New York High School: Kaitlyn Astel

ESPNNewYork All-New York City girls hoops team

April, 24, 2012
It's been a wild and exciting year for girls basketball in New York City and its time to hand out some hardware. Our high school staff has collaborated to bring you its Big Apple All-City team for the past year. Here's who we saw as the best of the best.

Recruiting: Pearson, Astel decide

April, 19, 2012
Truman senior forward Krystal Pearson has never been away from her home Bronx for more than a week, so as she decided which school she would attend, she had to make sure that her future college would make the transition rather easy for her.

"Going to college, I want to make sure I'm happy and feel comfortable," Pearson said. "I wanted the feeling like I'm going from my family to another family."

Towson found the comfort she was looking for at Towson and she signed her National Letter of Intent with the Tigers. She chose them over VCU, Florida Atlantic and Cleveland State.

"I'm very excited with my new team, my new coaching staff and am excited to be living on a campus soon," Pearson said. "I'm happy to be able to play Division I basketball."

Pearson, who averaged 15.4 points and 12.4 rebounds this year, made her decision after coming back from a trip to Ireland. She did not want to wait any longer because Towson was recruiting another player in case she decided not to choose it.

She added that if she performs what's asked of her, there is the chance for playing time right away. Her coach, John Burke, believes that Towson is a great fit for Pearson.

"She's the best player I ever had," Burke said. "She can do it all. She left a legacy and players now want to come to Truman. She puts on the map basically. She's a legend in my eyes.

ASTEL TO MANHATTAN: Having the opportunity to play her college basketball close to home in New York City appealed to McKee/SI Tech senior forward Kaitlyn Astel.

"I think the distance played a big factor," said Astel, a Staten Island native who committed to Manhattan on Saturday. "I definitely liked the location and they had a lot of interest in me."

Astel chose Manhattan over Cleveland State, and a pair of Division II schools in Philadelphia University and New Haven. The senior narrowed her list based on whether schools offered engineering, as that's what she plans to major in.

The forward made her decision after returning home from a vacation. She talked it over with her family and realized that Manhattan fit her the best. Astel averaged 20 points and eight rebounds for MSIT while leading it to the PSAL Class AA title game.

"It's a huge relief because I've had people asking me the whole year about it but I couldn't rush the process," Astel said. "It's really exciting to have made it to a Division I school and I think I made the right choice."

Her coach, Peter LaMarca, believes it's a perfect match.

"Kaitlyn really wanted engineering and they have that and it's a great school and they play Division I," LaMarca said. "She lives there, her family can go see her and she's going to excel. I think Manhattan got a steal, I really do."

Final girls basketball poll

March, 26, 2012
After winning the State Federation title last year, Nazareth fell short this season, by falling in the semifinals. Still, the Lady Kingsmen end the season as our top team, as they were the best from day one to the final day. Here's the final poll.

1. Nazareth (18-4)/(LW: 1): Nazareth had a season it will want to forget, because of the tragedy and distractions it faced, and now has to turn its attention to try to keep its school open as it faces closure.

2. Christ the King (15-14)/(LW: 2): Christ the King will be right back in the mix next year as it has one of the most talented sophomores in the city in Sierra Calhoun and other strong players on its roster returning.

3. Moore Catholic (22-6)/(LW: 3): Moore Catholic continues to be one of the best programs in New York City but will have to try to rebound next season without the services of Christina Rubin and Jamie O'Hare.

4. Bishop Ford (22-6)/(LW: 4): Bishop Ford is destined for more success in the future and brings back plenty of strong pieces. There's no reason to think Bishop Ford can't contend for the league title next season.

5. Molloy (19-10)/(LW: 5): Molloy had a great first season under head coach Scott Lagas and will try to duplicate that next season. It has some key juniors like Carolyn Gallagher returning next year which will help.

6. Bishop Loughlin (17-12)/(LW: 7): Loughlin, just like Molloy last year, missed out on the AA playoffs and then swept through the Class A playoffs on its way to its State Federation crown.

7. Murry Bergtraum (18-8)/(LW: 6): Murry Bergtraum won its 14th straight crown and will now try to make it 15 straight years next season. Freshman Ashanae McLaughlin looks like a star in the making in the PSAL.

8. McKee/SI Tech (25-3)/(LW: 8): MSIT had the best season in school history but will now have to try to continue that success without senior Kaityln Astel. Bringing back junior Kelin Walsh will help the Seagulls.

9. South Shore (21-6)/(LW: 9): South Shore had a good season but has to think it underachieved by not reaching the PSAL final. This team will be in the mix once again next year although it loses some key players.

10. Mary Louis (13-17)/(LW: 10): Mary Louis is buoyed by talented freshmen and will be a team to watch in the next few years. In two season, the Hilltoppers could be as good as any team in New York City.

