New York High School: John Martin

The girls CHSAA crowned its State champs in Class A and Class B as Bishop Loughlin defeated Mary Louis and Cardinal O'Hara of Buffalo fell to Preston on Saturday.

Bishop Loughlin 56, Mary Louis Academy 46: Bishop Loughlin coach Kasim Alston believed his team had an extra player on the court during Saturday's CHSAA Class A State title game against Mary Louis Academy.

"Chicken's here," Alston said in reference to former player Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, who was killed in September. "We played six on five, they didn't even know. I had six players on the court."

Fueled by the memory of their former teammate, Bishop Loughlin defeated Mary Louis Academy, 56-46, on Saturday at Christ the King. The Lady Lions (15-12) advance to the State Federation tournament in Albany in two weeks.

Alston wore a suit for most of the game but with his team up 18 late, he threw on a No. 15 jersey, the one that Murphy used to wear. He wore the jersey for about the final minute and a half as his team put the final touches on its win against Mary Louis, the third time in four tries it beat Mary Louis (13-17) this season.

The coach talked after the game how this was all part of his plan for when he became the head coach at the school. He envisioned he players he had coached in their youths would come to Bishop Loughlin and help develop a winning tradition. He said Murphy was part of that plan.

"It feels so good that everything is coming together as planned," Alston said. "Chicken is not here physically but she's here in spirit."

Loughlin trailed 26-24 at the half but used an impressive second half to grab the victory. It took a 40-32 lead into the third and never was truly challenged down the stretch. Senior Ayana Ratliff led Loughlin with 19 points.

"I just had to win," Ratliff said. "Our team had confidence in me, they gave me the ball and I did the best I can."

Cardinal O'Hara (Buffalo) 56, Preston 41: The Preston girls basketball team fell just short of winning the CHSAA Class B State title on Saturday, losing to Cardinal O'Hara, but their overall season was not lost on the mind of coach John Martin following the defeat.

"It's been tremendous. It's been a great year. They really came together all season and it's a tribute to their hard work and dedication to the program. I'm very happy with the season," Martin said. "We won the Archdiocesan, we won the City and we bring back most of our team. It's been a great year and we're looking forward to the future as well."

After winning the Archdiocesan crown and City title, the Panthers fell to Cardinal O'Hara of Buffalo, 56-41, on Saturday afternoon at Christ the King. The Panthers (25-6) never led in the game and trailed by double-digits for most of the final three quarters.

"They were very deep and they were very physical," Martin said. "I don't think we were used to the physical play and it took us a while to get adjusted to it. I think that had an impact. They were very up-tempo as well and a very good team, very strong."

Cardinal O'Hara led 13-6 after one and boosted the lead to 26-12 at halftime. Preston never truly challenged the Lady Hawks the rest of the way and fell one game short of heading to Albany to play for the State Federation title. Victoria Sorrell led Preston with 12 points.

Next season, Preston should be right back in the mix for the State and City titles. The team is primarily built of juniors and sophomores and this experience will benefit them going forward.

"They learned a lot this year," Martin said. "They learned how to play together very well and the experience we went through this year will only prepare them better for next season."

Preston girls win CHSAA Class B City title

March, 10, 2012
When Preston lost junior Megan Triano, the team's leading rebounder and second leading scorer at the time, to a torn ACL in February, head coach John Martin said there was serious concerns about how well the team would finish the season.

Those concerns almost seem silly now as Preston not only won the Archdiocesan B division title, but also took the CHSAA Class B City championship with a 38-29 victory over Fontbonne Hall at Sacred Heart in Yonkers on Friday.

Now Martin is brimming with confidence as his team gets set to face Cardinal O'Hara (Buffalo) for the state championship at Christ the King on Saturday.

"I'm very confident in my team's abilities right now," Martin said. "My players are playing with a lot of confidence and we're definitely strong enough to pull this out."

Martin credited a strong scouting report as a big contributor in the playoffs so far, but even though Preston is up against more of an unknown opponent on Saturday, he thinks they will still be able to come away with a state title.

"Tomorrow is a bit different," Martin admitted. "We have enough weapons offensively and we've been playing very well defensively that we will be able to make it work. We're a very deep team that is capable of playing a variety of styles. I think that will help us a lot because we will be able to adapt to whatever they throw at us."

It was a close game, but Preston led at the end of each quarter. Jasmina Dzurlic led with 13 points. Victoria Sorrell had seven, and Victoria McCaffrey and Melissa Cwikla each had six points for Preston. Cindy Henderson led Fontbonne with 13 points and Kate Oliver contributed with six.
When John Martin played his current crop of juniors when they were freshman, the Preston girls basketball coach was building toward this year. He hoped that by the time they were juniors and seniors, his team would be able to make a run.

Wednesday, the coach's hope became a reality. Preston won the Archdiocesan Class B title with a 52-32 win over Aquinas in the title game. Preston, 22-5 on the year, now advances to the City playoffs where it will face the No.4 team from Brooklyn/Queens.

"I knew that we had a team that could do it," Martin said. "It wasn't easy. As we went through the season, some games didn't go the way we thought and we hit some hurdles. We lost our top rebounder and second leading scorer in Megan Triano, which could have been a devastating blow. I knew we would be in the mix and I knew we had a chance."

Two years ago, Martin said his team had eight wins and then pushed it up to .500 last year. This season, Preston finally made its run. He credited his juniors, including Tori McCaffrey, Jessica Signore, Victoria Sorrell, Jasmina Dzurlic, Amber Tudor and Triano. McCaffey led her team with 14 points in the final.

"We play a lot smarter now and we have a lot more weapons for when we run the things we've been running for three years," Martin said. "We have a variety of offense that we can create. It's been skill development and also building knowledge and concepts of the game. We know each other's strengths."

Against Aquinas, top-seeded Preston got out to an early lead and was able to stay in comfortable control for most of the way. Martin credited the scouting reports with helping his team gain the edge. That title win gave Preston and Martin its first title since winning the Class C crown back in 2007.

"Our first goal was to win the Archdiocsan title," Martin said. "Now that we've done that, our desire is to win the City title. It means a lot as a coach, the kids put a lot of time and effort in and it's nice to see all the hard work pay off. We're confident going in, we feel we have a good team and a strong team and we feel we can make a run. We have to play well and play our game and we should be in the mix."