Sweet Victory

| 21 Mar 2017 | 10:00

Tori-May Della Pace had already distinguished herself as a basketball standout as she began her senior season at Loyola School last fall, having led the Lady Knights in scoring in each of her first three years. But the Upper West Sider was far from finished. In her final season, Della Pace, 17, cemented her place in school history by leading her team to the New York City Athletic League championship and its first state tournament appearance since 2011, averaging 18.3 points per game and earning the league’s most valuable player award along the way.

“She’s one of the best scorers that I’ve ever coached,” Loyola coach David Palladino said. Della Pace’s versatility made her a threat to score from anywhere on the floor, whether driving to the basket or shooting from long range. The guard finished her career with 1,416 points, the third most in the Upper East Side school’s history.

Despite her talent as a scorer, Della Pace epitomized unselfish play. “Every single one of those points was with the team in mind,” Palladino said. “There were times when I wished she would have kept the ball instead of passing.”

Anchored by six seniors, the Lady Knights’ aggressive style propelled them to 19 wins and six losses. “Since we had been together for so long, we knew each other and knew how we played, and everybody really stepped up to the plate,” Della Pace said.

Loyola defeated rival Columbia Prep in the New York City Athletic League championship game in February, a win that carried special significance for the Loyola upperclassmen. “That was our third year playing them in the championship and our first time beating them, so it was nice to finally accomplish that,” Della Pace said.

Della Pace scored her 1,000th career point in December, becoming just the sixth Lady Knight to reach the milestone. Soon after, she received letters from past team captains and other alumni, many of whom she had never met, congratulating her on the achievement. But the sweetest reward of all came from her coach and teammates: 1,000 Sour Patch Kids, one for each point.

In anticipation of the big moment, Palladino enlisted the team to secretly find out Della Pace’s preferred candy, and then walked from store to store buying up every available bag. “She’s a pretty healthy eater in general, so a thousand jars of hummus was probably not going to be viable,” he said.

The gift was a hit. “It gave me a cavity,” she said with a laugh.

“If you ask anyone about Loyola, they’ll tell you that the community is really supportive,” she said. “I really did feel that with my last year of basketball. You get that at a small school like Loyola.”

Della Pace, who also played volleyball for four years at Loyola, is still weighing her college options. Wherever she ends up, she hopes to continue her basketball career and study occupational therapy, a field she became interested in after working with young children as a volunteer with local organizations.