Kearney quick-hitter offense off to fast start

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Cathy Crockett tried to quietly tell Christina Hiltunen, her point guard, to play without anyone hearing as she was dribbling up the court. That is because the longtime Bishop Kearney girls’ basketball coach wasn’t going to yell out Carolina, motion or one. Just “give-and-go.”

Hiltunen then came off a screen, passed it the elbow and faded to the corner, resulting in a Kearney turnover. On the way back up the floor, Crockett asked for an explanation as to why the senior didn’t run the correct play.

“I thought you said, ‘Pick and roll,’” Hultunen said.

It doesn’t get much simpler.

“That’s our whole scheme,” Crockett said. “It’s Basketball 101. Everyone is involved in our offense.”

Kearney runs an offense filled with quick hitters: give and gos, pick and rolls, drive and kicks and high-low screens. They ran it to perfection at times in the second half during a 46-44 win over Archbishop Molloy on Wednesday. The Tigers found girls open for easy hoops down on the blocks off of screens and forced Molloy defenders to make a decision to play help defense or not on the high screens.

“The bigs were setting good screens and rolling strong,” Hultunen said. “We want to do the basics. We want to keep it simple and work hard. That’s what we tried doing.”

Kearney has the pieces to run such an offense well. The Tigers have a lightning quick point guard with a strong handle in Hiltunen. She is tough to stay in front of around screens and has superb court vision. Caitlyn Furlong is an agile forward who can score going to the basket and is an excellent passer from the top of the key. That enables her to keep defenders honest and gives her the ability find teammates cutting to the block off a high-low screen.

“We practice a lot on execution, so it’s definitely a strong point that we execute,” Furlong said.

It sure looked like they did on the play that gave Kearney the lead for good against Molloy, the defending CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I champion.

Hiltunen beat Stanners senior Shannon LaVelle to the basket after a screen by Sam Retas, forcing Molloy to help. Hiltunen, who had 16 points and seven assists, then hit Retas for a wide-open jumper from the free-throw line that she buried to put Kearney up 45-43 with 40 seconds left.

“They were playing a two-man game on one side of the court and we didn’t defend it right,” Molloy coach Tom Catalanotto said.

Kearney is off to a 4-1 start after it also beat Notre Dame, 44-40, on Tuesday behind a team-high 13 points from Furlong. The Tigers travel to Staten Island again Monday to play St. John’s Villa.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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