While the Panthers offense wasn’t in top form, their defense stood up in a huge way against Brooklyn/Queens champion Fontbonne Hall and was instrumental in a 38-29 victory in the CHSAA Class B city title game at Sacred Heart HS in Yonkers.
“To me, there’s no words,” junior guard Jasmina Dzurlic said. “We said junior year we were gonna win it and to do it feels amazing. Today’s game was won by defense and [coach John Martin] always preaches defense.”
Courtesy of Preston
Preston celebrates its CHSAA Class B city title.
Preston was led on both sides of the ball by Dzurlic, who played aggressive defense and paced the team by putting up almost a third of its points with a team-leading 12. Dzurlic also had two of Preston’s 11 steals.
“All playoffs I’ve preached about being patient defensively,” Martin said. “We struggled a lot offensively today, but during our struggles, our defense has kept us in the lead the entire time.”
Preston, which remains without star player Megan Triano (torn ACL), continued its memorable playoff run due to having a close-knit group of girls with great chemistry.
“It’s a year round sport for us,” Dzurlic said. “We’ve all played with each other since fifth grade and last game I even said I don’t even have to look, I know where everyone is.”
The team camaraderie stretched out to the court Friday as once again the Panthers spread the points all around the lineup. While Dzurlic led the team in points, Victoria Sorrell put up eight, Victoria McCaffery added six and Melissa Cwikla contributed five.
Preston (25-5) held the Bonnies (17-6) to just 15 first-half points and went into the third quarter with a 22-15 lead. The Panthers never relinquished the lead, but Fontbonne scored eight unanswered points to come within three with 4:46 remaining in the game before Preston went on a 9-3 run to close out the contest and its first city title. Bad offensive decisions got the better of Fontbonne throughout the game.
“We had a few turnovers and a lack of kids looking to shoot,” Bonnies head coach Steve Oliver said. “We needed to be a little more aggressive with the ball. We fought hard and defensively we left it all on the court. I’m proud of my girls.”
For Preston, this is a victory that goes beyond basketball as they dedicated their postseason run and subsequent championship win to Margaret Donnelly, a former player and school guidance counselor who died tragically in a car accident over the holidays.
“Once we started the playoffs, we put these shirts on with her name and number,” Martin said. “We play with her in our heart and whenever it gets tough out there we reflect on Margaret. It’s the first time we won the city championship and it’s in her memory.”
“She was the drive behind us wanting to win the championship,” Dzurlic added. “To be able to win it in front of her family in attendance was a great feeling.”
Preston moves on to play Cardinal O’Hara (Buffalo) Saturday at 3 p.m. at Christ the King for the CHSAA Class B state championship with a trip upstate to play in the New York State Federation Class B tournament on the line.
“We don’t know much about [Cardinal O’Hara], but we’re doing our research,” Martin said. “I don’t like to look too far ahead but I’ll enjoy this win for about a half hour then start to work on tomorrow.”
Jasmina Dzurlic, Fontbonne Hall, Panthers, Panthers, John Martin, CHSAA, Cardinal OвЂ™Hara, city championship, Preston, Preston, aggressive defense