Close game. Final minutes. It doesn’t matter. Kellenberg’s Alyssa Boll wants the basketball in her hands.
“I was feeling very confident the whole game,” said the senior guard and captain. “I was ready to go to the free-throw line and secure the win.”
That’s just what Boll did. She went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 1:27, and the Firebirds were 14-for-14 from the line in the fourth quarter, defeating Buffalo-Sacred Heart, 53-44, in the CHSAA state Class A final at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym, Saturday night.
“She’s such a competitor, and the girls feed off that,” said Kellenberg coach Matt Kirk of Boll. “We say, ‘Bleed blue and gold’ and give 110 percent effort and she’s the epitome.”
Kellenberg (14-7) advances to the state Federation Tournament in Glens Falls on March 24-26. The Firebirds shot 26 of 31 (84 percent) from the line for the game.
“We harp on the importance of free throws every practice,” Kirk said. “That was quite a performance tonight.”
Kellenberg, which led 34-31 after three quarters, scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and 13 of the first 18 points overall and took a seemingly comfortable 47-36 lead with 2:26 remaining.
But a pair of Sacred Heart free throws and three pointers by Micaela Ryan (20 points) and Siobhan Ryan (16 points) brought Sacred Heart (16-8) within 47-44. Kellenberg called timeout.
“I think they just want to see if they can give me gray hair,” joked Kirk, who doesn’t have any (yet). “We just told them that we’ve been here before.”
Boll — who had 11 points and played all 32 minutes — took over and hit two free throws with 1:27 left and at the 10.4-second mark to give Kellenberg a cushion at 51-44. Anita Mikowski, who had team-highs of 12 points and 11 rebounds, added the final points on (of course) two foul shots with 6.7 seconds. The Firebirds were just 2 of 12 (17 percent) from the field in the fourth quarter, but forced 31 turnovers for the game.
Kellenberg center Morgan Staab added 11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Jessica Brower had eight points (including 6 of 6 free throws) and four rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench, a role that she took over for the betterment of the team midway through the season according to Kirk.
“This feels really, really good,” said Mikowski, clutching her individual state title plaque. “I’m trying to hold back tears right now.”
She wasn’t the only one on a Kellenberg team now looking for its first state Federation crown since 2009.
“We have such a strong connection on and off the court,” Boll said. “We are all so confident in each other, and we have faith in whoever gets the ball.”
But especially in herself.