Turnaround season continues for Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons girls’ basketball team

Three excited basketball players celebrate

Paige Moran (5), Angie Deitz, center, and Tatum Liverio of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons celebrate their Section II Class D girls’ basketball tournament championship win over Hartford last Thursday at Hudson Valley.

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SCHENECTADY — Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons has put together quite a turnaround story, going from a team that lost several times by 50 points last season to a Section II Class D girls’ basketball champion in this one.

“Last year was a little rough,” Bishop Gibbons junior Shacki Stuart said before Thursday’s practice. “We were getting killed. but it was OK. We were getting there.”

The Golden Knights are so much farther along now, and headed toward regional competition Saturday against Seton Catholic (Section VII, 16-7) at Hudson Valley Community College. The Golden Knights (14-7) will be looking to notch the program’s second regional title in five years, after its 2019 edition won at that stage before a state final four setback. 

“We never stopped believing,” said Golden Knights junior Angie Deitz, the Section II Class D tournament MVP. “Last year was rough, but it didn’t stop us. We didn’t quit. We kept going and came into this season looking at that banner [of the 2019 Section II title team] thinking we want that, too.”

Bishop Gibbons turned in a solid regular season by earning a share of the Western Athletic Conference Mohawk Division title with Northville and placing fourth in the league overall. Bishop Gibbons beat Northville for a second time in the sectional semifinals 31-30, before topping Hartford 58-48 for the championship.

Bishop Gibbons coach Pat Moran said he was confident his mostly-junior team would show improvement — about half of them played AAU — but is pleasantly surprised by just how much. The Golden Knights have doubled their win total from last season, and this week they made it into the state sportswriters Class D poll at No. 19.

“I thought we were a year away,” said Moran as he recalled several one-sided losses his team sustained last season. “I’m thinking when they’re seniors, let’s put up another banner. But the forwards came along. Their confidence grew. The defense got better.”

Bishop Gibbons is going with essentially the same cast as last season when it was one-and-done in the sectionals, but has been bolstered with the return of Mia Rose Wylie, who missed last season with a knee issue.

“Last year was a learning year for the team,” Wylie said. “I saw how hard the girls were working together, and I couldn’t wait to get back.”

Wylie was huge in the two playoff wins, with her drive and layup off a Deitz assist in the final seconds lifting Bishop Gibbons past Northville. The all-tourney pick piled up 20 points against Hartford to back Deitz, who netted 21.

“First scrimmage last year and she gets hurt. It was heartbreaking. To have her back is amazing,” said Deitz, who has been playing ball with Wylie since they were in elementary school. “She brings a lot to the table. She works hard. Never gives up.”

The Golden Knights have displayed the never-quit approach as a collective group throughout the campaign. Against Northville, they rallied from behind in the fourth quarter, and against Hartford, they held on in the last frame.

“What I know about this team is we’re going to play our hearts out,” said Stuart, who was named Bishop Gibbons’ fourth team captain this week, joining Deitz, Wylie and Tatum Liverio. “If the game is close, we’ll cheer on the bench and go all out on the court. If we’re down, we’ve got to push it up for our school and for us.”

Alanah Kelly played a significant role in the title game with 10 rebounds and four blocks, and joins with Liverio, Stuart, Autumn Davis and Molly Moran on the Golden Knights front line. Deitz and Wylie are coupled with Paige Moran, Cora Jusino and Katie Alarcon — the team’s lone senior — in the backcourt.  

“It’s like a switch turns on come game time,” Moran said. “They play hard and don’t back down.”

Seton Catholic defeated Boquet Valley 43-37 in overtime to claim the Section VII (Plattsburgh area) title. Seton Catholic got 17 points and 10 rebounds from star forward Abby Pearl, and 10 points and nine assists from Madyson Whalen.

“We have to go in with the right mind set,” Deitz said of the matchup with the state’s No, 7-ranked squad. “We have to play as a team and trust each other.”

Saturday’s winner goes to the state semifinals March 18 at HVCC (10:45 a.m.) and will play either Oxford Academy (Section IV, 20-5) or Smithtown Christian (Section XI, 9-12).

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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