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St. Francis Prep girls easily handle Bishop Kearney

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The gymnasium at St. Francis Prep was turned into a laboratory Sunday afternoon when the school’s varsity girls’ basketball team played host to Brooklyn’s Bishop Kearney in what was expected to be a close and hard-fought Catholic league contest.

But Terriers head coach Tom Finn decided the day before to use the matchup as an experiment with the zone defense, something his players would need to know how to run when they took the floor later in the week against two of the top teams in the nation, Murry Bergtraum and Christ the King.

“We never play zone,” Finn said. “We put the zone in (Saturday) afternoon. We used today as a dress rehearsal.”

The defense worked like a charm. The more athletic and quicker St. Francis players used their busy hands and ability to run the fast break to force turnover after turnover and run away with the convincing victory, 65-35.

Led by 5-foot-10 senior guard Meghan Sullivan, who did a little bit of everything, the Terriers (7-5, 3-1) stormed out to an 18-point lead after one quarter. Sullivan, who has already signed with Wagner College, scored seven in the first frame, but her contributions were greater than just her offensive output.

Crashing the boards on defense, making stylish, no-look and length-of-the-court passes, Sullivan set the tempo and the Terriers ran with it, leaving the Kearney coaching staff scratching their heads and looking for answers.

“When Meghan comes to play, she’s the best player in the league,” Finn said of Sullivan. “Sometimes she has a habit of sinking to the competition, but she played very well tonight.”

As well as Prep played in the first quarter, things started to go awry in the second. After Michelle Betos scored to push the lead to 20, 26-6 early in the second quarter, Kearney took advantage of a new wrinkle to the zone Finn attempted to work into the game plan that nearly backfired.

The Terriers only scored two more field goals in the first half, while Kearney, led by the play of Maryanne Welsh, climbed back into contention. Welsh, who finished with 20, got her team within seven at the midway point, 30-23.

Finn reverted back to his team’s first-quarter defense in the third and once again Kearney could not penetrate to the basket and started to fall behind again.

Prep scored the first eight points of the half to push the lead back to double digits and, despite some tough play from Welsh, the Terriers were able to slowly put the game out of reach. Sullivan, who finished with 18 points, Susan Divald (14) and Jessica Sanchez (14) all scored during a 24-point third quarter that saw Prep’s lead go from seven at the half to 21 after three.

Kearney scored just one basket in the final period, an inside layup by 6-foot-2 freshman Maria Laterza, while the Terriers cruised to the win.

“Obviously, as much as zone is a four-letter word to me, we’re going to use the zone, at least for a while,” Finn said. “We have to build on this.”

After a meeting with Bergtraum Wednesday, St. Francis Prep will host the defending CHSAA state champion Christ the King Royals Sunday at 3 p.m.

Christ the King 68, New Hyde Park 54. The Royals handled the defending state Federation Class B public school champion thanks to an MVP effort from Tina Charles, who led the way with 30 points in the Hope Through Hoops Tournament at St. John’s University Sunday. CK improved to 10-1 overall with the win.

Archbishop Molloy 74, St. Dominic 28. The Stanners were led by Natasa Megovan with 16 and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude with 15 points Sunday at St. John’s. Molloy improved to 7-3 overall.

The Mary Louis Academy 51, Sacred Heart 45. Freshmen Meghan Cumiskey and Casey Shevlin scored 12 points apiece to lead the Hilltoppers over Sacred Heart at St. John’s Sunday in non-league action. Mary Louis is now 6-5.

Bishop Ford 44, Stella Maris 33. Jen Alexander paced the Stella Maris Flippers with 15 points, but it was not enough, as Rashida Mark and Jennifer Landis scored 16 and 11, respectively, for Bishop Ford. Maris fell to 8-4 with the loss.

St. Francis Prep 69, The Mary Louis Academy 68 (OT). Three turnovers late in overtime cost the Hilltoppers the upset. Gina Catherall’s three in the final minute put Prep in front to stay. A late three by Kristin Kenni pulled Mary Louis within one, but it could get no closer. Liza Gallo led with 25 points for Mary Louis, while Cumiskey, Liz Flynn and Shevlin had nine apiece. Betos led Prep with 16 and Sanchez added 14.

St. John’s Prep 35, St. Edmund Prep 34. Meghan Foley led the Red Storm with 13 points in this league win over St. Edmund. St. John’s improved to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in league play with the win.

Bishop Loughlin 74, St. Francis Prep 58. Janele Henderson’s 20 points and four assists led the Loughlin Lions to the upset win over the Terriers last week.

Stella Maris 63, St. Savior 28. Natalie Desanctis’ nine points put her over the 1,000-point mark for her career, as Stella Maris cruised. Natalia Alexander added 11 points.

St. John’s Prep 34, Nazareth 14. Foley led St. John’s with 11 points in this league win last week.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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