Molloy has qualified for the East Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament in each of head coach Tim O’Hagan’s seven seasons, but it’s hardly a slam dunk to finish among the top six these days.
“The conference has gotten stronger every season,” O’Hagan said. “We have to compete hard every night. In the end, three quality teams won’t make it [the tournament.]
“We’ve got a fun group, and a lot of talent to build around,” he added. “The younger girls are pushing the veterans, and in the end we’ll be a better team because of it.”
Following an 82-60 home defeat to conference rival St. Thomas Aquinas last Saturday, the Lady Lions stood at 2-4 overall and 0-2 in ECC play. Molloy was led offensively by senior Ashley Addison (12 points) and freshman Alex Hampton (10 points, four assists.)
O’Hagan said he likes the team’s athleticism that allows it to run the floor as well as knock down shots in the half-court offense, but added there’s work to be done on defense. The Lady Lions, who finished 11-16 last season, allowed an average of more than 80 points through the first six contests. “We’re not nearly as good as we could be defensively,” O’Hagan said. “That’s the first thing we need to fix.”
An encouraging sign came in a heartbreaking 73-72 defeat to visiting Post on Dec. 6. Molloy held standouts Monique Chance and Raven Wright-James to six and five points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough. Chance had her only two baskets in crunch time, including the game-winning shot with three seconds remaining. “We took out their two best players,” said O’Hagan, “but a bunch of others made plays.” Senior Christina Marra (16), Hampton (13), Addison (11), and senior Ikema Ross (10) all scored in double figures in the loss.
Hampton, who helped Baldwin High School to three straight Nassau Class AA championships, came off the bench for the first four games before O’Hagan inserted her into the starting lineup. She’s averaging 11.8 points and running the offense from the point. “She came from a tremendous high school program and has done a sensational job for us,” O’Hagan said. “She loves the game. She knows how to get her teammates involved, and she knows how to get to the basket and draw contact.”
Another freshman, Kimani Jackson, out of St. Anthony’s High School, could see increased playing time at center as the season unfolds. She started last Saturday after contributing nine points and six rebounds off the bench against Post. O’Hagan will count on her to help Ross, the team’s leading rebounder with 54 through six games, crash the boards.
Marra, a hard-working guard, leads a balanced offense so far at 12.5 points per game. “If you have five of her, you win a lot of games,” O’Hagan said. “She just gets things done.”
Addison (10 points per game) is a steady forward, and junior Kelly Guerrero and sophomore Nicole Arnone are capable scorers averaging 10.5 and 6.5 points, respectively.
Non-conference games against Merrimack, Bloomfield and New Haven will help the Lady Lions get ready for the resumption of the ECC schedule when the calendar flips to 2013. Their next conference game is Jan. 5 at Dowling.