By Brandon Mauk
Francis Lewis coach Steve Tsai simply did not like how his team played, even though that play resulted in a win.
The Patriots missed easy shots, turned the ball over, and almost surrendered a late double-digit lead, but they still managed to rack up a 59-54 victory over Truman in PSAL girls’ basketball Monday.
“We have a system in place,” Tsai said. “Some of the stuff we were doing is definitely not what we advocate as a program.” Francis Lewis (3-0) struggled in the first quarter, turning over the ball 10 times in the period, and neither team scored until about 21/2 minutes in. Truman led 7-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams shot the ball better in the second quarter; Truman (2-1) closed the frame on a 7-0 run in the final two minutes to take a 29-22 lead into the break. Lewis (3-0) knew it had to slow the pace of the game down and play together instead of forcing shots.
“I don’t know what that was, especially in the first half,” Tsai said. “But I told the girls, for us it’s always next play. This game was just about survival.”
In the third quarter, Lewis’ two stars took the game over. Taliyah Brisco scored seven of her 15 points in the first four minutes of the second half to give Lewis a 9-2 run.
“We all talked to each other at halftime, we built each other up,” Brisco said. “We spoke over all the wrong things that we did and that’s why we came out stronger.”
After Truman built its lead back to four, it was Sierra Green’s turn. The senior, who finished with a game-high 26 points. hit three three-pointers to give Lewis a four-point lead early in the fourth.
“We started listening to our system and trusted [coach Tsai] and we started playing as a team,” Green said.
Lewis used a 15-2 run in the fourth to go up 56-45 with less than four minutes left. But instead of using the shot clock to take time off down the stretch, they began to press with shots.
Truman took advantage of Lewis’ anxious play. A 9-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Dyona Davis, made it a two-point game with 25 seconds left.
Green went to the line with 11.1 seconds remaining and hit both free throws to push Lewis’ lead back up to four.
“The pressure, we’re not used to that yet,” Green said. “We started rushing. We have new girls, so we’ve got to adapt to it.”
After forcing a missed three-point attempt in the final seconds, Brisco iced the game at the free-throw line.
Perhaps much of Lewis’ struggles was due to the new makeup of the roster, with players taking on new roles because of the loss of key players from last year. Three games in, the Patriots still consider themselves a work in progress.
“We’re all still trying to play together,” Brisco said.