Rapid Reaction: Bergtraum 56, MSIT 48

March, 17, 2012
Murry Bergtraum defeated McKee/SI Tech, 56-48, for its 14th straight Public Schools Athletic League Class AA title on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

WHAT IT MEANS: After a season that started with back-to-back losses, its first regular season loss going back to 2009, Bergtraum battled all the way back to its 14th consecutive PSAL title. The team mourned the loss of Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, who was killed in September. By the new year, it began to resemble its old self as Shequana Harris led the team and freshman Ashanae McLaughlin emerged as a scoring threat. This victory represents a emotional victory for the Lady Blazers as it played its season in honor of its fallen star.

EARLY JITTERS FOR MSIT: The Seagulls clearly had jitters early in their first trip to the Garden. They had trouble rebounding in the first quarter and turned the ball often. Shooting only 4-of-10 from the floor in the first quarter, they trailed 9-0 early before they finally got going and finished the quarter down 14-8. Meanwhile, Harris looked like a veteran scoring seven points in the first quarter to set the tone for the Lady Blazers.

ASTEL GETS HOT: While MSIT was struggling to play it's game, senior Kaitlyn Astel was the one who finally got the ball rolling. She scored six in the first quarter and eight in the half. More importantly once she started hitting shots, the Seagulls looked calmer and they started taking better shots and turning the ball over fewer times.

BERGTRAUM LOST ITS LEGS: Harris had 11 points at the half for Bergtraum, but she looked tired in the third quarter and was held scoreless for most of the frame. Meanwhile, MSIT got big contributions from Kelin Walsh and Gabriella Marinaccio as the Seagulls came back to take a 34-32 lead with 4:51 remaining in the third. The two sides went back and forth after that until Bergtraum held a slim 38-37 lead when Harris finally scored, picking up the and-one with just 1:08 left in the third.

FRUSTRATING FOURTH: Both teams struggled to score in the fourth quarter. MSIT didn't have a single field goal all quarter until there was just 1:00 left, getting the rest of its points from the line. Even at the line, it struggled as Astel went just 1-of-5 from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Harris and McLaughlin were the only ones who scored for Bergtraum, picking up a combined eight points before Dionne Coe put it up 48-44 with just 1:06 left.

THE FINAL MINUTE: Trailing 48-44 in the final minute of the game, MSIT tried to get the ball in the hands of its shooters Astel and Marinaccio, but Bergtraum's defense was too tenacious. Instead it spent the final minute fouling Bergtraum's players, but Harris, Dionne Coe, and McLaughlin all hit their free throws as Bergtraum celebrated its 14th consecutive championship.

STATS: Harris led all with 22 points, Coe had 14 and McLaughlin had 11 for Bergtraum. For MSIT, Astel had 13 and Brenna Derosa 12.

UP NEXT: Murry Bergtraum advances to the New York State Federation Tournament.

PSAL semifinals recaps

March, 11, 2012
The championship matchups in the Public Schools Athletic League Class AA tournaments are set as Jefferson will face Boys & Girls on the boys side and Murry Bergtraum will meet McKee/SI Tech on the girls side. While you can read about Boys' win over Lincoln here, here's what happened in the other three games.

No. 2 Murry Bergtraum 56, No. 6 Francis Lewis 48: Murry Bergtraum is headed back to Madison Square Garden and will go for its 14th consecutive PSAL city championship after beating Francis Lewis, 56-48, at St. John’s University in Queens on Saturday.

This is the first time that Bergtraum is even going in as the No. 2 seed since 2003. Its unusual underdog status is something head coach Ed Grezinsky said the team has used for motivation.

“We lost (Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy), we lost our first two games of the season and nobody expected us to win,” Grezinsky said. “Nobody expected us to get to the Garden, nobody even expected us to get to the semifinals.”

Bergtraum dominated for most of the game, building up an 18-point lead by the third quarter. Francis Lewis fought back and brought the game back to within six, but freshman Ashanae McLaughlin made big plays to stop the rally. Saturday’s game wasn’t an easy one for McLaughlin to play in as she lost her uncle, James Smith, last Thursday.

“It’s been hard, McLaughlin said. “I was crying, crying, crying all week. Even this morning I was crying. But I was ready for this game. With everything we’ve been through this year already we’ve learned how to handle the emotional part of the game.”

Shequana Harris had 20 points, five assists, and three steals for Bergtraum while McLaughlin had 15 points, six rebounds, and an assist.

No. 4 MSIT 49, No. 1 South Shore 42: Before the game started, MSIT’s star player Kaitlyn Astel went up to Gabriella Marinaccio and told her that if they won, it would be because of her.

At the time, that made Marinaccio nervous, but she said she wasn’t nervous at all when she drained a pair of three’s that gave MSIT the lead with just 1:06 to play en route to a 49-42 victory.

“Confidence is a word that you don’t normally associate with me,” Marinaccio joked. “But I was feeling so good, I had the crowd behind me, it was like the play was in slow-mo. I just knew it was going it. This is the greatest feeling of my life.”

Marinaccio finished the game with 14 points including four three-point shots. She started her hot shooting with a three in the second quarter that gave MSIT its first lead.

The victory is vindication for MSIT’s head coach Peter LaMarca, who felt snubbed by the PSAL at the start of the season for being left out of the AA division.

