St. Edmund secured its first diocesan title in more than a decade over the weekend, led by a player who has been working toward that goal for the past four years.
Alexandra Jacques, who has been on the varsity since she was a freshman, scored 18 of her game-high 29 points in the second half to push top-seeded St. Edmund to a 66–53 victory over No. 2 Bishop Kearney in the Brooklyn-Queens Division II girls’ basketball final at Archbishop Molloy last Sunday. It is the first crown since 2001–02 for the Eagles, and ends Kearney’s two-year reign atop the league.
“The fact that we won the championship as seniors, now we are leaving a mark on Edmunds,” said senior guard Kellie O’Neill. “Hopefully, next year’s group can keep it going, but I am happy that we won this year.”
The Tigers (12–10) played most of the second half without star center Jennifer Kaye, who had 12 first-half points, because of ankle injury. St. Edmund (17–3) took advantage. It went on a 17–4 run over the second and third quarters led by Jacques, Nina DiCioccio, and sophomore Kelly O’Donnell. O’Neill scored 15 points, O’Donnell had nine and DiCioccio chipped in eight for the contest.
The spurt put St. Edmund up 39–28 with 3:40 to play in the third. St. Edmund knew it had to capitalize on Kaye’s absence. It opened up its ability to score in transition and finally control the boards.
“When she went down we knew we had an advantage,” said St. Edmund coach Frank Kelly. “We tried to take advantage of it and we did.”
The Tigers started off strong, but the tide began to turn right as Kaye left the game with Kearney up 24–21 and just 14 seconds remaining in the first half. O’Neill then beat the buzzer with a trey from just over half court near the Kearney bench. It tied the score at 24–24 and gave the Eagles some momentum that carried over after the break.
“When it was in the air, I was praying, ‘Please go in. Please go in,’ ” O’Neill said. “I was just so happy.”
By the time Kaye returned with 3:00 to go in the third quarter, St. Edmund was up 13. She played for about two minutes before being pulled for good. Tigers coach Rocco Sellitto didn’t see his center’s absence as the end of his team’s chances to win, but didn’t think his team responded well to it psychologically and emotionally.
“I thought we could recover, and at times we did,” Sellitto said. “We are a young team and we have been up and down as a result of turnovers an bad decisions.”
Kearney pulled within 43–33 with 2:00 to go in the third after a layup and one of two free throws from Kailey O’Grady, who scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half. Jacques answered with her second three of the quarter. She made the lead stand up by hitting layups, short jumpers and threes, despite the best efforts by O’Grady to turn the tide.
“Everything worked out,” said Jacques with a laugh. “Everything was going well.”
St. Edmund earns the dioceses’s top seed in the upcoming Catholic Class B state playoffs and a bye into the city semifinals on March 9. Kearney will be its second seed and play at home on March 6.
But St. Edmund has a memory to cherish no matter the outcome the rest of the way.