Stella Maris Seniors Rise To Hoist Division II Title
By Elio Velez
Alexa Rosella and Tara Gleason weren't just going to play a regular season basketball game for Stella Maris against Catherine McAuley on Wednesday afternoon.
It was much more than that.
The final game of the regular season, which coincided with Stella Maris honoring the two stars in an emotional Senior Night.
A win would have also given Stella Maris, who was tied with McAuley at 10-3, the opportunity to clinch the division title over their rivals.
So for all the emotions surrounding Senior Day, there was a lot riding on this one game.
Gleason and Rosella started out slow but came on strong in the second half when their team needed them the most. Both were instrumental in guiding Stella Maris to a close 39-35 win over Catherine McAuley at a packed Stella Maris gymnasium.
A lot of good things occurred from the victory. Alexa Rosella scored 14 points to climb over the 1,000 point plateau in her career.
The Lady Flippers, who improved their record to 11-3 and clinched the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan Division II title and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
With integrating plenty of new players throughout the season and overcoming the emotions of Senior Day, Stella Maris head coach Maureen Gigliello says her team found a way to come out on top.
"In timeouts, I had to calm them down and make eye contact with them. Emotionally, today they went through so much," Gigliello said.
"But our team didn't crack and that comes from emotional maturity. We wanted first place. We have been first, we want to be first and we wanted everyone looking at us. We like the pressure."
The emotional impact of the day almost overwhelmed Stella Maris, especially for their two seniors, as McAuley stormed out to a 20-9 lead.
Tara Gleason said it took a while to calm her nerves along with her teammate Rosella.
"It was senior day and all the craziness and everything….my team was a big help. They told me to keep shooting and I give a big credit to them," Gleason said.
With Stella Maris holding a narrow 26-25 lead as the fourth quarter began, Gleason began to shake off her poor shooting woes
Gleason canned an important three pointer from the top of the key as five straight points from the senior co-captain gave the Lady Flippers a 31-25 lead.
"It was huge three. She had a horrible first three quarters confidence wise. It was huge for her and huge for us," Gigliello said.
"Everybody began to breathe a bit easier."
The 9-0 run gave Stella Maris a 33-25 lead but McAuley stormed back, cutting the deficit to 38-35 with a under a minute remaining.
Tanea Westmoreland missed a jumper and McAuley fouled Alexa Rosella as she stepped to the line with five seconds left.
She had returned from an ankle injury occurred at St. Edmund two weeks ago which was thought to be serious enough to jeopardize her season.
Rosella fought the emotions surrounding the day in missing her first four shots before finally reaching the 1,000 point mark in the second quarter. "I was anxious and I was nervous because it was senior day and my mind was going through a lot," Rosella said.
With the pressure surrounding her, Rosella would calmly hit the first free throw, which clinched her team's second consecutive division crown.
Gleason says the young members playing on the floor with her stepped up when they were needed to. They'll need that effort as the playoffs begin for them on Thursday against either Fontbonne Hall or St. Edmund.
"Senior Night turned out to be a blast thanks to them."