No. 1 Jefferson 72, No. 4 Wings 68: In the run to the final, Jefferso head coach Bud Pollard has said that Jaquan Lynch is the team’s MVP and not its star player, Thaddeus Hall, who gets all of the attention.

“When Hall wasn’t here in the beginning of the year, Son Son (Lynch) carried us and then when Thaddeus came back he deferred to him,” Pollard explained. “A lot of kids wouldn’t do that. They won’t go from being Batman to being Robin.”

It was fitting then, in the final seconds of a close game, when Lynch stole the ball instead of driving it to the net himself he instead passed the ball to Hall who slammed it down to put the finishing touch on a 72-68 victory

Wings held a slim 38-34 lead at halftime and had a 68-64 lead with just a minute left. Nazai Stokes hit a three to put Jefferson down just one point before Hall drove the lane and score on a three-point play to take the late lead.

Hall finished the game with 22 points and Lynch had 16 including 12 in the second half. Justin Jenkins finished with 23 for Wings.
NEW YORK—Her team entangled in a tough battle against McKee/Staten Island Tech, Jazmine Hamlet took it upon herself to take over the action. There was no more time left the junior to be passive in the Public Schools Athletic League’s quarterfinals.

“I felt like it was my time to lead my team,” Hamlet said. “I didn’t want to lose and I knew my team didn’t want to lose and we were feeling down. I felt it was my job to help my team get back up and the best way to lead them was by scoring and passing the ball around and getting done what I need to get done.”

After failing to score in the first quarter, Hamlet exploded for 12 of her team’s 14 points in the second quarter and guided No. 3 Francis Lewis to a 51-43 win over No. 6 McKee/Staten Island Tech Saturday afternoon in the PSAL “AA” quarterfinals at Hunter College in Manhattan. Francis Lewis faces South Shore in the semifinals Tuesday.

“Our job was to get through this one and see South Shore ,” Hamlet said. “I had to lead my team. And we weren’t hitting our shots so I figured maybe let me try because I didn’t have enough shot attempts I felt in the first quarter.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Francis Lewis (18-6) led 11-8 after the first quarter before Hamlet became a one-girl wrecking crew. She scored her first basket on a 3-pointer to give the Patriots a 14-9 lead and later handed Francis Lewis it’s first double-digit lead of the game with another three-point shot. She netted nearly half of her team’s points in the first half as the Patriots led 25-15 with Hamlet contributing 12.

While Hamlet scored, the Seagulls (20-6) managed just three baskets in the first half, with nine of their points coming off free throws. After falling behind 33-18 early in the third quarter, though, McKee/Staten Island Tech managed to put a scare into the Patriots by cutting the lead to 41-35 with 4:22 left.

The Seagulls made it a four-point game with 47.7 seconds left, but the Patriots responded with a 3-point play that essentially booked their ticket to the semifinals.

“I think we had a 15-point lead and they started chipping away and all of a sudden it was like eight or six and typically that’s something when I’m starting to think are we going back to that way in the past,” said Francis Lewis head coach Stephen Tsai, who advanced to his first PSAL semifinals. “That’s the difference with this team, we have girls that are willing to not let us get down that road and fight through.”

TURNING POINT: The Seagulls sliced the lead to 46-42 with 47.7 seconds left and were looking for a defensive stop. After Theodora Alexandrou missed a shot, Francis Lewis forward Tyese Purvis pulled down the biggest rebound of the game and scored on a putback while being fouled and boosted the lead to 49-42 with 30.4 seconds left.

“I always tell them that there are so many other things you can do,” Tsai said. “I think Tyese finally understood you don’t have to put up a shot, you can go in get an offensive rebound and I thought that was a huge play. We don’t have to have a bunch of heroes shooting 3’s all the time.”

STAR OF THE GAME: Hamlet galvanized her team when it needed a spark with her 12 second quarter points. She showed good range, hitting three 3’s while mixing in layups and jump shots. She said a conversation she had with Tsai after defeating Boys & Girls on Feb. 11 about Hamlet’s potential and her performing at a higher level has helped her.

“We all play important roles and we all do what we have to do and some of them kind of depend on me I haven’t been showing them what I need to do,” Hamlet said. “I figured it’s about that time since we are in the postseason.”

BIGGEST SURPRISE: McKee/Staten Island Tech is usually a pretty good team from long range, but didn’t hit a single 3. Francis Lewis used a man-to-man defense while focusing on stopping Kaitlyn Astel, who led all scorers with 19 points.

“It was very big because we know they’re a great shooting team,” junior Jasmine Davis said. “When we scrimmaged them, they hit 3’s all day on us.”

QUOTE OF THE GAME: “It’s exciting to move on my with my team and possibly get a chance to get to (the finals at) the Garden. That’s what we want, especially for our seniors, Theo, Magdalena (Janczak) and Shea (Sherrice Marshall). We feel they deserve it so us as juniors we’re going to try to get our team there.”--Hamlet

UP NEXT: Francis Lewis will meet No. 2 South Shore in the semifinals Tuesday night at Hunter College. South Shore defeated No. 10 Midwood 62-41 in the quarterfinals.