Amani Tatum doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve, but it was clear where the Archbishop Molloy’s heart was during pre-game warm-ups.
The junior wore her Exodus t-shirt in honor of Apache Paschall, the highly successful Nazareth and Exodus coach who died Tuesday afternoon from a heart attack after battling a form of skin cancer.
He was just 38.
“I played with him all summer and we had a lot of long talks about being a leader on the court,” Tatum said. “He texted me randomly to see how I’m doing. I spoke to him on Christmas, even before he went to chemo.”
Tatum harnessed that emotion and used it as positive energy, helping lead Molloy to a 49-44 win over The Mary Louis Academy in Briarwood Wednesday night at Jack Curran Gymnasium.
“That means she’s a strong player and that she always plays with heart,” sophomore guard Nyasha Irizarry said of Tatum. “I think she played this game for him. I love that about her.”
Tatum said she was going to visit Paschall this weekend, but that changed when she was told of his death at the Stanners practice Tuesday afternoon.
“I didn’t even want to practice…I was hysterical,” she said. “I called my mom, called everybody. It was hard. I went to the hospital last night and saw him for the last time. It’s all for him.”
Tatum had a game-high 17 points, including 12 in the second half. Her runner to beat the buzzer ending the third quarter – almost an identical shot made by Mary Louis’ Reana Mohamed to end the first half – gave the Stanners a 36-33 lead. Molloy (7-2), ranked No. 5 in New York City by MSG Varsity, trailed by as many as eight in the third quarter.
“She was able to channel that and turn it into something positive,” Molloy coach Scott Lagas said.
It was an emotional day for Lagas, as well. On Aug. 31, his close friend Sanjoy Mukherjee died. Lagas has honored Mukherjee, nicknamed “Mook,” by wearing his ties at each of Molloy’s games.
Wednesday would have been Mukherjee’s 37th birthday and his friends and family were at a memorial service. Lagas, though, was unable to attend because of Wednesday’s big league game against Mary Louis.
“In life and in basketball you’ve got to put those things aside and use it as a positive and an inspiration more than anything,” Lagas said. “Mook was a great guy. He was always very involved and always happy when I succeeded in coaching. I knew he’d want me to come here and coach a good game on his birthday instead of being at the memorial service. That really helped me.”
And it served as extra motivation for Tatum.
“Going into the game, it wasn’t only for Apache, but for my coach’s best friend,” she said. “We played with these people in our hearts and went out there hard. We really wanted to win the game.”
Tatum’s runner was just part of what ended up a 16-1 run for the Stanners, which extended their lead to 46-36 on a steal and layup by Kamille Ejerta with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter.
No. 6 Mary Louis (4-7) attempted to rally and cut its deficit to 46-43 on a layup by Jasmine Nwajei (16 points) with 1:24 left.
Deja Tait forced a jump ball to get the ball back to the Hilltoppers and Mohamed got to the line with 54.4 seconds remaining.
However the George Mason-bound guard missed both free throws, part of a 5-of-19 performance from the line for Mary Louis, which also missed a bevy of foul shots in losses to Nazareth, Bishop Loughlin and Bishop Ford.
“It’s the same story, the missed layups, the missed free throws, needing to be more organized on offense,” Mary Louis coach Joe Lewinger said. “It shows we’re actually getting to the basket and the free throw line. It’s just a matter of cashing in.”
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