SCHENECTADY — In recent weeks, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons girls’ basketball coach Pat Moran has often pointed out just how far his cast of forwards have come in a year’s time.
Without that progress, the Golden Knights probably don’t have the solid regular season they did, and they’re certainly not in the state Class D final four taking on Oxford Academy Saturday morning.
“I think one of the biggest differences is my dad taking the forwards and working with them every day in practice,” said Moran, who is assisted by his father, Paul, as well as his son, Joe. “He has them working a lot on offensive rebounding, reading shots and scoring inside. If we can’t do that, the focus is more on Mia and Angie.”
Mia’Rose Wylie and Angie Deitz are Bishop Gibbons’ go-to scorers, and while their late-game efforts have been key in three playoff wins, so, too, has the play of the all-underclass front-line cast. It includes Autumn Davis, who grabbed 10 rebounds and scored seven points when Bishop Gibbons earned its second regional title in five years with a 37-30 win over Seton Catholic, and Alanah Kelly and Molly Moran, who played a big defensive role against SC star Abby Pearl in the paint.
“We wanted Alanah and Molly to get a body on her and contest shots,” Pat Moran said.
Kelly, who is the tallest Knight at 6-foot-3, snared 10 rebounds and blocked four shots when the Golden Knights topped Hartford 58-48 for the Section II championship before that. Kelly added five boards, three assists and two blocks against Seton Catholic.
“Their job is to play defense and rebound,” said Pat Moran, who will start Davis and Kelly and mix and match them with his daughter Molly, Tatum Liverio and Shacki Stuart. “We don’t need five scorers out there. We need five on the court playing as one with a goal.”
That goal now includes a state semifinal win by essentially the same group that took some serious beatings last season. That edition was missing Wylie due to a knee injury, and the junior’s return gives the Golden Knights one of the state’s best Class D backcourt duos.
“We lost four games by 50 points, and adding Mia helps, but not 50 points help,” Pat Moran said. “The kids worked and got better and started to believe in themselves.”
That belief was strengthened in Bishop Gibbons third game of the season with a 55-45 comeback win at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. Cora Jusino, who starts in the backcourt with Wylie and Deitz, had one of her better scoring games with seven points to back their combined 43.
“It’s a tough place to play to begin with,” Pat Moran said. “I’m expecting the 2-3 zone they usually play, and he [BKW coach Tom Galvin] goes man-to-man, but we figured it out. That showed me the character they had.”
Bishop Gibbons (15-7) is looking to take that next step after a state semifinal loss in 2019. Oxford Academy (21-5) will offer a variety of hurdles in Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. game at Hudson Valley Community College, starting with all-around standout Madalyn Barrows, who had 26 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals in her team’s 70-44 regional win over Smithtown Christian.
“It’s going to be the threes again,” Pat Moran said referring to the No. 3 jersey worn by Barrows and Pearl, who managed nine points in Seton Catholic’s regional loss to BG. “She [Barrows] is a unique player. She handles the ball, hits the three like [Duanesburg star Allison] O’Hanlon and posts up.”
Oxford Academy is a strong defensive team like Bishop Gibbons, and will attack with a full-court press, often attempt to trap the ball handler and fall back in a 2-3 zone. Defense is a reason the Blackhawks are still playing, as they made three late defensive stands to hold off 38-36 in the Section IV title game.
“Our motto is ‘Not Today,’” said Pat Moran, whose team is ranked No. 12 in the state; Oxford is No. 3. “If we’re going to keep that going, our role players will have to play a huge part defending No. 3, beating their press and being confident.”
Bishop Gibbons has made clutch plays in the fourth quarter of each of its postseason wins, and capped its last victory with a 9-2 run in which Wylie scored five of her game-high 11 points.
“Mia and Angie are very important and they bring a lot, but we need the overall team to be successful,” Stuart said.
In the Seton Catholic game, Wylie broke a 28-28 tie on a layup assisted by Davis, and Wylie scored again on a layup assisted by Kelly. Wylie was among seven Golden Knights who scored.
“All of those little points in a close game are important,” Wylie said.
Hammond (Section X, 19-1) and Panama (Section VI, 20-4) meet in Saturday’s first Class D semifinal at 9 a.m. Hammond and Panama are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the state rankings put together by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Sunday’s championship game is at 10 a.m.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Email Newsletter, High School Sports, Sports