The girls CHSAA crowned its State champs in Class A and Class B as Bishop Loughlin defeated Mary Louis and Cardinal O'Hara of Buffalo fell to Preston on Saturday.
Bishop Loughlin 56, Mary Louis Academy 46: Bishop Loughlin coach Kasim Alston believed his team had an extra player on the court during Saturday's CHSAA Class A State title game against Mary Louis Academy.
"Chicken's here," Alston said in reference to former player Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, who was killed in September. "We played six on five, they didn't even know. I had six players on the court."
Fueled by the memory of their former teammate, Bishop Loughlin defeated Mary Louis Academy, 56-46, on Saturday at Christ the King. The Lady Lions (15-12) advance to the State Federation tournament in Albany in two weeks.
Alston wore a suit for most of the game but with his team up 18 late, he threw on a No. 15 jersey, the one that Murphy used to wear. He wore the jersey for about the final minute and a half as his team put the final touches on its win against Mary Louis, the third time in four tries it beat Mary Louis (13-17) this season.
The coach talked after the game how this was all part of his plan for when he became the head coach at the school. He envisioned he players he had coached in their youths would come to Bishop Loughlin and help develop a winning tradition. He said Murphy was part of that plan.
"It feels so good that everything is coming together as planned," Alston said. "Chicken is not here physically but she's here in spirit."
Loughlin trailed 26-24 at the half but used an impressive second half to grab the victory. It took a 40-32 lead into the third and never was truly challenged down the stretch. Senior Ayana Ratliff led Loughlin with 19 points.
"I just had to win," Ratliff said. "Our team had confidence in me, they gave me the ball and I did the best I can."
Cardinal O'Hara (Buffalo) 56, Preston 41: The Preston girls basketball team fell just short of winning the CHSAA Class B State title on Saturday, losing to Cardinal O'Hara, but their overall season was not lost on the mind of coach John Martin following the defeat.
"It's been tremendous. It's been a great year. They really came together all season and it's a tribute to their hard work and dedication to the program. I'm very happy with the season," Martin said. "We won the Archdiocesan, we won the City and we bring back most of our team. It's been a great year and we're looking forward to the future as well."
After winning the Archdiocesan crown and City title, the Panthers fell to Cardinal O'Hara of Buffalo, 56-41, on Saturday afternoon at Christ the King. The Panthers (25-6) never led in the game and trailed by double-digits for most of the final three quarters.
"They were very deep and they were very physical," Martin said. "I don't think we were used to the physical play and it took us a while to get adjusted to it. I think that had an impact. They were very up-tempo as well and a very good team, very strong."
Cardinal O'Hara led 13-6 after one and boosted the lead to 26-12 at halftime. Preston never truly challenged the Lady Hawks the rest of the way and fell one game short of heading to Albany to play for the State Federation title. Victoria Sorrell led Preston with 12 points.
Next season, Preston should be right back in the mix for the State and City titles. The team is primarily built of juniors and sophomores and this experience will benefit them going forward.
"They learned a lot this year," Martin said. "They learned how to play together very well and the experience we went through this year will only prepare them better for next season."