Though its comeback fell short, St. Mary's showed the toughness that had been present throughout its two-year reign as league champion.

Jordan Agustus scored 14 points and Mei-Lyn Bautista scored 13, but the Gaels fell to Archbishop Molloy, 46-45, in the CHSAA Class AA girls basketball state semifinals at Christ the King High School in Queens.

St. Mary's trailed 44-36 with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter before going on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to one by the 1:53 mark. Emer Maloney made two free throws for Molloy (21-7) with 1:28 left, but two possessions later, Agustus passed to a cutting Elizabeth Limonta, whose layup cut Molloy's lead to 46-45 with 30 seconds left.

Though St. Mary's (19-5) got a stop on the next Molloy possession, the Gaels were stopped themselves with 17 seconds left. After Molloy inbounded, no foul was called despite the Gaels' attempts and the clock ran out.

"They're all winners," Gaels coach Tom Flynn said of his players, adding he thanked them after the game "for letting me coach them. They could have rolled over tonight, but they didn't quit and they fought until the end."

"This is more than a basketball team," Flynn said of his team that went to three straight NSCHSAA league title games and won the last two. "There was always pressure on them. They were supposed to win all the time, and they did a pretty good job of that."

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St. Mary's took a 21-18 lead into halftime, thanks to Bautista (who will play for George Washington next season) who scored eight first-quarter points, and Agustus (a senior headed to St. John's), who scored six in the second quarter.

Molloy, though, dominated the third quarter, outscoring St. Mary's 21-10 after starting the period on a 15-5 run.

With 3:23 left, Molloy led 44-36 before Agustus powered her way into the post and made a layup. St. Mary's stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Limonta converted to make it 44-40.

Charlotte Renker got another steal for the Gaels on Molloy's next possession and passed to Limonta, who was fouled on her layup attempt at the other end. Limonta, who scored seven points, made both free throws to cut the deficit to two.

McKayla Hernandez added eight points for St. Mary's.

"They played hard and didn't let me down tonight," Flynn said. "This group never let me down."