By Joseph Staszewski
Francis Lewis is coming off winning its first girls’ basketball city title since 1979. The Patriots, however, still believe they have plenty to prove even with four starters returning from the team that raised the trophy at the Barclays Center last year.
This season is about proving they didn’t need transfer center Chelsea Robinson to get them over the hump and a chance to replace Murry Bergtraum as the league premier program after legendary Lady Blazers coach Ed Grezinsky resigned.
“Since we won the chip people are coming for us,” junior guard Chi La Bady said.
The Lewis starters, all guards, have heard the chatter that they don’t win it all if Robinson isn’t controversially cleared by the PSAL to join Lewis before the playoffs. They will counter with the fact that they were still the No. 3 seed without her and beat South Shore in the title game with Robinson in foul trouble. The Patriots just want to put it all to rest.
“We will have a lot to prove,” senior guard Robin Francis said. “I feel like people think we won because Chelsea was there and because of our size. I feel like we can show them it’s not just because of her size.”
Lewis is the one of the favorites to again claim the crown along with South Shore and Bergtraum, which saw its 15-year reign ended by the Patriots in the semifinals. Robinson was the only player lost from last year’s club. Francis, star guard Sierra Green, point guard Taliyah Brisco and Bady, a do-it-all guard, all return. That latter three are all juniors.
Green established herself as one of the city’s best players and has worked on her defense in the offseason. The group won last year not just because of her emergence, but because all of the players flourished in their roles.
“We are not a one- or two-person team,” Lewis coach Steve Tsai said. “Everyone has to be aggressive. Everyone has to do their part.”
This year, that means getting more from its younger players with Robinson now at Graceland junior college. Sophomore forward Sabrina Clement has taken a step forward and junior Dominique Williams will continue to provide clutch shooting and athleticism. Tsai talked highly of his freshmen and the players believe back-up point guard Xuanrui Hu can make an immediate impact.
Lewis doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but understands what a second straight title would mean. It would quiet its detractors and with a junior core put it in position to be the PSAL’s next dynasty.
“I don’t want to start talking, but maybe,” Green said of taking up that mantel. “We will see.”