The horizon brightened substantially for Holy Child basketball as Shannon O’Connor drove fearlessly down the lane against Marymount in a NYSAIS play-in game earlier this month at Manhattanville.
After the Gryphons allowed the Lions their first lead of the fourth quarter, the freshman showed courage beyond her years by immediately attacking and banking a lay-in high off the glass. The shot put Holy Child up 35-34 and they never relinquished the lead or allowed another point in the game’s final three minutes en route to a 41-34 win.
“At that point I just kept thinking that we needed to score and that we had to win this game because I wanted to play at least one more game with this team,” said O’Connor. “In middle school I was kind of a confident player, but as the game got more difficult and other players got better I knew that I needed to step up my game in order to play with the best.”
Although the Gryphons – seeded eighth in the tourney – were dispatched in the quarterfinals by top-seeded Staten Island Academy, the backcourt of O’Connor and Kate Hughes should spell a fifth-straight NYSAIS appearance next year. Hughes showed promise as a sophomore last season and emerged as a bonafide star for the Gryphons this year. The gum-chewing, poker-faced point guard is a two-way threat, capable of offensive fireworks and lockdown defense.
Hughes said the key to victory against Marymount was controlling the speed of the game. The Gryphons were able to fast break, but also settled into defense to slow the pace.
“We played a great man-to-man as well as a 1-1-3 zone to change things up and try to score more,” said Hughes. “As important as it is to score, defending is what wins games for us. Coach Mike Duignan taught us various defenses, each used at a different time during the game.”
Hughes and O’Connor, who will be joined by upperclassmen Mary Ferrara, Julie Duignan, Lynda Violante, and Stephanie Taylor in 2010-11, are excited about the future’s potential, but said the departing senior class is irreplaceable.The Gryphons will graduate Katie Amodio, Eileen Beck, Tess DeRoy, Hilary Price and team captain Molly Schauber. “Double-Double” Schauber has been invaluable to Holy Child as a scoring and rebounding forward. In a fitting way to finish a career, Schauber drained both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity to give her team a five-point cushion at the end of the Marymount game.
“In my basketball career we’ve won a ton of games and have been very successful on the court,” said Schauber. “My teammates and the fans have been so great over the years, but what sticks out most is the opportunity to have been coached by Coach Duignan for four years. His personality, passion and character are what make him a great coach, competitor and mentor. Working with him has definitely been a highlight in my career as a student-athlete.”