Lions ride Ratliff to season-opening win

Lions ride Ratliff to season-opening win
First-year coach coach Kasim Alston and Bishop Loughlin won their opener after going 0-16 last season.

Bishop Loughlin carried the weight of going winless a year ago into its season opener, but it exited not only with a victory, but the confidence that there are more to come.

“It’s like we just got the monkey off our back,” first-year coach Kasim Alston said. “The girls know they can win together.”

Reserve Ayana Ratliff was the unlikely hero. The junior scored 17 of her team-high 26 points in the second half to push Loughlin past Banneker, 59-53, during the Rucker Invitational at South Shore HS Saturday afternoon. Imani Tate scored 12 points and Jasmine Alston added nine for the Lions. Africa Wiliams led Banneker with 35 points, 18 of which came in the second quarter.

“It’s a big deal,” Ratliff said of the win. “Coming from 0-16 and getting our first win that’s huge. Nobody believed in us. We got to try.”

She did much more than that.

Banneker (1-2) led by five with 1:45 left in the third quarter before Ratliff scored the next four points including a put back at the buzzer, cutting the lead to just 38-37. The momentum carried over into fourth. The Lions (1-0) scored the first four points on a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Jasmine Alston and an Aliyah Alston layup in transition. They never trailed again. Banneker was as close as 56-55 on a step back 3-pointer from Williams with 41.1 seconds left in the game, but Ratliff, who was named the game’s MVP, answered with a 3-point play to seal the win.

“I knew what she was capable of doing,“ Kasmin Alston said for Ratliff, who he coached on the JV last year. “It shows she worked over the summer.”

Loughlin used a relentless trapping defense lead by Tate and Jasmine Alston to open up a 19-5 first quarter lead, but Williams, a Bishop Ford transfer, dominated the next eight minutes before halftime. She connected on three straight 3-pointers to start the quarter and scored Bannaker’s next 16 points. A jumper,by Diara Adger and a Williams free throw put the Warriors up 26-24 at the half. Amanda Fields added 11 points.

“It was good,” Williams said of the energy her hot shooting provided. “It made us play better.”

That’s exactly what Loughlin did coming off its first season back in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I after two years playing in the lower league. It showed continuity and the heart Kasim Alston encouraged his players to show, especially on the defensive end. They swarmed the Banneker guards, got contributions up and down the lineup and survived Williams’ outburst.

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