Friday, March 12, 2021

Kearney Survives Test From Schroeder

March 10, 2021

Bishop Kearney 60, Webster Schroeder 55

The timing of Wednesday's Section V games provided a perfect opportunity for a twin bill. The night's opener set the bar high for quality & entertainment value, as top-seeded but undermanned Bishop Kearney needed a big 4th quarter run to survive and advance against a streaking Webster Schroeder squad.

Marianna Freeman started & finished hot, and she led BK with 24 in a comeback victory.

A fast start had tones reminiscent of their February 15 matchup, a blowout win in favor of Bishop Kearney. Their entire starting five - which was also missing Chicago St. commit Taylor Norris along with Seton Hall signee Saniaa Wilson, who has been out all year - got in the scorebooks in the 1st quarter with a substantial dose of the three ball. Marianna Freeman (Bishop Kearney 2021, Niagara signee) hit three of them, with her first putting them on the board, the second giving them a 12-6 lead, and the third putting them up double digits at 18-8. That was in the midst of an 8-0 spurt capped by a Kaia Goode (Bishop Kearney 2022) basket, but Julia Perales (Webster Schroeder 2022) knocked down a three of her own to cut their deficit back to single digits at 20-11 after one.

Schroeder, who fired away from the perimeter in the 1st quarter, redirected some of their attention to the paint & offensive glass in the 2nd, and it paid dividends. The Watkins bloodline combined to score all nine Schroeder points in a 9-2 run to start the 2nd, with Anya Watkins (Webster Schroeder 2021) scoring five and Mariah Watkins (Webster Schroeder 2024) adding four in the first few minutes of the frame. The Kearney youth movement tried to steady the ship, with triples from Amaia Jackson (Bishop Kearney 2025) and Aniya Rowe (Bishop Kearney 2024) pushing their lead back to 30-25, but Schroeder got a pair of Mariah Watkins free throws & an Olivia Reschke (Webster Schroeder 2021) three to tie it at 30 at the break.

The Lady Kings started the 3rd quarter on the right foot, with a Camille Wright (Bishop Kearney 2021) bucket & a Freeman three putting them back up five, but Schroeder answered with six straight, and a Reschke bucket gave them their first lead since the opening basket at 36-35. Along with the Watkins sisters, Schroeder also received a boost off the bench from Andraia DiPisa (Webster Schroeder 2022), who canned two threes in the back end of the 3rd. The last one gave them their largest lead at 46-41, and a Jackson midrange pull-up made it 46-43 in Schroeder's favor after three.

That all set the stage for an entertaining 4th quarter with a sectional final berth on the line. The two sides traded baskets & stops for the first half of the frame, with Schroeder eventually regaining a four point edge when Perales canned another three to make it 52-48 with 5:16 left. However, Kearney's defensive effort would take center stage in the final act as they made a final push forward. Jackson split a pair at the line, Goode scored, then Freeman canned her 6th three of the night to give them a 54-52 lead with 2:51 left. Goode & Freeman added makes as they continued to put the clamps on their visitors in the waning moments. With Schroeder having to foul in the last minute to extend the game, Freeman split a pair at the line on two occasions to extend Bishop Kearney's run to 12-0 and lead to 60-52 in the final seconds before Mariah Watkins knocked home a three to complete the scoring.

Marianna Freeman started & finished strong on the way to a 24 point night for Bishop Kearney. She had 9 points in the 1st quarter, all from beyond the arc, and then added 10 more points in the 4th quarter. Amaia Jackson and Camille Wright joined her in double digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Webster Schroeder was led in the books by the two elder Watkins sisters, with Mariah Watkins contributing 17 points and Anya Watkins adding 13.

Mariah Watkins was a force for Schroeder and led them with 17 points in the narrow defeat.


- I haven't put this many names in a game write-up in a long time. What that shows is although the usual suspects did their thing (Freeman, Watkins x 2, etc.), there were several players on each team that stepped up & made plays when it mattered. Combine those two points, and it makes for a great basketball game.

- Bishop Kearney is loaded with talent. We all know this much, both within & outside of Section V. It's still noteworthy to me that they're back in a familiar place, the Class AA sectional final, considering how far away from full strength they've been. Saniaa Wilson hasn't played. Taylor Norris has missed some time, including their two sectional wins. Marianna Freeman also missed games, including their first matchup against Schroeder. Klarissa Goode, who is young but would add to their guard depth, also hasn't played this year. Between Saniaa, Taylor, and Marianna, that's three 2021s that are Division I committed. Missing at least one all year and two for most games, and they're still winning? Everyone on the court is stepping up & the youngsters (namely Amaia Jackson and Aniya Rowe) are growing up quickly. A testament to the program & the level of talent across the board.

Kaia Goode made several big plays in the final minutes & chipped in with 8 points in BK's win.

- Kaia Goode, probably by her own admission as well, had a relatively quiet 28ish minutes. However, the diminutive Bishop Kearney 2022 PG made my claim of her pretty much being the Damian Lillard of Section V basketball sound pretty good in the closing minutes. I've watched her more times than I can count between HS & AAU, and that includes many close games. I feel like when it's close late, she looks down at the imaginary watch on her wrist, points at it a couple times, and says it's her time. Whether it's making shots, offensive playmaking for others, or defensive playmaking, she's always making a positive impact in the final minutes. Two big buckets in the 12-0 run & several defensive plays this time around. Kaia being Kaia. Always good to have her on your team.

- I've said this many times, but not sure if I've ever typed it in a blog post, so here goes... Mariah Watkins has the potential to be an absolute star. Not just in Monroe County, not just in Section V, but among my entire coverage region & beyond. The standout Webster Schroeder 2024 guard has pretty much everything you look for in a bigtime player. At a long & wiry 6'0", she has the natural physical attributes. With her speed, quickness, acceleration, fluidity, & decent bounce, she has the athletic ability. The skill set is continuing to develop - she's very good off the ball & moves well without it to cut & score, but she's made great strides with making plays off the dribble, finishing through contact around the rim, capable perimeter shooter when given space, and is more than willing to mix it up on the glass at both ends. She's more natural off the ball and will probably be that at the next level in a few years, but in her individual situation, I think the move of putting her on the ball at Schroeder not only is good for them as a team, but it helps with her skill development & expansion of her skill set. As the perimeter shot becomes more consistent and more strength is added - which will certainly come with time, she's like 14 - she'll not only become a main force in Section V, but will more than likely become one of upstate NY's most highly recruited talents in the 2024 class. I remember after the first time I saw her play - last season, as an 8th grader in a home game against Fairport - I got into my car and just started calling coaches. Hadn't even left the Schroeder parking lot yet, just started making calls because I knew I saw a potential major talent & wanted to talk about it. When spectator limits are lifted in Section V, do yourself a favor and get a ticket for a Schroeder girls' game. You won't regret it.

- Another thank you goes out to Bishop Kearney AD Ray Istas and Section V athletic administration for giving me the approval and allowing media (and myself) to attend this game. It was more than worth it!

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