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Sacred Heart rallies, wins state Class A title

Sacred Heart’s 23-year wait is over. The Sharks are the state Catholic champions in girls basketball’s Class A.

Sacred Heart defeated St. Mary’s of Manhasset, 61-53, at St. John Villa on Staten Island. It’s the Sharks’ first such title since 1993.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” coach Debbie Laux said. “But the kids were thrilled – more excited than they can imagine. They stuck together in the game. We were down after the third quarter, but they never gave up. It’s something we’ve been preaching.”

The Sharks (20-7) had to work hard to earn this championship. The first half was fairly close throughout, with Sacred Heart owning a 14-13 lead after one quarter and a 29-22 lead at halftime. Some good outside shooting by Micaela Ryan was crucial in that stretch.

“Micaela had four three-pointers in the first half,” Laux said.

The Gaels came back in the third quarter to take the lead. Kadaja Bailey, who already has committed to play at St. John’s University starting in 2018, was a matchup problem for Sacred Heart throughout the game. Bailey finished with 21 points.

But the game turned again in the fourth quarter. Sacred Heart had a 24-14 edge in the period to earn the championship.

Sarah Young finished with 23 points to lead the Sharks in scoring.

“Sarah was a force under the boards,” Laux said. “She was 7 for 11 from the field, 9 of 10 from the line.

“The girls played out of their minds. Our defense went just the way we drew it up. Micaela and Danielle (Hore) came through. We got some points off the bench from Alisa Schaefer and Elizabeth Hill. It was a close game, but they fouled us and we made our free throws.”

Ryan finished the game with 20 points. She had scored the game-winning basket in Friday’s victory over Notre Dame Academy, and Laux thought that hard-fought win gave her team some confidence a day later.

“The kids played very well yesterday,” she said. “We wanted to keep the energy level up.”

Sacred Heart had to do some traveling this weekend. Laux said that the team at least passed through all five boroughs of New York City at some point.

Now it’s on to a different part of the state, as the Sharks will take part in the Federation tournament. They will play New York’s independent champion at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Times-Union Center in Albany. The championship game will be played at noon the next day.

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