McCarthy understands role

Lauralton Hall junior forward Emma McCarthy knows about the game of basketball. She fully accepts her role with the Crusaders.

McCarthy can be either the secondary or third source of power for her team, which defeated Newtown, 50-44, on the road on Friday night. The victory was the Crusaders’ eighth in nine games and fourth in a row.

McCarthy scored 11 points and secured nine rebounds, as her team fought off a tenacious comeback effort from the Nighthawks who, after starting the season with three consecutive losses, had won six straight before a 66-62 loss to Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport.

Lauralton Hall took a 37-27 lead into the fourth quarter, where the Nighthawks fought back and got as close as four points, 44-40, on a basket by sophomore Sarah Lynch with a little less than three minutes to play.

The Crusaders’ final quarter strategy was simple — get the ball into the hands of senior guard Michelle DeSantis — whose free-throw proficiency was the difference in the contest.

She went to the line 12 times in the closing eight minutes and converted 10 of them. For the game, DeSantis was 13-of-16 from the line. She made four field goals, with one of them being a 3-pointer in scoring a game-high 22 points.

“Michelle’s our best free-throw shooter,” Lauralton Hall coach Amanda Forcucci said. “I’m no dummy. We wanted the ball in her hands when the game was on the line. She’s experienced, she’s a senior, and this certainly wasn’t her first rodeo.”

The Crusaders had taken a 13-11 first-quarter lead, as Maureen Connolly’s putback basket before the buzzer broke an 11-all tie.

Forcing seven second-quarter turnovers, the Crusaders opened up a 27-20 halftime margin and maintained their edge throughout the third quarter.

After DeSantis made two free throws to start the fourth period, the Nighthawks went on a 13-3 run to close within 44-40.

The Crusaders were able to withstand that rally when DeSantis made eight straight free throws over the final 2:45.

“She is mentally tough,” said Forcucci about DeSantis. “This isn’t an easy gym to make shots in because it’s so spacious. Then each time she went to the line, it got unbelievably quiet. She just nailed them.”

Lauralton Hall came into the game off of three straight home wins; games in which the Crusaders outscored their opponents, 218-75.

“We’ve been playing well,” McCarthy said. “Newtown has become a great rival for us. We knew it would be tough coming in here. We needed to be mentally ready.”

Forcucci knows how hard McCarthy works, and she still sees room for improvement.

“Emma had a good game, but she’s upset because she missed a couple of bunnies,” Forcucci said. “Those things weigh on her.”

And McCarthy knows it.

“I’ve got to keep it up,” she said. “Keep the pressure on myself. I’ve got to keep shooting. I’ve got to make the little things work. That’s what really matters.”

The Crusaders made 15-of-55 field-goal attempts (27 percent), while Newtown was 15-of-43 (34 percent).

Newtown also held a 47-39 edge in rebounds, but the Nighthawks made 26 turnovers compared to 17 for Lauralton Hall.

The Crusaders were 17-of-28 from the free-throw line, while Newtown was 9-of-16.

Lauralton opened the week with a 72-16 victory over Weston High.

McCarthy and Carly Fabbri scored 20 points each. DeSantis scored 13 points and Olivia Levey had 11 points.