SCHENECTADY — There is an open space high on the gymnasium wall at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons that will occupy the banner displaying the Section II and regional championships won this postseason by its girls’ basketball team.
Nearby is another banner that honors the school’s 1986 team, the only one to secure those titles, as well as a New York title.
“We’ve got one more to go up there,” Golden Knights senior Jailene Santiago said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Bishop Gibbons (15-8) will make its first state final four appearance in over 30 years at Hudson Valley Community College Friday at 11:45 a.m. against Franklinville (Section VI, 19-5). Beforehand at 10 a.m., South Kortright (Section IV, 24-0) and Edwards-Knox (Section X, 22-2) meet in the first Class D semifinal.
Saturday’s championship game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
“It’s a tall order, but we’re going to try,” Bishop Gibbons coach and athletic director Pat Moran said before Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll do what we do, and God willing, we’ll end up on the right side.”
That’s happened four times so far in this playoff season, with Bishop Gibbons knocking off Heatly, Hartford and North Warren for the program’s first section title since 1989, and then topping Westport for the program’s first regional title since 1988.
“At the first practice going into sectionals I said to the girls, ‘See that spot on the wall? That’s for us,'” Moran said. “Right by the football banner.”
The school’s combined football team with Catholic Central in 2017 saw a superb postseason run end with a loss in the state championship game. Moran said his team getting that far will take some doing.
“Friday is our greatest challenge defensively,” he said.
At the top of Moran’s list of concerns is Franklinville junior Dani Haskell, who outscored Elba by herself with 33 points in a 49-32 regional win Saturday. Haskell also scored 33 when Franklinville lost to Delhi in overtime 54-51 in last year’s state Class D title game.
“She’s the Joe Girard of the female basketball world,” Moran said of Haskell. “She averages 27 points. She has scored 40, 50 in a game. She’s an exceptional basketball player. We don’t want her driving and getting offensive rebounds.”
Bishop Gibbons has played some super defense down the stretch, holding Westport to 24 points and North Warren to 36 with a variety of looks.
“They [Franklinville] are better than average,” said Santiago, who will join seniors Abby Kienzle, Juliana Jira, Chloe Bessinger and junior Ava Megyeri in Bishop Gibbons’ starting lineup. “We all have to be on the same page with what we’re doing. Everyone has to be focused.”
“In our run we’ve had a [defensive] game plan for every game, and they’ve picked it up. That, and our depth, have been big factors,” said Paul Moran, Bishop Gibbons’ assistant coach and the father of the Golden Knights head coach. “We played our younger girls in the regular season and got them comfortable, and we’ll use nine or 10 girls. If you play defense and rebound you’ll get into the game.”
Bishop Gibbons limited Westport to five points in each of the first two quarters, and to seven points in each of the next two quarters. When that regional contest was through, Gibbons had collected 16 steals.
“We’ve got a couple of things planned. We have to win on the defensive side. Take away what they want to do,” Pat Moran said. “We’ve got to score, too.”
Franklinville averages 64 points per game, while Bishop Gibbons averages 42. Bishop Gibbons high total for the postseason was 57 points against Hartford in the sectional semifinals.
“We have to score in the 50s and bring them down,” Pat Moran said.
Bishop Gibbons is hoping to start fast and build a lead.
“It helps with the confidence when you get out to a lead,” Megyeri said. “It helps you focus in on every aspect of the game.”
Megyeri and Kienzle both scored 12 points when Bishop Gibbons beat Westport and earned its final four spot.
“This is like something I’ve dreamed of,” said Santiago, who had four assists in the regional win. “To actually be in it, it’s really exciting.”