Christina Heyer has an exuberant style of play, known for behind-the-back passes and giving her kneepads a workout on the hardwood, but the Bishop Kearney senior guard had to play it cool in final seconds on Monday, when the win depended on sinking a series of free throws.
Heyer was stoic and focused as she stepped to the line on two separate occasions with less than a minute to play after Monsignor McClancy made the Tigers’ 17-point third-quarter lead nearly evaporate.
“It was getting pretty hectic, but then we had to pull it together and slow it down,” Heyer said.
She coolly made all four of her free throws down the stretch as Heyer and classmates Emily Hiltunen and Nicollette Conti helped Kearney secure a 62–54 win over the visiting Crusaders in Brooklyn-Queens Division II girls’ basketball. The Tigers got a perfect eight of eight from the free throw line late.
“I stepped on the line and I didn’t think about them, and they went right in,” Heyer said.
McClancy, in just its second year as a program, used a wild 19–4 run in the fourth quarter to get it back into the game. It was aided by sloppy play from the Tigers team and its inability to handle the press. Forward Ashley Martin led the Crusaders with 21 points. Guard Taylor Ayber had 20, but sat out the fourth because of a dislocated finger.
McClancy (3–3) twice got within two points in the last 1:15, but both times Heyer pushed the lead back to four. Hiltunen made two more free throws to put Kearney up 60–54 with 16.1 seconds remaining. Conti collected a steal, one of four big defensive plays from her late, and made both her shots from the charity stripe.
“It’s a drive,” Conti said of her defensive instincts. “You know you have to get the ball just in the moment.”
Kearney (6–1), the defending diocesan champions, built its lead in the third quarter thanks to a 10–1 run to open the frame. It also finished the third with a 6–0 spurt capped by a buzzer-beating trey from Heyer to make it 50–33. She scored 24 points. Hiltunen and Conti each added 11. Watching Heyer’s passionate play inspired her teammates.
“It just picks everyone up, the whole team has energy,” Hiltunen said.
Sophomore forward Kailey O’Grady and her freshman counterpart Emily Bosiacki, playing in just her second varsity game, showed important promise for Kearney. Their aggressiveness and effectiveness are vital with star big Jennifer Kaye away from the team for personal reasons, according to coach Rocco Sellitto.
“They have a big upside, mainly because they are both someone long and they can both handle the ball,” he said.
As a whole, the team — and especially its seniors — is eager to put it all together and make a run at a second-straight diocesan crown.
“We are so hungry,” Heyer said “It’s my senior year. I want another one. I want two of them under my belt.”