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Holy Angels, Nardin reach state finals Cassell leads Angels' rally while Gators strike early

For one team, the offense took forever to feel at ease. The other scored from everywhere on the court.

In the end, Western New York earned two wins in the Koessler Center on Saturday afternoon as Holy Angels and Nardin each won semifinal girls basketball games in the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Holy Angels advanced to the Class C finals after a 53-48 win over Stella Maris from Queens. Nardin is headed for the Class B finals after a 61-53 win over Bishop Kearney of Brooklyn. The state title games will be held next Sunday at St. John's University in Queens.

In the opening game, Holy Angels struggled to find its offense, rushing easy shots and repeatedly failing to convert offensive rebounds. Stella Maris didn't fare that much better in holding a slim, 16-15 lead at halftime.

The Angels settled down in the second half by generating offense from their defense. Their full-court press forced Stella Maris into rushed shots and bad passes. Holy Angels scored in transition and finally settled into its offense when senior Ann Cassell knocked in her first three-pointer of the game early in the third quarter.

Holy Angels opened several five-point leads and took the lead for good, 45-43, on a bucket by Katie Finn. Stella Maris played the fouling game in the final 40 seconds, but the Angels hit six of eight from the foul line to seal the win.

"We started the game too pumped up, too excited," said Holy Angels coach Fran Snyder. "We didn't work our plays. We were taking off-balanced shots and basically acting like chickens with our heads cut off. At halftime I told them to relax, put some pressure on them and force them to turn the ball over and up the tempo. Once we got a couple of easy baskets we were able to settle down."

Cassell finished the game with 21 points, including three three-pointers, to pace the Angels (15-13).

Nardin (20-6) didn't have to worry about settling down as it came out with a hot scoring hand. Kendra Brim opened the game with a three-pointer and set the tone for an impressive balanced scoring attack. Brim was able to score from outside, knocking down three three-pointers, and in the low post, netting a game-high 24 points.

Brim also set the Nardin single-season scoring record. The junior has 438 points this season, breaking the mark set by Jamie Wolf in 2003-04.

Brim wasn't the only offensive threat for Nardin. Senior Sarah Sciarrino was strong in the post, netting 15 points, while senior guard Caitlin Grady added 10, including a pair of three-pointers.

Nardin went on an 11-0 run in the first quarter to jump to a 16-7 lead. The Gators kept up the pace in the second half as Brim gave Nardin a 49-29 lead late in the third quarter.

But Bishop Kearney (19-8) wasn't finished. The Brooklyn team fashioned a 10-0 run as Nardin struggled against a full-court press. A three-pointer by Lisa Abitante cut the Nardin lead to seven, 54-47, but a field goal and two free throws by Brim silenced the run.

"When we have balanced scoring, we've beaten good teams. Every time we've had balanced scoring we've won, except against Sacred Heart," Nardin coach Jake Herlihy said. "Sarah Sciarrino had a career game and Kendra is just a good player. We look for everyone to score, and our shots fell."

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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