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Molloy wins state ‘A’ title with strong finish

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Like her team, Carolyn Gallagher seized an opportunity. The Archbishop Molloy forward drove to the basket and was fouled, but was left all alone as she missed the ensuing free throw.

“No one boxed me out,” she said. “I just went into there and grabbed the rebound.”

And a state title as well.

Gallagher scored the putback and made the free throw this time to complete an unlikely five-point possession to tie the score early in what would be a monster third quarter for the sophomore and her team. She scored 13 of her 15 points in the frame as Molloy pulled away for an eventual 63-48 win over Nichols (Buffalo) in the CHSAA Class A girls’ basketball state final Sunday afternoon at Holy Trinity in Hicksville.

“At halftime, we were like, ‘Come on, Carolyn, you have to pick it up. We need you to win this game,’” sophomore guard Amani Tatum said. “I guess the switch went off in her head.”

The Stanners ran through the field after missing out on a chance to compete for a ‘AA’ spot after losing to Bishop Ford in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I quarterfinals. The team embraces the opportunity to make it to Albany, play for a Federation title and gain this young squad valuable experience for next season. It’s Molloy’s first trip upstate since 2003-04. Tatum scored 21 points, Alexa “Weazel” Dietrich had 12 and Elizabeth “Gurt” Lynch added seven.

“There are so many good players and so many good teams who never ever get to where we are,” Coach Tom Catalanotto said. “Just enjoy it.”

He and his coaching staff weren’t sure what to make of their chances after watching Nichols beat Cardinal Spellman in the semifinals. Freshman post Taylor Rooks scored 20 points and ate them up inside in the second quarter to give her team a 26-22 lead at the break. Megan Heldwein had 10 and senior wing Sloane Walton was limited to just seven after big games the last two times out.

“Rooks could take you 1-on-1 so we needed to help on that,” Gallagher said.

Molloy ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run that included a free throw line jumper from Gallagher, who had 30 points in the semifinals, and a Kamille Ejerta three-pointer. Dietrich capped it with a layup up at the buzzer to grab a 45-36 advantage.

“Once we realized we are faster than them that’s when we took the opportunity to take it to the basket,” Tatum said.

The play of Dietrich and Tatum was a catalyst on both ends of the floor. They forced turnovers, helped on the backboards and began attacking the basket after Molloy spent most of the second quarter firing up three-pointers and perimeter shots. Tatum was 8-of-11 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and Dietrich had a huge steal under the Nichols baskets to make it 56-43 with 3:37 left to play in the game.

“We had so many downs this season,” Dietrich said. “This game was a big win for us, a really big win.”

And another big performance from Gallagher — thanks to some urgent halftime reminders.

“I told Carolyn, ‘Today is the championship. You had a great game yesterday. Today is really when we need you,’” Catalanotto said. “Otherwise, we are not going to Albany.”

Instead, they can start packing.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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