Loughlin moves one step closer to history
ALBANY – The Bishop Loughlin bus arrived in Albany Thursday night for Friday afternoon’s New York State Federation Class A semifinal against Rochester’s East High.
There was just one thing missing, though.
“This jersey has been with me all year and I left it home,” Loughlin coach Kasim Alston said. “I had to call my wife [to] bring the Chicken jersey. She just got the jersey today. Chicken arrived today, Chicken was on the bench and got us through. She’s been a big factor.”
Alston has never been very far from his goddaughter, who was killed in September before playing her first game at Murry Bergtraum. Both teams have dedicated their season to the talented guard and Bishop Loughlin is one step closer to a state title after beating East, 70-58, at the Times Union Center.
“She’s always in the back of our heads no matter what we go through,” Jasmine Alston said. “It’s all for her. Anything we do on and off the court is for her.”
Bishop Loughlin (16-12) will take on PSAL champion Curtis in the Federation Class A final Saturday at 12:15 p.m. Both teams are seeking a first state Federation title.
“We’re pretty excited because no one else has won Federation in our school,” Ayana Ratliff said. “Being the first, that’s a really big opportunity for us to be noticed.”
Ratliff made sure the Lions booked their ticket by scoring a game-high 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field. She was one of four to score in double figures for Loughlin, ranked No. 7 in New York City by MSG Varsity.
Aliyah Alston added 13 points, Jasmine Alston had 12 and Imani Tate had 10 for the Lions, which went on an 11-0 run to take a 22-5 lead after one quarter and had a 36-16 advantage at halftime.
Loughlin pushed the tempo and pressured the basketball to open up a 22-point gap with 3:55 left in the third quarter. But East, which was paced by Tyra Jones’ 20 points and Rose Ayala’s 17 points and 17 rebounds, chipped away and twice pulled within three in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t want to go home,” Ratliff said. “We want to win tomorrow. There’s a lot of emotions right now.”
Kasim Alston didn’t panic despite East’s furious comeback, keyed by four 3-pointers by Renetta Fordham (14 points).
“I didn’t really get scared,” he said. “I knew if I panicked, the kids would panic so I just tried to keep my composure and hopefully the kids would prevail.”
They did just that thanks some big fourth quarter baskets by Olivia Colbert and a clinching 3-point play by Jasmine Alston with 39.4 seconds remaining that pushed Loughlin’s lead to 68-58.
“That kind of sealed the deal,” Kasim Alston said. “That was the nail in the coffin.”
It sets up an all-city matchup for the Federation Class A title Saturday.
“They’re a well-coached team, they move the ball well, can shoot the ball well, scrappy guards,” Kasim Alston said of Curtis. “But they have to worry about Loughlin too.”
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