HUNTINGTON – 2024 ushered in a new chapter for the Saint Mary’s high school girls basketball team. Saints senior forward-center Paige Hutkoski delivered another page-turning performance.
Hutkoski scored a game-high 22 points including 12 in the first quarter as St. Mary’s doubled up Gateway on the road Monday night, 52-26.
“We came in with a positive attitude and we were hoping for a good win and I think we succeeded with that,” said Hutkoski’s teammate, junior guard Paige Leahy.
Leahy converted a key and-one late in the first quarter as St. Mary’s (7-2) jumped out to an early 19-5 lead through the first eight minutes of the game.
St. Mary’s opened the game on a 10-2 run.
Hutkoski had a putback on her own missed shot for the first basket of the game. She made a short jumper for a 4-0 lead.
Gateway freshman Elle DeMoss made a mid-range jump shot from the baseline with 5:54 showing on the first quarter clock, cutting the Gators deficit in half.
A short time later, Hutkoski threaded the needle with a nice interior pass to freshman Audrey Amaral. Amaral completed the play with a lay-up. Hutkoski hit a two. Amaral stole the ball and dished off to senior Kailyn Cabrini, who added a two for a 10-2 lead.
Gateway senior guard-forward Kaitlyn Maynard hit a 3-pointer with about 4 ½ minutes remaining in the quarter, pulling the Gators within five, 10-5. St. Mary’s responded with a 9-0 run to close out the quarter.
After a bit of patient, textbook ball movement, Hutkoski made another basket, and another, and after Leahy’s 3-point play, she stole the ball near midcourt and made a layup to give St. Mary’s a 19-5 lead heading into the second quarter.
“We have a lot of starting players back,” Hutkoski said. “We got Paige (Leahy) back. She started again so then we all just worked together.”
Gateway worked hard to get back into the game. Maynard and senior point guard Alexi Bonenfant each drained 3-pointers. Bonenfant hit a buzzer-beating three from NBA range to end the first half. The Gators trailed 29-14.
Amaral shined in the third quarter, finishing off two lay-ups on nice feeds from Hutkowski. She also stole the ball near midcourt late in the quarter and dribbled in for an uncontested layup. After three quarters, St. Mary’s led 39-21.
St. Mary’s ran away with the game in the fourth quarter, thanks largely in part to a 13-0 run. Hutkoski made two more baskets and freshman Leilani Baez Montanez made three. One of those shots for Baez Montanez included a 3-pointer.
“We’re just playing as a team,” St. Mary’s girls basketball coach Rodney Rodriguez. “We’re trying to get our offense down, as well as just knowing what defense other teams are in. …Young players are jumping in off the bench doing well. …Our young shooters are ready to shoot. When (their shots) fall, it opens up everything else for us.”