By Joseph Staszewski
Francis Lewis forgot what made it so successful all year in one of its biggest games of the season.
The undersized Patriots have rocketed to the top of the PSAL standings by sharing the ball and displaying scrappiness and patience. Francis Lewis Coach Steve Tsai felt his team did not display any of that during Murry Bergtraum’s game-changing run in the third quarter.
The Patriots never fully recovered and suffered a 71-64 home defeat to the Lady Blazers in Class AA girls’ basketball Jan. 23. Lewis missed a chance to move into first place in the division and put itself in position to earn the top seed in the post-season.
The Patriots (11-2) took a 42-38 lead on the heels of a 10-2 run only to give it right back as Bergtraum (12-1) ripped off a 15-0 spurt to take a 53-42 advantage with 1:15 remaining in the frame.
“Sometimes we want to play hero basketball and we are not talented like that,” Tsai said. “We have to depend on each other. We have to move the ball around.”
He felt his team imploded by not sticking together and relying on too many quick shots from the perimeter. It fed into what Bergtraum was attempting to do by slumping center Alexandra Smith (15 points) into the paint. Long misses led to transition baskets for the Lady Blazers, the 15-time defending city champions. Often Lewis players were late getting back on defense or failed to help in the lane.
“It comes down to being smarter,” junior guard Robyn Francis said. “They are bigger than us.”
Francis tried to rally her team late by scoring seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter. Her three-point play pulled Lewis within 62-57 with 3:20 left to play. Smith and Ardella Brown responded with baskets for Bergtraum, which understood the importance of the contest.
“Every game is a big win, but this game especially because they were 11-1,” Smith said.
The Patriots could have gotten within four with 44 seconds remaining, but Tsai called timeout, erasing a three-pointer by Chi La Bady. Lewis thought it missed an opportunity it has been waiting for since it lost to the Lady Blazers in Lower Manhattan 76-74 in December.
“It’s disappointing,” Francis said. “We worked hard just for this game.”
Sierra Green led Lewis with 22 points and Samantha Stolz added nine. Navy-bound guard Joella Gibson paced Bergtraum with 26 points and Ashanae McLaughlin chipped in 12 points.
Tsai hopes his team learns how well it needs to play to beat the Lady Blazers. One lapse can cost you.
“We don’t have enough room for error to make mistakes against a team like Bergtraum,” Tsai said.