First-year Molloy women’s basketball coach Kate Lynch likes what she sees so far from the Lady Lions, who won their East Coast Conference opener in comeback fashion, 70-66, over Queens College on the final day of November as part of a promising start.
“We’re progressing really well and just want to keep getting better every day,” said Lynch, who spent the past three seasons at the Community College of Rhode Island and was named National Junior College Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2012-13. “I feel we have a lot of very good pieces,” she added.
Lynch inherited a Molloy team coming off a 10-16 finish, including 6-12 in ECC play, and ranked ninth (out of 11) in the preseason coaches’ poll. LIU-Post is No. 1, followed by Dowling College. “We’re using our ranking as motivation,” Lynch said. “It’s a chip on our shoulder we’re taking into every game.”
In the victory over Queens, the Lady Lions had four players score in double figures and built a 43-31 halftime lead on the strength of 11-for-20 shooting from the field and 20 of 26 from the foul line. However, in the second half Queens caught fire and raced ahead by eight — 64-56 — with 6:50 remaining and only a furious rally allowed Molloy to get the job done.
“We led by 13 in the first half, but we knew Queens wasn’t going down without a fight,” Lynch said. “We talked about weathering the run they’d eventually make. I’m really proud of how we were able to battle back.”
Molloy (4-2 overall) used a 14-point run, ignited by a layup and trey by Hampton to cut the deficit to 64-61, to prevail. Sophomores Hampton and Kimani Jackson had 13 points apiece, while juniors Nicole Arnone and Sabrina Padro each added 10 points. Sophomore Alexia O’Connor had nine, and juniors Megan Lonergan and Taylor Kenney both chipped in five.
“We’re defensive-minded and want to hold teams below their average, but we also have the ability and depth to score,” Lynch explained. “Offensively, we’ll run when we can. If not we have different sets to get players open in the halfcourt.”
Senior guard/forward Kelly Guerriero is off to a torrid start offensively. She’s averaging a team-best 15.6 points per game while shooting 47.2 percent (17 of 36) from three-point land. “Kelly’s really blossomed,” Lynch said. “She’s playing and shooting with confidence, and I see no reason why she can’t keep it up.”
Hampton, a Baldwin High School graduate, was the ECC Rookie of the Year last season and paced the Lady Lions at 9.5 points per game. “Alex is at the top of the competition’s scouting report,” Lynch said. “She does whatever is asked of her. The great thing is, she’s only a sophomore and will only get better and better.”
Padro, a transfer from Roxbury Community College, is proving a fine addition to the program. She runs the point at times, allowing Hampton to slide to shooting guard, and knows how to get to the rim. She’s averaging 10 points through the first six games.
O’Connor and freshman Aliyah McDonald bring different dynamics to the backcourt, Lynch said, and both are contributing consistently at both ends of the floor. In her first collegiate game, McDonald had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Molloy’s 97-78 win over Post University. “Alexia helps us spread the defense, and Aliyah is great in transition,” Lynch noted.
Arnone has led the way up front, averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. “She’s one of the toughest players we’ve got,” Lynch explained. “We know she’s going to work hard under the boards and come up with rebounds and points.” Junior Allison Smith, Jackson, Lonergan, and Kenney give the frontcourt just as much depth as the backcourt.
The Lady Lions conclude a five-game stretch against ECC rivals this Sunday when Roberts Wesleyan College visits for a noon tip-off.