The clock struck 0:00 at Bishop Kearney Friday, and the Good Counsel students bolted from the stands and stormed the Brooklyn basketball court. The players on the bench stormed the court, too. The Cougars jumped around, did their school cheers and shed tears of joy amid the chaos.
CHSAA Class B girls city champs. Has a nice ring to it. Especially since the program had never ruled the city before.
“I was in absolute shock,” said senior guard Amilya Jeanty, a three-year starter from Elmsford. “I couldn’t believe our team made it that far. It was just one of the best feelings that I’ve had in a long time.”
The program had never gone to the state final before, either. But it has now. Coach Maura Lynch’s team will always have this special season of firsts as its legacy.
“We really made a difference in the school,” said senior forward/center Tranisha Gumbs, their force on the boards and three-time MVP from Mount Vernon.
This White Plains-based team had rebounding, defense and chemistry. It was a 19-5 season that came with a laugh track. The players made practice fun. Like the day they all showed up in costume and did a Harlem Shake dance video.
“It’s a great video,” Lynch said. “It’s really funny, but cute.”
The Cougars ended up shaking out first prize without leading scorer and top ballhandler Johanna Levine. The junior point guard from Yonkers averaged about 16 points, but she hurt her knee going for a rebound with five minutes left in their 40-39 win over Aquinas in the CHSAA B Westchester/Bronx tournament final and missed the last three games.
So Lynch, the 44-year-old third-year coach and former Good Counsel player from White Plains, gathered four of her girls — Jeanty, Stefany Montealegre, also a senior from Elmsford, senior Colleen Wall from White Plains and Wall’s cousin from White Plains, junior Kathleen Massaroni.
“You’re all four my new point guards,” Lynch told them. “You’re all going to have to play a few minutes on the point. No one is going to be able to take the pressure doing it the whole game.”
“We all were freaking out,” Jeanty said. “We were all really nervous.”
“Go to bed and wake up with a lot of confidence and come back,” Lynch playfully added.
But they held up in the two games in the city tournament. After the 44-37 win over Bishop Kearney, the Cougars moved right to the state final Saturday vs. Cardinal O’Hara of Tonawanda at Cardinal Spellman. Good Counsel fell 63-41. Gumbs, who’s leaning toward Dominican as her next team, thought Levine’s loss might have caught up.
“I don’t think they were the better team,” Gumbs said. “We just had a little moment where we couldn’t actually bounce back as we usually do. Johanna is a really big part of our team also. So that was probably what we were missing as well.”
Levine, Asia St. Cloud, a junior center from Mount Vernon who may have been their playoff MVP, Jackie O’Shea, a junior forward from Yonkers, and Gaelle Desroches, a junior guard/forward from Elmsford, will try to lead a repeat feat next season.
But like the win for the city crown, the loss that left the Cougars as the second-best CHSAA B team in the state was emotional, the final chapter for a group with seven seniors.
More tears. Not of joy.
“It was a great season,” Lynch said. “It was really sad. We have so much fun. The team is great. We were so sorry to see it end.”