Natalie Stark remembers. She remembers joining the Holy Trinity girls’ basketball team as freshman. She remembers three different head coaches in her four-year tenure. And the senior remembers that the Titans just weren’t that good.
Stark remembered all of that heading into the CHSAA Class B girls state championship, but all the memories did was fuel her play.
She helped lead the Titans to their first CHSAA state title since 2005, defeating Aquinas, 60-49, at Fordham Saturday.
“Over the years my confidence in myself and team went down,” Stark said. “Coming into this season our athletic director told me we have a new coach, new girls and we were going to make this season THE season and we did.”
It wasn’t easy.
The Titans (10-13) started the year off with four straight non-league wins. Once it came to Long Island league play, the team didn’t fair very well, but the Titans beat St. Dominic twice in league play. Then the Titans beat St. Dominic again to earn a spot in the Class B playoffs.
“With our new coach and plenty of freshman, we started the program over,” freshman Destini Gaeckler said. “We knocked everything down and learned new things, especially for the playoffs.”
The championship game got off to an odd start. Both teams were assessed technical fouls before the clock even began. Aquinas for not providing the officials with their stat book in time and the Titans for changing a player’s number right before the opening buzzer.
Stark took the techical foul shots for the Titans going 1-for-2.
“That was a strange start,” Stark laughed. “It threw me off. I missed the first shot and thought ‘Wow what if we lose by one point,’ but I brushed it off and we just continued to play like nothing happened.”
The Titans took the first half by storm with Stark leading the way. She scored 10 of her 13 points in the first half.
The second half saw a quieter Stark, but Gaeckler took the lead.
“When I know my shots aren’t going in, I won’t continue to take them,” Stark said. “I know I have to pass the ball and I gave Destini some assists.”
Gaeckler was leading scorer for the Titans with 16 points and nine rebounds. Stark finished with four assists.
Next stop for the Titans is the NYS Federation Class B tournament which begins March 22 in Glen Falls and they’re looking to keep the momentum going.
“After a bad season, we came into the playoffs and pushed ourselves to this win,” Stark said.
Gaeckler continued, “This is a great starting point for us. We had the potential all year and we finally realized it today and I hope we continue to do so.”