By ROB JONAS
TROY – Thirty years.
That’s how long it’s been since Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons won a Section 2 girls basketball title.
The title drought ended Friday, March 1, at Hudson Valley Community College, as the Lady Knights rallied for a 39-36 victory over North Warren in the Class D final.
Abby Kienzle scored 19 points to lead Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons to its first title since 1989, including the go-ahead basket with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter.
“The key was to stay focused and not let the pressure get to us,” said Kienzle, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons entered the fourth quarter trailing North Warren 35-27, but the Lady Knights clamped down on defense and did not allow a field goal over the final eight minutes to give themselves a chance to win.
“I played zone defense in the first half for a reason – to show them what we’ve done all season,” said Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons head coach Pat Moran. “In the second half, I went to an aggressive man[-to-man defense].”
“A lot of defense, a lot of pressure,” said North Warren head coach P.J. Hogan. “They battled back, and they made some shots down the stretch.”
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first quarter, only to watch as North Warren go on a 23-6 run that lasted deep into the second quarter. The Lady Knights scored the final five points of the first half, but the Wildcats went into the locker room with a 25-22 halftime lead.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons opened the third quarter by scoring the first three points to tie the score at 25-25, but North Warren created an eight-point cushion, thanks to a two-basket sequence. First, Jodi Bartlett drained a three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 31-27 advantage. Then, North Warren’s defense forced a Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons turnover off the inbounds play, and the ball came to Lauren Monroe for a driving layup to make the score 33-27.
North Warren’s lead ballooned to 35-27 before Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons clawed its way back. The Lady Knights closed the deficit to 36-35 midway through the fourth quarter and had several opportunities to take the lead before Kienzle made the go-ahead basket. The senior guard then sealed the victory by making two free throws with 17.4 seconds left.
“We never really put a team away all season,” said Moran. “We knew going in that this was going to be a war.”
Chloe Bessinger contributed eight points, and Ava Megyeri added six points for Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. Jodi Bartlett netted 12 points, and Jaclyn Urtz chipped in with seven points for North Warren.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons advances to the regional final against Section 7 champion Westport Saturday, March 9, at Hudson Valley Community College.
Photos by Rob Jonas. Copyright 2019 by Capital Region HS Sports.