By Joseph Staszewski
Francis Lewis ended a piece of basketball history in the semifinals before making some of its own in the title game.
The third-seeded Patriots beat No. 1 South Shore 65-58 for the school’s first PSAL Class AA girls’ basketball championship since 1979 at the Barclays Center Saturday. Francis Lewis got there by ending Murry Bergtraum’s 15-year title run atop the league. The accomplishment was still setting in for Patriots.
“It’s a pretty great feeling knowing that we made it this far,” sophomore guard Sierra Green said. “This was our goal at the beginning of the year and we succeeded.”
Green scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first half and connected on six three-pointers. Her late trey helped give Lewis a 27-18 lead at the half. It came with center Chelsea Robinson, the team’s lone senior, on the bench because of foul trouble and the Patriots using its smaller lineup.
Junior Chi La Bady scored 11 of her 19 points in the second half and grabbed nine rebounds in the game. The Vikings (16-8) got as close as 57-51 with 46.3 seconds left. Bady then scored four of Lewis’ next seven points and knew she had to continue being aggressive.
“Just because we had the lead that we did, we couldn’t take it easy,” Bady said. “We had to keep coming at them.”
One thing that hasn’t left Lewis is the speculation about the validity of Robinson’s eligibility after the Taft School (Conn.) transfer was cleared to play by the PSAL before the playoffs after taking the court for Taft this season, which is against a league rule.
She scored six points, including a layup that put Lewis (21-3) up 57-49 with 55 seconds left, and committed four fouls. Robinson said she hasn’t let the negative attention distract her.
“It always affects you somehow,” Robinson said. “You see it. You hear it. You read it online, but that just fuels me more to do what I have to do.”
Tsai understands people want to know what the circumstances were that persuaded the PSAL to clear Robinson, but thinks honoring the family’s wish for privacy is the right thing. He said her case was fully investigated.
“I think there is a little bit of lack of trust that goes around with the PSAL,” Tsai said. “I think that is probably the biggest issue.”
He watched his team overcome the issue of South Shore’s size advantage and rebounding dominance by shooting 30 of 44 at the free throw line and turning 19 Viking turnovers into 21 points. Maryland-bound junior Brianna Fraser led South Shore with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Emmeri Archer had 11 points and Ashley McDonald put up 10.
The Patriots advance to the state Federation championships in Albany, where they will face Long Island Lutheran in the semifinals at 5 p.m. March 21 at the Times Union Center. Until then, they plan to enjoy being city champions.
“I wouldn’t want to go through what we went through with anybody else,” Bady said. “Our team really sticks together.”