When Kailyce Hanna transferred to Marist, she envisioned suiting up next to Central Florida commit Breyanna Frazier.
But before that could happen, Frazier went down with a heart-breaking knee injury. That blow in the first month of the season left Marist searching for answers and it also left the Knights in desperate need of a veteran player to lead a young team.
Marist had to wait it out, but with Hanna eligible, it found that piece.
The North Bergen transfer has delivered and she was a key piece again on Wednesday as seventh-seeded Marist beat 10th-seeded Newark Academy, 73-55, in the North, Non-Public B playoffs. Hanna finished that game with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
"It's been a tough transition, but I think we're finally getting the hang of playing together, playing defense, finding ways to score and just playing as a team." said Hanna. "Before I came back, my coaches told me the responsibility that I'd have. And then with Breyanna getting hurt, it just made me want to step up more."
Hanna is averaging 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 2019.
Marist (15-10) is playing much better with Hanna in the lineup, going 10-4 since she joined the Knights on Jan. 15. The junior is a playmaker in her own right, but she also sets the tone for the rest of young talent on the floor for Marist.
"The first game without Breyanna, we were a little shell shocked without her on the court," said Marist coach Reggie Quinn. "When Kylice stepped in, she took over the leadership role. She knows how to play on this level and she helped show these younger girls that there's a fast pace and a slow pace or that there's a half-court offense and a fast-break attack. She's been through all of that and she's been a coach on the court for us."
One player who has benefited from Hanna's presence is freshman Stephanie Jean-Baptiste.
The rookie dropped a game-high 23 points against Newark Academy. Jean-Baptiste did most of her damage from 3-point range and she led a shooting effort that saw Marist hit 13 shots from beyond the arc.
Jean-Baptiste was one of four freshmen on the court for Marist.
"It all started with hitting our shots. When the young kids see the ball go through the net, it motivates them to play better defense and rebound well," said Quinn. "This is all a lesson for these young kids. They are seeing their first playoff action, playing big minutes and taking big shots for us. This is only going to make us better."