Gaels Eye State Championship

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St. Mary’s High School Athletic Director Patrick Welsh poses with team captains Kayla Titus, Kalena Ricketts and Jessica Williams upon receiving the NSCHSGAA AA Division Championship trophy. The Gaels defeated St. John the Baptist 46-43 at Hofstra University on Tuesday, March 3. (Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s High School)

A young St. Mary’s Gaels girls basketball team beat St. John the Baptist, 46-43, on Tuesday, March 3, to reach state’s Catholic League AA semifinals. Head coach Kevin White has lead his team to a 21-4 record and a state championship is in sight.

“We have had a pretty successful season,” White said. “We have a very young team, a lot of freshman and sophomores. Their growth from the beginning of the year to currently has been enormous and that’s pretty much why we are at the level we are at now.”

Sophomore Sirviva Legions led the team with 18 points and junior Laura Bogota added 12 of her own, hitting five of six free throws in the fourth quarter.

Unlike the other schools they face, St. Mary’s does not have a freshman or junior varsity team. Developing the youth on the roster has been critical for the Gaels. White has been able to take an inexperienced roster of three seniors, one junior, three sophomores and six freshman deep into the playoffs.

White has been able to accomplish this is by having a competitive non-conference schedule, even playing top teams teams outside of the state.

“They have had a lot of exposure against very good teams, trying to get them ready for the playoffs,” White said.

Without a lot of height on the roster and a majority of the players being perimeter-oriented, the Gaels push the pace of the game, both offensively and defensively.

“We play at a fast pace, try to push the ball offensively, press the whole game and try and create an up-tempo type of game which translates to the talents of the kinds of kids we have,” White said.

The Gaels differentiate between a full-court man-to-man press or a full-court zone-trap for most of the game. White says his team has the flexibility to play a 1-2-1-1, 1-2-2 or a 2-2-1 zone trap. Part of the reason White decides to press is because his rotation can go up to 10 girls, even in the playoffs, where most coaches narrow down their rotation.

“We are a pretty well-conditioned team,” White said. “We condition ourselves to the style we play. Our rotation can go eight to 10 players deep so we can get fresh players in. It leads to breaking down the other team. When the other team gets fatigued, they have a tendency to make mistakes. We get turnovers out of that and it generally creates a little bit of offense.”

St. Mary’s will play in the state semifinals on Friday, March 13 at Holy Trinity High School. Game-tip is 6 p.m.

“It would be nice if we could bring the championship home to Manhasset,” White said.

Update: St. Mary’s state semifinal game on Friday, March 13 was postponed.

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