Bishop Kearney's Aniya Rowe, left, defends against Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson...

Bishop Kearney's Aniya Rowe, left, defends against Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson during the state Class girls basketball championship game on March 19, 2022, in Troy, New York. Credit: Newsday/Hans Pennink

Despite only one senior playing significant minutes for the Baldwin girls basketball team, the Bruins made it all the way to the state final.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they couldn’t end their season with a victory.

Bishop Kearney defeated Baldwin, 63-57, in the girls basketball state Class AA championship at Hudson Valley Community College Saturday evening. Baldwin ends its season at 19-4. Bishop Kearney ends at 21-3.

The young Bruins team led Baldwin to its first state championship appearance since 2018, gaining valuable experience for years to come of playing in pressure moments.

Dallysshya Moreno had 21 points and 20 rebounds and Renelle Grannum had 14 points for Baldwin.

"I’m extremely proud of us," Moreno said. "We came up a little short today, that’s all I can say, but we’ll be back next year."

Baldwin trailed 29-27 at halftime and Bishop Kearney opened the second half on an 8-1 run to take a 37-28 lead over the first 2:35 of the third quarter before Grannum hit a three-pointer for Baldwin with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter. Bishop Kearney answered with a 6-0 run, taking a 43-31 lead with 4:16 remaining in the period. Bishop Kearney outscored Baldwin 22-11 in the period to take a 51-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.

But Baldwin, winners of the last eight Nassau Class AA championships and two state titles over that stretch, showed no signs of quitting.

The Bruins cut Bishop Kearney’s lead to 59-53 following a three-point play by Moreno with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. Moreno also corralled an offensive rebound and made a layup with 45.2 seconds remaining to trim the lead to 60-55. But Baldwin couldn’t pull any closer.

"That’s what our culture is, just to continue to fight," Moreno said. "Today we came up short but we still had that fight."

The first quarter featured four ties and three lead changes, with a layup from Moreno giving Baldwin its first lead of the game (9-8) with 2:40 remaining in the first quarter. Baldwin opened a 17-12 lead with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter before Bishop Kearney scored to cut the Bruins’ lead to 17-14 after the opening period.

Bishop Kearney opened the second quarter on a 7-2 run before Toni Smith’s layup tied the score at 21 for Baldwin with 5:39 remaining in the second quarter.

"We played a really good opponent tonight and I tip my cap to them," coach Tom Catapano said. "I’m super proud of our kids for the season they had. They overcame a lot of adversity this season not only on the basketball court but more importantly in real life."

The Bruins have had additional motivation all season, playing not only for themselves but their beloved assistant coach who died. Anthony Bolden, who died Sept. 7 of complications from pulmonary fibrosis at 40 years old, was a longtime assistant coach under Catapano.

After each championship this winter, the Bruins have made sure to take a team photo under a pixilated picture of Bolden, which was constructed as a middle school class project in a class taught by Phil Zirkuli, Baldwin Athletic Director Ed Ramirez said.

Catapano has worn Bolden’s football jersey every game. Bolden used to play for the Tulsa Talons, an Arena Football League team. After every postgame interview, every player mentions Bolden and how although he may not physically be there on the sideline, his presence is always there.

"One thing he would say is we’ll be back next year, and we’ll be back stronger," Moreno said. "And that’s what we’re going to do."

"This team battled all year long," Catapano said. "And as their coach, I’m super proud of them."


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