Mo Dean and her fellow seniors on the St. Bede girls basketball team wanted to close out their careers at Abbot Vincent Gymnasium on a high note Thursday in their home finale against NCIC rival Princeton.
The Lady Bruins took care of business on Senior Night.
St. Bede jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the opening four minutes and continued to roll — fueled by a game-high 18 points from Dean — as they cruised to a 61-26 win over the Tigresses to claim the final NCIC championship.
“It means the world to me. I’ve been playing here for the last four years and to just get a win on our last home game is unbelievable,” said Dean, who added seven rebounds.
Dean said the fast start helped set the tone.
“We really pulled out strong. We usually do. It gets the momentum going for the rest of the game,” Dean said.
The Lady Bruins closed out the first quarter with a 23-4 lead, and the Academy ladies made things academic at intermission as they extended their advantage to 36-6 after the second quarter paced by 16 first-half points from Dean.
“It’s nice (to get the win) on Senior Night. One of the goals for the girls was to win the conference this year — our last year in it — so accomplishing that was very good for them,” said St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal, whose squad finished its swan song in the three-team NCIC with a perfect 4-0 mark to take the league crown.
Princeton coach Kevin Hieronymus said that his squad’s early turnovers — PHS had 11 offensive gaffes in the first quarter and finished with 28 total miscues — were unfortunately contagious.
“It was like a snowball effect on the turnovers, I think. It seemed like one after another. A lot of them weren’t the best passes, but St. Bede puts a lot of pressure on things. It’s not easy with their pressure defense,” Hieronymus said.
One bright spot for PHS (6-21, 0-4) was the second half offensive effort of senior forward Mackenzey Wilson, who notched 15 of her team-best 17 points after the break in what Hieronymus labeled her best offensive effort to date.
“She played outstanding, she really did,” Hieronymus said.
McGunnigal saluted his five seniors — Dean, Julia Jackson, Lydia Staria, Whitley Funfsinn and Haley Dzierzynski for their contributions to this year’s Lady Bruins ball club.
Dzierzynski tallied nine points, while Funfsinn contributed seven and Stariha added three.
“Four of them have been with me all four years in the program,” McGunnigal said, referencing Stariha Funsinn, Dzierzynski and Dean. “They’ve meant a lot to this team. They learned a lot as juniors from what was passed on by the seniors that graduated and now they’re passing on their own traditions and own legacies to the girls who are coming up behind. They’re leaders, all four of them. I knew when I choose them as captains they would not disappoint me one bit.
“They’re awesome and they’re going to help this team get ready for the postseason.”
Both squads will enter the postseason next week in the Class 2A Hall Regional.
Princeton, the No. 3 seed, will square off with No. 2 Marquette in Tuesday’s 8 p.m. semifinal nightcap, while the top-seeded Lady Bruins will face the winner of Monday’s play-in game between No. 4 Hall and No. 5 Bureau Valley.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.