This season Richmond Hill has struggled to find a competitive balance between Marte's explosive soirees to the hoop and getting her teammates involved. If the Lions return to the PSAL Class B title game this year, it will be because Marte was able to share the joy of putting the ball in the basket with others.The Lions inched a little bit closer to that goal, traveling to Martin Van Buren and winning 61-53 last Thursday behind 30 points from Marte and three players with nine points each. Richmond Hill improved to 6-4 (5-3 Queens II-B) and Van Buren dropped to 7-4 (6-2 Queens 1-B)."We needed this game badly," said Richmond Hill's coach, Shep Grazioli, who lost two starters from a year ago and has tussled to get Marte in-sync with the new starters. "We really got off to a bad start because our division is so competitive. This was a good win for us, and it showed that the girls weren't resting on their laurels from winning the division last year. Hopefully we can build on it."Van Buren was still smarting from last season's quarterfinal loss to Richmond Hill when Marte burned them for 28 points but without departed seniors Olivia Desouza-McClain (Nassau Community College) and Teresa George (New York Institute of Technology), the team lacked a shutdown defender to stay with Marte. The best candidate was sitting in street clothes on the bleachers academically ineligible. Avery Sibbley, a 5-foot-7 athletic guard who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds a game last year, can return to the team on Jan. 31, a little past the midway point of the season. Until then, Van Buren will have to make due with three new starters."We really missed Avery this game," said Van Buren coach Mike McCain, in his 13th year with the team. "That kid [Marte] was good. Sometimes during the game I look at the kid and admire watching her play."Richmond Hill led 30-21 at the half behind 14 points from Marte, a senior who is being recruited by the University of New Haven, and seven points from Luan Andrews. Van Buren outscored the Lions 11-3 during a critical stretch early in the fourth quarter and trimmed the lead to 47-43. A steal from Samantha Johnson (17 points and six rebounds) led to a basket by Aimee Aikens and Van Buren trailed 56-53 with 1:14 left in the game, but Richmond Hill's Amy Ayala (nine points) sank a deep jumper and Marte converted a foul shot and stole the ball on the next possession for a layup to push the lead back up to 61-53 with 10 seconds left. Andrews and Zaconja Bethea paced the Lions with nine points each."This was a better game for us," said Marte, who prepares teammates for game situations by pelting them with hard passes in practice. "I'm getting used to my teammates, and they're getting used to me."
©2006 Community News Group
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