St. Celestine ends perfect run with league title
St. Celestine's Annie McKenna dives for the loose ball, during Saturday's championship against Ascension. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 3, 2012 8:20AM
There are few words that can describe the accomplishments of the St. Celestine girls basketball team over the past four seasons.
Impressive, astounding, inconceivable, unbelievable, exceptional, miraculous, outstanding, peerless, superb, supreme, unequaled, awesome, flawless, out-of-this-world. OK, so there are more than a few.
But in their final game together, the eighth-grade squad put the final stamp on its four-year run of perfection, during which it compiled a 151-0 record, with a convincing 41-19 victory over Ascension to win the Classic League championship Saturday at Trinity High School in River Forest.
The Celtics jumped out to a 13-1 first-quarter advantage and never looked back as the Trinity-bound trio of Shannon Faherty (12 points), Classic League MVP Annie McKenna (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) and Kaitlin Aylward (10 points, 5 rebounds) sparked the offensive attack, while they helped the St. Celestine defense hold the Chargers to just two baskets in the first half as they built a 28-6 halftime lead.
“I can’t believe we made it this far — undefeated for four years. I’m so excited,” Faherty said. “I had a blast playing for the championship today. We’ve had a couple of close games over the years, but we work really good together and we all came through at the end.
“If we had lost today I would have been a little surprised. I also would have been a little sad, but as long as we did our best, everything would be OK.”
Coach John McKenna said he was confident the girls he has coached since they were fifth-graders would reach their goal.
“Losing is always a concern, but the girls have to come out and play hard every game,” he said. “These girls have great accomplishments, but you can’t get those without having a great attitude, and these players all have that and an individual commitment to be a better player. That in turn affects how they play as a team, and that makes us a better team. That’s why we’re so hard to beat. These girls have worked at it and it’s something they’ve earned over the years. Nothing was given to them. They’ve worked on getting better at things and they have this passion to be good basketball players — and this is the result.”
The coach’s daughter, Annie, couldn’t have been happier.
“This feels great that we made it this far and never lost a game for four years and won the championship in our final season,” she said. “If we came this far and lost it would have been sad, and I don’t know what I would do. We were determined and we worked hard not to lose and keep our perfect record.
The secret to St. Celestine’s success?
“We have great teamwork, we have good talent on our team, we’re not selfish with the ball and we have good coaches that teach us a lot of things,” she said.
“It’s amazing,” Aylward said. “I still can’t believe we’ve never lost a game in four years. It’s awsome. The fans cheering us on really motivated me today. I think we were so successful because we work together as a team, we’re not selfish, no one does their own thing. If it wasn’t for our two coaches (McKenna and Jorge Diaz) we never would have been able to accomplish this.”
Desiree Diaz came off the bench and chipped in six points and hauled in five rebounds for the Celtics, while Victoria Nega added two points. Other contributors were Sara McKee, Jennifer Carvajal, Emily McCarthy, Judi Aldape and Elizabeth Ptak.
Ascension was led in scoring by Katie Mullins, who had 11 points and grabbed six rebounds. Grace Smart put up four points and pulled down four rebounds, while Tiernaur Anderson contributed three points and Ally Oliva added one.