St. Mary’s girls basketball team reaches Federation Tournament final before falling to Lutheran

St. Mary’s girls basketball team reaches Federation Tournament final before falling to Lutheran
St. Mary's senior Taryn Barbot (11) battles for a rebound during Saturday's Class AA Federation Tournament semifinal game vs. White Plains. Photo credit: Jenn March for St. Mary's

The St. Mary’s girls basketball team is a Long Island juggernaut.

The Gaels routinely dominate the opposition, and their talent and reputation are intimidating for almost every opponent they face, whether it’s a public school team or a Catholic League foe.

This season, a perk of winning its second straight CHSAA state title, St. Mary’s got to compete in the Federation Tournament, held at three Albany-area high schools.

And for the first time in a long while, it was St. Mary’s who came up against a bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced foe.

After squeaking by White Plains in the semis on Saturday to advance to the title game, the Gaels were simply overwhelmed by one of the top teams in the nation Sunday.

Long Island Lutheran, ranked No. 3 in America by ESPN, raced out to a big first-quarter lead and removed all doubt from the outcome, cruising to a 99-58 win in the Class AA title game at Shaker High School in Latham, N.Y.

“They’re No. 3 in the country for a reason,” White said Sunday after the game. “They’re long, they’re athletic, and they’re very, very physical. They manhandled us at times.”

One night earlier White said it was a “David vs. Goliath” matchup, with St. Mary’s (26-5) being in the extremely-unusual position of David.

Lutheran, though, recruits from all over the country and has multiple Division I prospects on its team.

In the championship game St. Mary’s, so used to being the heavy favorite, was the decided underdog against No. 3 nationally-ranked Long Island Lutheran. LuHi defeated Brooklyn’s South Shore in its semi, and boasts a roster filled with talent.

And Sunday the Crusaders showed their superiority from the start, racing out to a 23-7 first quarter lead, and stretching it to 54-22 at halftime.

The biggest bright spot for St. Mary’s was an incredible game from senior Taryn Barbot, who along with sister Taylor is headed to Division I College of Charleston next season. Barbot was unstoppable Sunday, scoring a career-high 42 points.

“That kid competes 110 percent of the time; it doesn’t matter what the score is,” White said.  “She’s playing against bigger, stronger kids, but she rebounds, defends, does everything. We’re going to miss her and the other seniors a lot.”

Indeed, White appropriately focused on the big picture from the weekend that ended the career of the Barbots, and fellow seniors Cayla Williams and Tara Murray. The quartet had a four-year record of 110-9, with two state titles the past two years.

“Myself and my coaches loved going to practice every day, because we have such a good group of kids,” White said. “And that started with the (four) seniors. These kids listen to what you say, they enjoy basketball. It’s hard to find groups of young ladies that are so focused, so we are very lucky.”

The Gaels came in to the Federation Tournament, the first time it has been held in three years, off a dominating CHSAA state title game performance, a 66-49 win over Buffalo Nichols, at Fordham University.

Just to get to the championship game of the Federation Tournament Sunday, St. Mary’s had to hold off a very stubborn White Plains team, 53-50 on Saturday.

White Plains, from Westchester County, didn’t expect to be playing this weekend. It lost to Rochester Webster Schroeder, 49-41, in the Class AA public school championships on March 18, and thought its season was over.

But Webster Schroeder withdrew from the Federation Tournament when it realized most of its players would be unavailable to compete this weekend.

The Tigers certainly looked like champs, giving St. Mary’s everything it could handle.

“There were a bunch of spurts, a few opportunities we could’ve gotten a little momentum,” White said after Saturday’s win. “We got steals and then we gave it right back to them. But sometimes you need a little luck to win these games.”

The Gaels had a strong start on Saturday at Shaker High School, jumping out to a 17-7 first-quarter lead.  St. Mary’s never trailed the rest of the way, but White Plains stayed aggressive in a foul-filled semifinal, and kept the score to within six points just about the entire contest.

Taryn Barbot had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Taylor Barbot had a “do-everything” game with nine points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Freshman Kayla Solomon poured in 14 points as well, while sophomore Sky Priester added six.

“Sometimes (Kayla) plays like a freshman, but she’s pretty resilient,” White said. “Our kids hung tough when the game was close, and played solid defense in the end.”

Still, it was never easy for St. Mary’s Saturday. They led 30-25 at half, and by the final minute of the third, after Taryn Barbot sank two free throws, St. Mary’s led by a dozen, 47-35.

But in the fourth quarter White Plains picked up its defense, and St. Mary’s had trouble scoring. Two Tigers free throws at 2:25 left cut the deficit to 53-50.

The last two minutes were wild, with turnovers and missed shots galore, but in the final moments, with White Plains looking for a tying 3-pointer, St. Mary’s freshman Scarlet Cubero helped force two misplays by the Tigers, and they never got off a shot.

“You always want to play in the last possible game of the season, and we got a chance to do that by winning (Saturday),” White said.

Despite the final game of the season not going as planned, White said it was a remarkable season with much accomplished.

“We have so much to be proud of,” White said. “To win back-to-back Class AA titles, a small school of 315 kids, you have to be proud of what we did. And I told the kids after the game, they accomplished a lot and did so many great things this season. And the future looks bright, too.”



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