By Steve Millar
While she waited to see if her senior season would happen, Marist forward Sydney Affolter was fueled by the hope she would get another chance to play a game like the rivalry against Mother McAuley.
“I was definitely super motivated coming into this,” Affolter said after the RedHawks defeated the Mighty Macs, 72-39, on Feb. 22. “Those days when we were not playing and we knew everyone else was playing in other states, that motivated me more than it made me upset. I had late nights, early mornings in the gym.
“I wanted to be prepared, especially for this game. It is such a fun game to play in. I wanted to leave my mark and show what I’ve got.”
Affolter, an Iowa recruit, certainly made her mark in her final game against the Macs. She scored 29 points and 13 rebounds as the visiting RedHawks pulled away in the second half for an impressive win.
Junior forward Le’Lani Harris added 13 points for Marist (4-0), while junior center Emily Bojan had nine points and 16 rebounds.
Mother McAuley (2-5) was led by junior guard Nyla Walker and junior forward Faith Okorie, who each scored 11 points. Okorie added five rebounds.
The Mighty Macs hung tough in the first half, trailing 35-27 at halftime.
Marist, though, opened the second half on a 19-0 run, scoring 19 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Junior guard Kira Chivers (7 points) started the surge with a 3-pointer and Bojan followed with a 3-point play.
“Kira coming in and hitting that 3, the momentum was through the roof on that,” Bojan said. “Kira is such a great player. Her defense really shut down Nyla.
“We’ve been waiting for this game. It’s always a big game for us. It was a huge team effort. In a bad year like this, to come out and play like we did in this game, it’s awesome for us.”
There was a much different feel from a typical Marist-Mother McAuley game, which usually draws large crowds with energetic student sections on each side.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, attendance was limited to about 30 Mother McAuley supporters, as well as lower-level players from both schools who stuck around to cheer after their games ended.
Still, Affolter said the big-game feeling was there.
“It’s still a super-intense game,” she said. “We all know each other. We know each other’s games. With or without the fans, it’s still a super fun, intense game to play in.”
Freshman guard Grace Gambotz added seven points for McAuley.
Walker, who transferred from Marist, scored all 11 of her points in the first half to keep the Macs close.
McAuley, though, struggled to get going after halftime – a trend coach Keisha Newell has seen developing and hopes her team can break out of.
“It’s our third quarters,” she said. “I’m not sure if we’re just content with playing a solid first half or if we don’t have the experience to know teams are going to come back and make adjustments and play harder. We just have to figure that out.
“We have the talent and the will to compete. We just have to get better.”