Loyola’s ‘Lion’ closes out H.S. hoops career with another title

Photo courtesy Loyola School  Co-captains Adriana Ilnicki, right, and Emma McCauley hoisted the trophy after Loyola won the NYCAL championship.

Photo courtesy Loyola School
Co-captains Adriana Ilnicki, right, and Emma McCauley hoisted the trophy after Loyola won the NYCAL championship.

BY DANIEL JEAN-LUBIN  |  Loyola School’s girls’ varsity basketball team recently captured their fourth straight New York City Athletic League basketball title. Leading them was team MVP senior Adriana Ilnicki.

Ilnicki, 17, who was born and raised in the East Village, has suited up for Loyola School’s basketball teams all four of her years there. She moved from the JV team to varsity her sophomore year, and contributed to three of the school’s four straight NYCAL championships.

“My goal was to make it to [the] state championship, but we won our league; that’s all that matters,” Ilnicki said of the win.

Loyola compiled a 16-7 overall record this season, with a 7-3 record in league games.

After persevering through the previous season marked with injuries, including a major ankle sprain and concussion, Ilnicki was determined to lead her team back to a championship.

“She’s so determined and never gives up,” said Dave Palladino, the varsity head coach. “I think it’s something that rubs off on all of us.”

Early this season, Ilnicki quickly found herself playing an important role both on the court and in the locker room. She logged key minutes on the court and led her teammates as captain alongside co-captain Emma McCauley.

“She really stepped well into the role of a leader. She was a natural choice for captain,” said Palladino.

Ilnicki’s mother played basketball in her home country of Ukraine. Adriana was introduced to the sport in second grade. At times one of the smallest players on the court, at 5 feet 7 inches, Ilnicki’s feisty persona makes up for her stature.

“I use the word ‘lion’ to describe her, in both ferocity and nobleness,” said Palladino when asked about her on-court behavior. Her vision and gritty pursuit of the ball make her a key defensive player and a top rebounder.

Adriana’s efforts were rewarded this season as she was named an NYCAL All-League player.

Ilnicki graduates this spring, leaving a culture of excellence Loyola School will remember forever. Loyola Athletic Director Fred Agnostakis said, “She’s the heart and soul of this program and will be profoundly missed.”

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