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Clutch free throw shooting snaps skid for Kearney

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Missed free throws had been a well-noted factor during Bishop Kearney’s seven-game losing streak, especially at its outset. The Tigers had chances to close out games, but couldn’t convert from the line.

“It cost us probably three games already this season,” Bishop Kearney coach Cathy Crockett said. “I don’t expect to shoot 100 percent from the line, but we were shooting 30 percent.”

Crockett made sure to pound home the importance of free throws.

“Our coach killed us with the foul shots,” Kaitlyn Rose said. “If you missed one, you did a suicide. If you missed two, you did two suicides.”

All the running and practicing finally paid off. The Tigers shot 90 percent from the line in the fourth and made 13-of-15 free throws in the second half to help withstand two St. Francis Prep rallies. The Terriers would get as close as one in the fourth quarter, but never tied or led. Bishop Kearney held on for a 62-56 victory over visiting St. Francis Prep in a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball game Tuesday.

“We needed everything to come together today because we have been in a big slump,” Christina Hiltunen said. “We needed this win.”

The Terriers did all they could to take it away.

St. Francis Prep (5-10, 0-5 B/Q CHSAA Division I) attacked the basket to turn a 12-point, second-quarter deficit in to a one-possession game multiple times in the fourth. Jenna Halaby, who scored 14 points, sunk two free throws to make it 57-54 with 2:31 left.

On the ensuing possession, Rose, who had eight points, slipped by Marta Banach and completed a three-point play. She would also make two free throws with 14.5 second left to make it 62-54. It capped a 10-of-11 fourth quarter from the line for the Tigers.

“I felt like I had to do something to the score,” Rose said. “We are slacking a little at the end of every game.”

St. Francis Prep was unable to get the 3-point look it needed in the final seconds and had a few layups pop out of the rim, one following Rose’s three-point play and then during a frantic scramble to get a bucket late.

“It just seems to be that when we need a critical shot, whether it’s a layup or a 3-point shot, we just don’t seem to ever convert,” Terriers coach JoAnn Wagner said.

The Terriers had started the second half at a disadvantage, when, as the team lingered on its sideline, the referee gave the ball to Kearney (5-9, 2-3) at half court with all of the Prep players on the wrong side. Hiltunen, who had 15 points and 10 assists, converted an uncontested layup.

“It’s our mistake, yes, but that’s ridiculous because there were several other times after that that they didn’t come out right away,” Wagner said. “He didn’t put the ball down for them.”

The Terriers began attacking the basket in the third quarter and were able to get within 46-44 on a Nicole Lenard 3-pointer with 5:26 left in the fourth. The Tigers responded with a 7-2 run, which included five of Sam Retas’ 11 points. The Terriers shot just 13-of-31 from the line. Lenard had 13 points and Aliya Donn added nine.

Kearney led by as many as 23-11 early in the second quarter as a cutting Hiltunen scored on a pass from Caitlyn Furlong, who scored 12 of her 18 points before halftime. It was the sixth of eight times the duo had combined for points. The other seven were Furlong scoring off assists from Hiltunen.

“She was right there,” the point guard said. “She was going in strong. She looked like she wanted it today.”

So did Kearney after a prolonged losing streak. The win is certainly a nice boost heading into an important match-up with Bishop Ford on Jan. 26 with the No. 3 spot in the league still highly contested.

“My team is going to come ready to play,” Crockett said. “It’s like a rivalry. It’s Brooklyn- Brooklyn.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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