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Molloy girls mount emotional comeback

The game was all but over for the Archbishop Molloy girls’ basketball team. The Stanners were down 15 points with 4:33 left and Senior Night was about to be spoiled.

Apparently, Nicole Marciniak didn’t get the memo. The senior wasn’t about to let it go without a fight.

“I just wanted to go out with a bang,” the C.W. Post-bound forward said. “I wanted to make an impact.”

She did just that, sparking perhaps Molloy’s most emotional win of the season. Marciniak made 6-of-6 f ree throws down the stretch — including four straight after a technical foul and personal foul by Kennedy senior Darleen McLeod — and finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Stanners to a 52-50, come-from-way-behind victory against the Knights in a non-league game Thursday night in Queens.

“Oh my God — that was insane,” junior Kelly Guerriero said of Marciniak’s performance. “… I’ve never seen her play like that. I’m in awe.”

Molloy’s enormous comeback started with a flurry and ended with some controversy. Jazzarae Campbell’s layup with 4:33 left gave Kennedy (18-6) a 48-33 lead. Then the Stanners (15-9) put together a 13-0 run, led by Marciniak’s six points. After her four big free throws, Guerriero capped the run with a three-pointer that made it 48-46 with 2:17 left. In just over two minutes, Molloy went from being dead to rights to right back in the game.

That’s when the craziness started.

Kennedy senior Teara Shaw got into the lane and made a huge basket and Stanners junior Marielle Duryea responded with a driving layup with 44 seconds left to cut the deficit to 50-48. On the next Knights possession, Shaw fell down trying to beat the Molloy press and it was called a tie-up, not a foul or a travel.

Kennedy got the ball back, beat the press and senior Robyn Jenkins hit Campbell on the wing for an easy layup, but Coach O’Neil Glenn called time-out and the referees waved off a basket that would have put the Knights up four points with 25.3 seconds left.

“A bonehead move,” Glenn admitted.

Molloy would eventually get a tie-up and the ball back with 17.2 seconds left. Stanners senior Shannon LaVelle was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Marciniak — who else? — was there for the rebound. She missed the first putback, grabbed the ball again and fell over Jenkins, who had hit the floor on the play. The referee called Jenkins for a foul, which sent Glenn and Jenkins into a frenzy.

“She laid on me,” Jenkins said afterward.

Marciniak made both free throws with 1.5 seconds left to tie the score at 50 and, so it seemed, send it into overtime. But on the ensuing inbounds pass, Duryea snuck in and stole the ball from Jenkins and was fouled. Jenkins thought she was the one fouled and had a bloody lip and nose afterward to prove it.

“That was a disgrace,” Glenn said of the officiating. “That was embarrassing.”

Duryea, who is as lights-out as they come from the line, made both foul shots to give Molloy a 52-50 lead — and the victory — with 0.5 seconds left. She finished with only six points, but every one of them came during the fourth-quarter comeback.

Marciniak and Duryea are free-throw shooting partners in practice and they’ve figured out ways to achieve “complete relaxation” at the line, as Duryea put it, including making each other laugh with inside jokes. Marciniak isn’t known for her foul shooting — in fact, over the summer, when her NYC Heat AAU team was playing LaVelle’s Long Island Lightning, the Lightning would foul her to get her on the line.

“And I didn’t make my free throws,” Marciniak said.

She did tonight. There wasn’t a whole lot she did wrong on Senior Night. Marciniak, who shoots 67 percent from the charity stripe, was 10-of-12 from the line against Kennedy.

“She did a tremendous job,” Molloy Coach Tom Catalanotto said. “She showed today how she wanted to go out. She showed how she wanted to be remembered here.”

Shaw finished with 20 points for Kennedy, which had been coming off bad losses to Truman and Trenton Catholic (N.J.). No one else was in double figures for Molloy, which plays St. Francis Prep in the quarterfinals of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan tournament Tuesday, besides Marciniak. Duryea added seven rebounds.

The Stanners were coming off a disheartening loss of their own — a winnable game against Colts Neck (N.J.) at home Saturday. They couldn’t come back from a hole they dug in that game, but they sure did so Thursday night. In a big way.

“This,” Marciniak said, “gives us the confidence we needed going into the playoffs.”

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