Rising to the top: TMLA takes down Christ the King, grabs big-time confidence boost

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The Hilltoppers finally feel as if they’re getting to the top.

The Mary Louis Academy took down Christ the King 68-52 Saturday, grabbing the program’s first victory over the Royals in seven years. It’s a big-time win for the Hilltoppers, fresh off a dominant showing at the Rose Classic last weekend, and a performance that has the squad practically bursting with confidence.

“I think it’s really something that we’ve been talking about, so now you have to put that talk into action,” TMLA coach JoAnn Arbitello said. “I think that, today, we came out like the team that we want to be from start to finish. And that’s something we haven’t seen since the team came together.”

The Hilltoppers scored the first five points of the BQCHSAA matchup and never looked back in the wire-to-wire victory as Danielle Patterson jumpstarted the offense.

The McDonald’s All-American scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the first half and the Hilltoppers went into the break with a ten-point lead.

“I was motivated, really motivated,” said Patterson, who also hauled in 10 rebounds. “I think I just did what my team needed me to do – if they needed me to get rebounds, go to the basket, I did whatever they asked of me.”

Mary Louis continued to control tempo on both sides of the ball throughout the second half – padding its double-digit lead and working its way through Christ the King’s zone defense with ease.

“Girls are starting to hit shots from outside recently where we weren’t really getting that before,” said Arbitello. “When they do close in on Dani and put three girls on her, she kicks the ball out and we have an open three.”

Patterson gave the Hilltoppers a 14-point lead with just over three minutes left in the third quarter and Christ the King was never able to find its rhythm on offense.

The Royals post players struggled to put the ball in the hoop and found it all but impossible to slow down Patterson, particularly when she positioned herself on the block. She drew double-teams throughout the game, but managed to work her way through defenders with ease, focused on putting points on the board.

“She’s starting to come into her own. She knows where she feels comfortable scoring the ball from and there’s really no one in the league that can guard her,” Arbitello said. “She definitely does a tremendous job scoring the basketball.”

Mary Louis took a 53-43 lead into the fourth quarter and, by the final whistle, six Hilltoppers put points on the board. Jordan Nixon finished with 14 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, Vanerlie Valcourt chipped 13 points, and Kania Pollock added six.

In their last three games, the Hilltoppers have come out on top against Baldwin, Ossining and, now, Christ the King, and Mary Louis, finally, feels as if its living up to sky-high preseason expectations.

Now, it’s simply about maintaining that success.

“I think we’re starting to trust each other, that’s the key,” said Patterson. “We’re starting to believe in what each other can do and we’re getting a lot more familiar with what each other is capable of. That helps.”

Updated 9:03 am, January 27, 2017
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