By Laura Amato
The Francis Lewis girls’ basketball team couldn’t quite handle the pressure.
The Patriots struggled against South Shore’s full-court press and aggressive defense in a rematch of last year’s PSAL championship game, falling 68-30 in their season opener on Monday night.
“Once they put some pressure on us, we started turning the ball over,” said Francis Lewis coach Stephen Tsai. “And it almost looked like some of our girls were playing for the other team. We were just giving them ball.”
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the hoop early on before Natalia Bonhomme notched the first points of the night with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.
Francis Lewis actually felt confident after the opening eight minutes of play—bolstered by a strong zone defense that kept South Shore’s experienced roster on its toes. But as soon as the Lady Vikings settled into their full-court press and a man-to-man, trap defense in the half-court, Francis Lewis lost its focus, struggling to maintain possession.
And, more importantly, the Patriots lost their offensive edge.
Francis Lewis was held to just one field goal in the second quarter as South Shore jumped out to a 29-10 lead at halftime.
“We’ve been working on our press breaker during practice, trying to get it together,” Bonhomme said. “We’ve been pushing the ball faster now than we did before, but it’s hard to get it going in game time.”
South Shore didn’t slow down coming out of the break and, once again, the Patriots were held to just one jumpshot in the frame. The Lady Vikings outscored Francis Lewis 25-to-5 in the third quarter, forcing the Patriots into tough shots and bad passes.
It was a defensive attack that left Francis Lewis searching for answers on the court and on the sideline.
“I think it’s the pressure and we kind of fed into them,” Tsai said. “I thought in the beginning we were solid, but once they started creating turnovers we started to panic. And when we panic, even the basic things, we weren’t doing that.”
As time ticked off the clock, Francis Lewis struggled to keep pace with South Shore. The Lady Vikings excelled in transition in the lopsided victory as nine different players put points on the board and even when the Patriots had chances, the squad missed a handful of open looks.
Francis Lewis did notch a few positives in the fourth quarter—actually outscoring South Shore 15-14—but it was far too little, far too late. Bonhomme finished with six points in the loss, while senior forward Sabrina Clement chipped in six points of her own as well as seven rebounds.
It was a disappointing showing for the Patriots—particularly after coming up short against South Shore in last year’s championship game as well—but Francis Lewis is determined to turn things around sooner rather than later. After all, this is only the beginning.
“Our season just started today and that’s the great thing,” Tsai said. “Hopefully we can improve from this. And each of these girls look at it that way.”