St. John the Baptist spent more than a half hour in its locker room after Wednesday night’s season-ending loss. The mood was sullen, they said, and the disappointment and emotion poured out.
But in those quiet moments, once the tears had dried, the Cougars were able to remind themselves that there is reason to pick their heads up. There is college for the seniors; and for the rest of this young group, the outlook of promising seasons to come.
“We told each other that we had a great season,” freshman Sydney Zambrotta said. “We didn’t play well this game, but at the end of the day, we had a great season.”
That season came to an end with a 59-40 loss to a heralded Bishop Ford team in the quarterfinals of the CHSAA Class AA girls basketball tournament at St. John Villa.
Aaliyah Jones scored 26 points, including four three-pointers, and Aaliyah Lewis added 15 points for No. 2 Bishop Ford. The Falcons took control with a 31-18 first half and withstood SJB’s charge in the third quarter.
“We started out well and we made some runs late to get it down to 10 or 11, but it wasn’t one of our better games,” Cougars coach Ted Oberg said. “The kid going to St. John’s [Jones] lit us up from three and we didn’t move the ball well enough. They’re quick and their man-to-man defense was good.”
Zambrotta scored 12 points, Aliyah Smith added 11 and Lauren Williams had eight points for No. 7 St. John the Baptist (14-11). Laura Parra scored four points.
“[Bishop Ford] was great,” senior Lindsay McCoy said. “They have a big reputation, but they’ve earned it. They were great in the mid-range and were able to knock down some threes against us.”
The Falcons hit eight three-pointers, and Jill Conroy added eight points, to help them pull away.
McCoy, one of four seniors on the Cougars roster, described the game’s final minutes as “surreal.”
“I was watching the clock go down and I was like ‘Wow, this is my last high school game,’” she said. “It made me cherish the moment even more, though. I’m going to miss this, but I’m already hopeful for next year”
The upside for St. John the Baptist, of course, is that there were only four seniors – two of them starters – on this team. Williams, a junior guard, will return to lead the group. And among the talented up-and-comers: freshman guards Zambrotta and Italee Brown-Smikle, sophomore forward Kayla Hill and 6’0” freshman forward Meaghan Oberg.
“We’ll be there, like we are every year,” Ted Oberg said. “We have a tremendous core that’s going to be very good. We’ve got potentially four or five Division I players. By the time these kids are juniors, we’ll expect to own Long Island. And hopefully when we get back here (to the CHSAA state tournament), we’ll do some damage.”