Basketball Bests

Feb. 26-March 3, 04
Basketball Bests
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Grimes, Ludden, CBA girls’ hoops enjoy outstanding seasons

The varsity girls basketball teams from Bishop Grimes, Bishop Ludden, and Christian Brothers Academy each concluded their regular seasons with considerable success leading to seeds in their respective Section III tournaments.

Cobras strike The Bishop Grimes varsity girls basketball team started off its season auspiciously with a 53-51 upset of Bishop Ludden and never looked back en route to generating a 16-5 record overall and a 12-2 record in league play. The Cobras were able to take their full measure Friday night as they toppled Westmoreland 49-32 in the first round of the Section III Class C Tournament. “We played really well and we showed progress,” coach John Cifonelli said. “This group has really come a long way.” Grimes backed down from nearly no one, facing strong sides from Watertown-IHC and Oswego on its non-league schedule.

Cifonelli was reluctant to name any one player as key to this season’s success. He stressed that each member of his starting five has been critical in each game. Against Westmoreland, center Acacia O’Connor continued to play well, scoring eight points, just one and a half off of her 9.5 points-per-game average. Point guard JoAnna Knox has been key, according to Cifonelli, even if she shows up with spare points in the box scores. “She’s steady night in and night out,” the coach said. “She takes care of the ball.” Past editions of the Cobras have featured fast-paced ball movement and 3-point shooting, but Cifonelli stressed that the identity of this team lies within its strong frontcourt presence. Along with O’Connor, Courtney Miller, who led Grimes with a game-high 17 points in the win over Westmoreland, has been important in both her power forward and reserve center roles. Another important forward is Tracy Knoop, Cifonelli said, stressing that his player in the three spot receives the “biggest defensive assignments.”

Complementing Knox in the backcourt has been Sarah Fayette. The coach explained that she frequently rotates into the point-guard position. Ashley Millet is the first player off of the bench for the Cobras and Cifonelli refers to her as his “sixth starter.” The coach relayed that she gives Grimes a different feel as her game has more finesse to the other forwards’ power.

The Westmoreland win was the most satisfactory of the season according to the coach as he had gone into the contest a little nervous, despite having observed such rapid improvement throughout February.

Knights stand tall With defense at the forefront, the Bishop Ludden varsity girls basketball team amassed a 16-5 regular-season record as well as a 12-2 record in league play and was granted a No. 7 seed in the Section III Class B Tournament. Out of the gate, the Gaelic Knights made good on the opportunity before them with a 56-45 win over General Brown.

The Knights’ played almost any challenger on the season, even embarking north to Oswego to face the Buccaneers’ rugged slate of competition in their Christmas Tournament. There, Ludden risked its seed by facing perennial power Nottingham as well as a solid Oswego squad. The Knights lost both contests, but it may have made them stronger as tournament time approached. Ludden coach Dan Hallinan explained that entry in the tournament was a team decision. “I asked the kids if they wanted to play in that tournament despite risking their seed and they said they wanted to,” the coach explained. “It can only help you come tournament time.” In the past three games, the Knights have received consistently strong offensive production from Stephanie Czajkowski, who was averaging 20 points per game in her last three and scored 25 in the triumph over the Lions. Czajkowski suffered an injury earlier in the season, but has recently returned to form.

The coach has also been pleased with the play of four-year starting point guard Beth Sierotnik as well as off guard Kara Scarson. “They both deliver 30 minutes of tireless defense, they dive for balls, and they’re great competitors,” he said. “They really hate to lose.” The Knights have been able to rotate a number of players and Hallinan says that he routinely plays eight deep. His second, third, and fourth leading scorers all come off of the bench, he noted. Brianna Papa and Molly Ganley have both been accurate 3-point shooters and Tricia Allen also gives the Knights solid offensive production. Hallinan has also been pleased with the play of sophomore center Shannon Sangster.

The game that proved to his team its potential was a 48-46 win over Christian Brothers Academy on the Brothers’ home court earlier in the season. “We knew we could be something special,” Hallinan said. Another quality win was a 75-56 drubbing of then state-ranked Watertown-IHC. A result that helped crystallize the Knights emphasis on defense, however, was a 52-47 loss to Westhill on Jan. 6. “That taught us a lot about ourselves,” the coach said. “It made it apparent that the team needed to stress defense. That was kind of our low point. We really wanted to win that and we let it slip away.” Ludden faced Canastota in the sectional quarterfinals Tuesday.

Brothers on Song The Christian Brothers Academy varsity girls basketball team capitalized on its No. 4 seed in the Section III Class B Tournament by defeating Jordan-Elbridge 54-28. After taking a 16-5 lead in the first quarter, the Brothers never looked back as three players scored in double figures including Morgan Donovan (15), Christina Stuphen (12), and Maureen Mannion (10). Bridget Erwin came close with nine points.

CBA assumed an 11-1 record in league play and were 18-3 overall during the course of the season. They played Notre Dame Tuesday in the tournament quarterfinal. The Jugglers defeated Hannibal 61-30 in the first round of the tournament.

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