McKee/Staten Island coach Pete LaMarca received quite the birthday present from his high scoring duo on Saturday.
LaMarca, who turned 42 years old, watched from the sideline as Kelin Walsh and Kaitlyn Astel continually torched John F. Kennedy up and down the court. Walsh, a junior guard, scored a game-high 33 points, and Astel added 29 in a 64-51 victory over fifth-seeded JFK in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals at Hunter College.
Astel and Walsh combined for an astonishing 62 points, and welcomed the responsibility to become the focal points of the offense. The other basket came from Brenna DeRosa, who scored on a layup with 2:27 left in the first quarter.
LaMarca says he ironically celebrated his birthday in 1998 coaching FDR to a PSAL Class A quarterfinal win over John Jay.
“From day one, it’s unbelievable how well they work together. They are the floor generals. A lot of the city don’t understand it,” LaMarca said. “I think we’re good enough to compete with anybody and it’s because of Kelin and Kaitlyn and everybody else filling their roles.”
MSIT (21-2), which will face top-seeded South Shore in the semifinals next Saturday at St. John’s University, is motivated to prove it can compete against the ‘AA’ teams. By winning the Staten Island league, MSIT, ranked No. 14 in New York City by MSG Varsity, was the only team from the borough to participate in the Class AA playoffs. Because MSIT doesn’t play Bergtraum, South Shore and others teams outside the Island in the regular season, Astel says her team was determined to answer their critics.
“In articles I’ve seen online, you always see one of these say they are preparing to play JFK, Bergtraum or South Shore and we felt left off. I always thought that actually helped us,” Astel said. “I know how good we are and we all know how good we are.”
No. 12 JFK (17-10) did not have answers for Walsh, who has fully recovered from a torn ACL in her right knee suffered two years ago during the second round of the PSAL playoffs against Boys & Girls.
The point guard is not a flashy player, but she had constant success finding an open lane past JFK’s pressure defense. Walsh outscored her opponents 15-13 in the second quarter alone and had 21 points by halftime to give MSIT a 30-21 lead.
“It’s an amazing feeling, it really is. It’s such a good game,” Walsh said. “They [JFK] are good but I kept driving to the basket."
JFK couldn’t find any consistency on both ends of the floor as it trailed for three quarters. The only stretch where the Knights put it together was in the fourth quarter. Joya McFarland connected on three of her 19 points, and Robin Daley added a basket to cut the MSIT lead to 46-43.
Astel then took over down the stretch, scoring 10 of the next 12 points for MSIT and put the Seagulls in front, 58-48 with less than two minutes remaining.
The loss was bitterly disappointing for JFK, which fails to reach the PSAL semifinals for the first time in seven years.
“When there is no one stopping them, they’re going to make the layup,” JFK coach O’Neil Glenn said. “We just didn’t stop the ball. We didn’t stop the ball at all.”
Glenn told reporters that this might have been his final game as JFK coach, citing a disagreement with administration.
“I might not be here next year,” Glenn said. “My administration is trying to get rid of me. I’m guessing because it’s a closing school.”