team ranked No. 11 in the country, the Royals showed signs of wear and tear in a sluggish first half against their Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan rivals.

But in the second half Christ the King showed why it is ranked No. 4 in the nation, increasing its defensive intensity and dominating the boards — especially the offensive glass — while rallying to defeat a pesky St. Francis Prep team, 63-58, Sunday.

“I knew the girls expended a lot of energy last night and when I scheduled [the back-to-back games] both of my assistant coaches thought I was out of my mind,” Mackey said. “I probably am. But I know at the State Federation Tournament, we have to play back-to-back games.”

Losing is rare enough at Christ the King. But dropping two games in a weekend? Unheard of. But after 16 minutes of basketball that became a very real possibility.

“Last night’s game carried over to today a bit,” said Cigi McCollin, the lone senior in the Royals’ starting lineup. “It carried over for the first half and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Early in the first quarter, though, it appeared Christ the King (8-2, 5-0) would roll right over the Terriers. The Royals’ press rattled St. Francis Prep (10-3, 3-1) and they got out in transition to score easy baskets on the break during a 12-0 run that saw Christ the King take a 17-7 lead.

Despite making St. Francis Prep reel, the Royals couldn’t finish the deal and instead the Terriers took advantage, scoring seven of the final nine points of the quarter to cut their deficit to 19-14.

“When we play with enthusiasm in the game, we’re just unstoppable — that’s when we’re dangerous,” said Christ the King junior guard Amanda LoCascio. “But there’s times on the court when we think we’re up enough and we can’t do that anymore. We’re always letting teams back in game.”

The Terriers’ confidence continued to soar in the second quarter. Defensively, St. Francis Prep puzzled the Royals with a seldom-used zone defense. A 9-0 run, capped by a pair of free throws by senior point guard Dawn Gorynski, put the Terriers ahead 36-27.

“We don’t play zone. I don’t believe in it,” said St. Francis Prep head coach Tom Finn. “Zone is another four-letter word to us. We stress man-to-man defense. It was the first time we used the zone all year and we made some mistakes in it, but we took away their running game a bit.”

Added Mackey: “That totally caught us off guard. The zone was a brilliant move. We just never shifted into gear. We missed some shots and passes we should have made, but that’s part of conditioning throughout the year.”

Gorynski and Elizabeth Yuneman scored a game-high 20 points apiece, but LoCascio and sophomore Meka Werts held the scrappy Gorynski scoreless in the third quarter.

“We did a good job of shutting down Dawn in the second half,” said LoCascio, who also had nine points, four steals and three assists. “Once you shut her down, the rest of the team can’t do anything.”

In the second half, the Royals, led by junior guard Shay Doron who scored a team-high 19 points, attacked the glass and their hard work paid off with a pair of critical three-point plays in the fourth quarter.

After Hofstra-bound McCollin (11 points, six assists) broke a 47-47 tie with a three-point play, Candice Lindsay scored on Christ the King’s third offensive rebound while getting fouled. Lindsay, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, put the Royals up for good, 53-47, with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter.

“Our main focus in the second half was to get rebounds and play better defense,” McCollin said. “We had to get to the basket more and in the second half we did what we should have done from the start.”

Despite the loss, the St. Francis Prep players left Christ the King with heads held high, knowing they played one of the best teams in the country close without their second-leading scorer in the lineup as senior starter Erin White missed the game with mononucleosis.

“We knew we couldn’t contend with the lead at the half because we knew they’d go strong,” Gorynski said. “Our goal was to be in the game in the fourth quarter and make something happen. We all played hard and that’s all you can ask for.”

Our Lady of Lourdes 63, Christ the King 57. Led by Doron, who had 22 points and McCollin, who chipped in 16, the Royals led 25-24 at the half. But Kelly Roche, fighting off a stomach illness, scored 21 points and Jenna Viani added 16 points, including 10-of-10 from the line to lead Our Lady of Lourdes (7-1) in the Girls’ Basketball Showcase at Iona College Saturday.

St. John’s Prep 58, St. Joseph’s 30. Shaniqua Edmonds and Danielle Candidus scored 12 points apiece and Lora Morton added 10 points and 10 rebounds to lead St. John’s Prep (7-3, 6-2 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens II).

The Mary Louis Academy 56, Bishop Ford 41. Rachel Burriesci, Carol Kavanaugh and Erin Breen each scored 10 points for Mary Louis (3-4 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens I).

St. Francis Prep 49, Peddie School (N.J.) 42. Yuneman, Gorynski, Caitlin Kennedy and Kristina Koncewicz all scored in double figures for the Terriers in a non-league win over the powerhouse school from New Jersey.

Bishop Loughlin 53, Archbishop Molloy 41. The Lions were led by Amira Legrand with 16 points and eight rebounds.

St. John’s Prep 58, Stella Maris 44. Morton scored 18 points with 14 rebounds for the Red Storm.

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

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