After Elmira Notre Dame won the state girls’ basketball crown last year, Margie McKinery told the Courier, “It’s the first one and hopefully not the last.”
That’s quite a statement, considering that McKinery had only one season left to realize that lofty goal. Recently, McKinery admitted her quote had been rather bold.
But guess what? She was right on the money.
The Crusaders walked the talk in their state Class C championship game against Bloomfield — which was about the only walking they did, as their incessant hustle forced numerous turnovers en route to a 50-35 victory. The championship contest was played March 18 at Hudson Valley Community College. Notre Dame finished with a 25-1 record in 2006-07, and now owns a combined two-year mark of 49-3 along with state and Section 4 trophies both seasons.
Notre Dame led 14-12 after one quarter in the title game and then completely defused the Bombers (26-2), going up 24-15 at halftime and 45-23 with one period remaining. ND held a 31-11 scoring edge in the second and third quarters over Bloomfield, a Section 5 school.
“Pressuring the guards and everything was definitely the main focus of our game. Our early runs were definitely a result of our defense,” said Mallory Lawes, a junior guard who gained tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
Lawes finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and the rest of Notre Dame’s star trio also made big contributions: Junior center Kate Agan had 12 points and eight rebounds, and McKinery, a senior guard, added seven points, five assists and eight steals.
ND had found the going tougher in the previous day’s Class C semifinal against Hoosic Valley of Section 2, facing an 11-point deficit as halftime approached. However, the Crusaders rallied for a 48-41 win behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Lawes.
“Saturday was such a tough game, but we really wanted it,” Agan said.
“I didn’t want to end the season on a loss,” added senior Kate Kelly, whose father, Robert, has coached the Crusaders to both their state titles.
ND had reached the Final Four by winning 66-39 over previously unbeaten Little Falls of Section 3 in a state quarterfinal game on March 10. Lawes was unstoppable in that contest, totaling 31 points, and Agan added 17.
The Crusaders had gained entrance into states with a hard-earned 54-50 win over Bainbridge-Guilford in the Section 4 Class C final on March 3, scoring the game’s last five points in the final 1:23. Agan and Caley Manuel led the way with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Notre Dame was seeded first in sectionals, and the Bobcats were third.
The Crusaders, ranked No. 1 in the state, were a target all season as the defending state champion — making for a challenging road to a second title, according to Agan.
“Last year no one really knew about us. This year everybody was gearing up for us,” she explained.
Yet in the end, it was the relentlessly revved-up Crusaders who operated in the highest gear of all — again.