By Joseph Staszewski
It’s hard to fathom a team with just one loss searching for answers. That is exactly what Francis Lewis is doing. The Patriots girls’ basketball team hasn’t returned to championship form despite being off to a strong start to the season.
The defending PSAL Class AA city champions are 7-1 heading into the new year, but neither coach Steve Tsai nor his players are happy with how the club is playing. The Patriots had to rally late to beat rival South Shore, needed free throws with no time remaining to get the win. It held on for a victory over Immaculate Conception (N.J.) and was blasted by Immaculate Heat (N.J.) just before Christmas.
“None of our games have been pretty,” Tsai said. “We really haven’t been playing well.”
It has the coach tinkering to find something to get his squad clicking. Lewis is getting used to playing without a true center again after the graduation of Chelsea Robinson. Junior point guard Taliyah Brisco unselfishly volunteered to take herself out of the starting lineup three weeks ago to give junior forward Dominique Williams more playing time and give Lewis a more traditional look to start the game. It has been beneficial for both her and the team so far. Brisco provides a boost off the bench and is learning the game better in the process.
“I see what mistakes and what faults we have and we can clean up,” Brisco said. “I watch and observe what mistakes we make and why he was upset over how we came out. I take notes in my head on how to fix it.”
For Lewis it is about improving on offense and limiting its mental errors. Tsai believes some of that is getting the team’s younger players up to speed with its veteran core. The good news for him and the Patriots is that they are still winning games despite not playing their best and are unbeaten in PSAL play. It is a tribute to the team’s guts and championship pedigree.
“Partly, it might be resilience,” Tsai said. “Our girls are also a little bit stubborn. When it gets close and competitive, I think our girls can step it up a little bit.”
The Patriots still want to prove they can win a title without the help of Robinson, the piece many believe put them over the top. They have fared well in games against bigger teams. Lewis limited both South Shore’s Brianna Fraser (Maryland) and Immaculate Conceptions’ Samantha Fuehring (Louisville) to earn victories.
“It looks like we can handle them,” junior guard Sierra Green said of playing talented forwards.
Now, Lewis must handle the business of limiting its mistakes and scoring droughts if it wants to put itself back on track again. One thing is for sure, there will be no lack of effort to make it happen.