2006-12-15 / Sports

Four Years of Practice Pays Off For Bishop Kearney Tigers’Laterza

By Elio Velez

December 6 would eventually turn out to be one of the most glorious of days on the basketball court for Bishop Kearney Tigers center Maria Laterza.

But it did not start that way. Laterza wasn’t feeling her ebullient self. A head cold had plagued her for a few days prior to their evening home game against Bishop Ford.

The 6 foot 2 center noticed something a bit off-kilter when head coach Cathy Crockett spoke in front of the team before the game.

“I’ve had the most miserable day. I’ve been feeling so down. I’ve been really sick. I also had a headache,” Laterza said. “We were having our pep talk and I was like why are we having it so early? Then she (Cathy) told me that I was scoring my 1,000 point sometime tonight.”

She was shocked. The realization of scoring 1,000 points and achieving the feat in front of a home crowd which includes her many family and friends didn’t fully register until the start of the game.

Laterza quickly opened up the game with the first two points but the nervousness took over. Laterza missed four consecutive baskets before nailing a free throw and a turnaround jumper to surpass the 1,000 point mark.

The game was immediately stopped and then the realization hit Laterza, who is well regarded by her teammates and coaches for her unselfish play and hard work. After four years on the varsity, she received the honors that solidified her accomplish.

“Once I got it, I got a huge adrenalin rush. It was a big accomplishment after working hard for four years and hard work does pay off,” Laterza said.

Any sickness seemed to magically disappear because she was needed to help the Tigers fight off a tough Bishop Ford opponent. Her 38 points was one short of an individual career high but it was a team effort that was needed to get the win. Hustle plays on the defensive end by guards Caitlin Irwin and Michelle Kenel gave Bishop Kearney one final possession with 31 seconds left down 71-69. Irwin sent the ball inside the foul line to Laterza whose first shot hit off the rim but the offensive rebound and putback would result in a three point play. Against undersized centers, Laterza can be dominant. Her improved footwork and ability to stay out of foul trouble has kept her on the floor for most contests. Her scoring and rebounding averages have gradually improved since her freshman year.

“What I love about her is that she has such respect for me and such respect for the program,” head coach Cathy Crockett said after the game.

“Her milestone in the second quarter is good but she will put that aside for a chance at the championship.” Bishop Kearney’s offense is predicated on an effective inside-outside game which Laterza can draw the double team and kick the bal out to shooters such as Kenel and Irwin. She is quick to remind others that she is first and foremost a team player.

“My guards do a great job getting the ball inside to me. I would not have scored 1,000 points if they didn’t give the ball to me,” Laterza said.

They wouldn’t be off to a 4-0 record to start the season if Laterza forgot the gameplan. Caitlin Irwin knows that Laterza’s presence should help her .get plenty of good looks at the basket.

“We’re comfortable with each other and we trust each other. I trust her (Maria) and Michelle. I’ll know they will help us win,” Irwin says.

Michelle Kenel, another junior guard says Laterza’s unselfishness is an excellent trait to have.

“When she’s in trouble, she (Laterza) will kick it out to Caitlin or all of us who can hit the outside shot. She’s not selfish,” Kenel said.

An admitted basketball junkie since she was eight years old, Laterza knew basketball would be heavily involved in her college plans. The early choice to attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie has given her a sole focus to concentrate on the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens 2006-07 season. And there will be plenty of competition with Molloy and other divisional opponents also trying to reach the Tigers’ pre-season target.

“I want to go to the (New York State Federation) state title in the “A” (division), and I want to go out with a bang.”

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