Ketcham edge ahead of Magnus to win first Section 1 title

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YORKTOWN – History has been made.

There were a few firsts for the Roy C. Ketcham women’s basketball team on Sunday, moments that created indelible memories they will always cherish.

Nia Rencher had never been hugged by so many people the night before. Cali Chiocchi said she couldn’t remember being asked to pose for so many photos or being greeted with so many smiles.

“I could never have imagined this,” said Jaylyn Chorba. “I still don’t really believe it. It’s not down yet. Do we really have the Golden Ball?

Oh yeah, and they really got the Golden Ball.

Ketcham rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final minutes and beat Albertus Magnus, 53-50, to claim their first Section 1 Class AA championship.

Chiocchi’s lay-up tied it at 42 and Chorba hit two corner threes on successive possessions to give No. 3 Ketcham the lead in a game fifth-seeded Magnus had led almost entirely. Ketcham’s student section, many dressed in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, roared loudly as a 17-0 run put their team in control late on.

the upset: Albertus Magnus defeats the Ursuline n°1 to reach the section final

Aqueduct: Ketcham caused a sensation, upsetting Lourdes in the semi-finals

“Surprise” without surprise: Chiocchi and sophomores lead Ketcham turnaround season

Ketcham will face Section 9’s Warwick in a regional semi-final on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Kingston High School.

“I can’t even express this feeling of excitement,” coach Pat Mealy said with a grin.

He coached the Ketcham baseball team to several sectional titles, but right now, he says, “it would be hard to argue” that championship with an unannounced program isn’t more rewarding.

“Winning section titles is expected of our baseball program and we are proud of that,” he said. “But our basketball team getting a golden ball is an afterthought. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Chiocchi is the star that this team has been rebuilt around as it struggles in recent years, and the rapid rise of a group of sophomores has spurred a turnaround season.

“I knew this program would eventually get there,” said Meg Nardelli, a former star who graduated in 2019. Her sister, Jenny Nardelli, is part of that sophomore core. “My team has had some good years and it’s amazing to see the next generation take the leap.”

Turning

Sierra Linnin (20 points) hit a three at the third quarter buzzer, sending the Falcons to fourth with a 37-34 lead and momentum. Another three from Linnin put them up 42-34 two minutes into the period.

During a timeout, Mealy said, he stressed the team had to play “incredible defense” and create effective attempts early in the shot clock.

“There were definitely nerves at that time,” admitted Chiocchi, a senior. “But we knew we still had time; we just had to pull ourselves together and play as a team.

Three from Caitlin Robertson and Jenny Nardelli stopped Magnus’ run, and Chiocchi’s lay-up tied it at 42 with four minutes remaining.

Chorba then hit two straight threes, and Chiochi added three from the free throw line for a 51-42 lead with 1:35 remaining.

“It’s an amazing group, win or lose,” Mealy said. “Just getting here was a huge accomplishment, and for them to react that way in the fourth quarter, it’s priceless.”

Magnus escaped in the last minute and Linnin made his sixth 3-pointer with a second left to create the margin. But the party was on for Ketcham.

“We’ve had a good season so we have no reason to let our heads down,” Magnus’ Kaleigh McGuinness said. “I think everyone will reflect on how far we’ve come.”

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Chiocchi was named tournament MVP after posting 23 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“She means everything to us,” Chorba said of the point guard. “She always stepped up in the big moments and she did it again when we really needed it.”

By the numbers

Albertus Magnus (14-10) – Karly Fischer had 12 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocks and four steals. Allie Falesto and Sophia Malpeli each added seven points.

Ketcham (21-3) – Rencher had 12 points and 19 rebounds, and Chorba had 10 points, five assists and a block.

Quotes

“We weren’t supposed to go this far,” said Falesto, whose side stunned defending champion Ursuline in the semi-finals. “We went to White Plains and Ursuline and we won. I’m really proud of us for getting here.

“At the start of the season we were questioned by a lot of people and look where we are,” Rencher said. “It feels good to be a champion.”