ALBANY – Success in basketball is so new and exciting for Mount St. Mary, it seems fitting that its big weekend getaway will include an extended stay in the state capital, tickets and a shot at the title.
Senior Julie Fleming recorded 26 points and nine rebounds as eight different players scored to help Mount St. Mary take down previously unbeaten Brooklyn College Academy, 56-41, in a New York Federation Tournament of Basketball Champions girls Class B semifinal game at SEFCU Arena at University at Albany.
After a close, scrappy defensive first half in which the Thunder led, 22-18, at the break, the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association and Monsignor Martin Athletic Association Class B champions’ height and athleticism proved to be too much for the quick, short New York City Public Schools Athletic Association champion in the second half.
Mount, winner of 12 of its last 14 games, will face Alliance of Independent Schools Athletic Association champion Staten Island Academy for the championship at 2 p.m. Sunday. Staten Island routed New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association champion Susquehanna Valley, 71-54.
Can the Thunder, who won Monsignor Martin and state Catholic titles for the first time in their history, accomplish another first and win the Federation?
“We want to compete,” said first-year coach Mike McCarthy, who played at Canisius College for two seasons, including one under John Beilein. “It’s fun for the school. It’s fun for the community. We’re the last Monsignor Martin Association team here so we want to represent well.”
“It just feels good to shock everyone,” said Fleming. “We’ve come a long way. This is crazy. We’re just so blessed to be here. We just play for each other and we play for our coach and it comes from the heart.”
After the game, the Thunder rushed to Times Union Center to watch the NCAA Women’s Regional semifinals, featuring Connecticut, Texas, Dayton and Louisville. They purchased tickets prior to their arrival because they figured it’d be a cool experience to see some of the top women’s players in the country.
Win or lose, Mount – which is fully engulfed in basketball fever now under McCarthy – was heading to the NCAA Women’s Tournament after the game. It definitely felt better going on a winning note, perhaps the Thunder’s most impressive, considering Brooklyn College Academy entered the game with a 26-0 record.
Fleming played a big role in the victory. Fleming, who had a triple-double in the state Catholic final, scored 16 points in the second half, including six during the Thunder’s 10-7 third quarter that stretched their advantage to seven entering the fourth quarter. Catherine Meegan added eight points, including a big three-pointer that gave Mount (16-12) a 10-point lead with just over 5 minutes remaining.
Brooklyn College Academy tried to scrap its way back behind the play of Beatrice Wallace, who finished with 19 points and five steals. But the Thunder hit their free throws down the stretch to extend their season of firsts to the final game of the season for the first time.
“It’s just been a fun ride,” Fleming said. “We’ve just got to prolong this as long as we could.”