Tame Tigers scorched by Firebirds

Rocco Sellitto wasn’t asking for much in his team’s final regular-season game. Bishop Kearney traveled to play Kellenberg, the defending CHSAA Class A state champion, for a test and tune up before the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens playoffs. But the Tigers and their coach left with some of the same questions instead of answers.

“You want to come out of a game like this giving them an effort, playing a good game and coming out of it even if you lose saying you gave the best,” Sellitto said. “We didn’t give our best today, not even close.”

Kearney played lethargic, scared and intimidated at times against the Firebirds’ formidable front line of Emma O’Connor and Khadijah Donaldson in the second quarter, digging too big a hole. The Tigers tried to rally in heading into the fourth, but fell 64-43 in non-league girls basketball last Wednesday afternoon on Feb. 17 in Uniondale.

“People were kind of scared to drive because they don’t want to get stuffed,” junior guard Jaclyn Grasso said.

Retas scored 23 points and hit four 3-pointers, but that was about it for Kearney, which is playing without academically ineligible senior Meghan McGoorty. Taylor Raccuglia and Marianne Hanning had eight points each. O’Connor had 27 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, six steals and six blocks for Kellenberg (13-5). Nicole Trepeta had 13 points and Donaldson added 11 and 10 rebounds.

“I told them she is a good player, but get in the lane, shot fake and put your body into her and draw a foul,” Sellitto said of the Marist-bound O’Connor. “Simple basketball.”

Instead, Kearney (12-10) settled for jump shots that weren’t falling in the second quarter and was outscored, 23-10. It was within 23-17 with 5:10 remaining in the first half before Kellenberg went on a 16-2 run during which O’Connor had a hand in 11 points to put her team up 39-20 at the half. Retas had 13 of the Tigers’ points before the break.

“We need another scorer,” Grasso said. “We need to help her.”

The junior got better play around her in the second half. Raccuglia picked it up on the backboards and the Tigers began attacking the basket, both off the dribble and with cutters. They also went back to playing man to man after experimenting with a zone in the second quarter. A 9-2 run over the third and fourth quarter cut the lead to 53-41 on a Retas runner with 7:32 left in the game.

“I think we were scared to drive to the basket in the beginning because we didn’t want to get blocked,” Retas said. “Then we realized we had to start going to the basket if we wanted to score.”

Kearney would turn Kellenberg over twice, but could not turn it into points on the other end. Trepeta would hit a 3-pointer to answer and the Tigers wouldn’t get closer than 13 the rest of the way.

“We were flat,” Sellitto said. “We played completely flat tonight.”

More from Around New York