Blasl’s heroics pilot Spellman to ‘A’ state quarters
By MARC RAIMONDI
Julia Blasl felt great in warm-ups, better than she has in months. The Cardinal Spellman senior captain was in the starting lineup to begin the season before being sidelined with injuries since late December. But the Pilots never gave up on her.
“We have a very supportive team,” she said.
On Friday night, she repaid their kindness and, in the process, helped to extend her own high-school career. Blasl made back-to-back clutch 3-pointers to end the third quarter that extended an eight-point advantage to a 14-point bulge. Spellman would hold on in a 63-52 win against Bishop Kearney in the CHSAA Class A state first round in The Bronx.
“I just wanted to contribute,” Blasl said. “I’m glad it came in the nick of time.”
Spellman coach Jane Morris said the guard had not been in game shape since coming back from abdominal surgery, but there was one thing no one ever doubted about Blasl: outside shooting.
“That’s her game,” Morris said. “She can knock down 3s.”
Blasl, who finished with nine points, hit another trey to put Spellman (21-5) ahead, 50-36, with 4:57 left in the game. Kearney (12-12) did get within 58-52 on a Sam Retas basket with 47 seconds left, but the Pilots, the Archdiocesan ‘A’ runner-up, pulled through. They’ll play Sacred Heart (Buffalo) in the quarterfinals next Friday at Kellenberg on Long Island.
“It’s exciting,” Spellman junior Troi Melton said. “It’s the first year we’ve made it this far.”
She was the cause of excitement in the second quarter. With 4:22 left before halftime, Melton drained a pull-up jumper to tie the score at 19. It whipped the crowd into a frenzy and her teammates mobbed her on the court. But not for the reason she thought.
“I thought it was because I tied the game,” Melton said.
Then Melton saw the balloons and realized something else was up. That basket gave her 1,000 points for her career. Morris said Melton knew how many points she had this season, but didn’t know where she was at with regards to 1,000.
“I had no idea,” Melton said. “I can’t believe everybody could keep it a secret.”
It’s no secret what Melton has meant to Spellman this season. She had 22 points against Kearney and looked like the best player on the floor. Melton continues to be one of the most underrated juniors in the city.
“Everyone loves Troi,” Blasl said. “She just adds such character to this team. … We were waiting for this all day.”
Amber Griffin had 12 points, coming back from an uncharacteristically uneven performance against Moore Catholic in the CHSAA Class A Archdiocesan championship game Wednesday. Tia Scott had 11 points and got into the lane to feed Griffin for three straight baskets in the third quarter to put Spellman up 34-24 with 5:07 left.
“She was her normal self tonight,” Morris said of Griffin. “That’s what she does for us.”
Sam Retas had 23 points and Taylor Raccuglia added nine for Kearney, whose season ended in disappointing fashion. Coach Rocco Sellitto said the Tigers’ plan to run with the Pilots and play a transition game was marred by the long arms of Spellman players in their press.
“I think we could have done it, but we were missing the open players,” he said.
Kearney, though, is a team full of juniors – Retas and Raccuglia at the top of the list – with plenty of promise for next season.
“Our main girls will be back and we’ll build from there,” Sellitto said.
Blasl will not be back for Spellman. But she certainly did her part to make sure the Pilots keep on flying this year.
“She’s showing her leadership,” Melton said. “It was nice having a senior step up like that.”