Ford rues missed opportunity, looks toward future

Bishop Ford outplayed St. Michael Academy for two and a half quarters. The Falcons led by 12 just about midway through the third quarter. They had an answer for most of the Eagles’ runs.

But when all was said and done, after a knock-down, drag-out war of a girls basketball game, St. Mike’s was the winner, 60-53, in the CHSAA Class AA semifinals Saturday, March 13, at Christ the King HS in Queens.

“When you play a team like that, you gotta play every possession,” Ford coach Mike Toro said. “We took a couple plays off and you can’t do that.”

With Ford up, 34-24, and 4:57 to go in the third quarter, St. Mike’s (19-5) went to its trademark amoeba zone and it helped spur a 10-0 run that tied the score up. From there, things went back and forth, but the Eagles used their size advantage to perfection and Jennifer O’Neill took over for stretches.

“The kid is a McDonald’s All-American,” Toro said. “In my opinion, she’s the best guard in New York City. That’s what All-Americans do.”

O’Neill had 21 of her 25 points in the second half. Tiffany Jones and Bra’Shey Ali got crucial putbacks. It didn’t help when Falcons star Shayra Brown was dumped on her head fighting for a rebound with Jones late in the fourth. The last quarter and a half just eluded Ford (21-6).

“You could say it hurt us,” Toro said of Brown’s spill. … “The kid fought hard. You gotta love the kid. In the future, it’s going to be scary to see what kind of basketball player she’s gonna be.”

For Brown, her next game will be at Boston College. For Diani Mason, who had a team-high 23 points, she’ll be back wearing Falcons red next fall. She arguably played her finest high-school game Saturday, knocking down 3-pointers, pulling up for jumpers and muscling in tough layups.

“It’s her team next year,” Toro said.

This season, which Toro, the first-year coach, called “the warning year,” Bishop Ford wasn’t supposed to get this far. The Falcons weren’t supposed to hand Christ the King just its second league loss in 10 years. They weren’t supposed to beat St. Mike’s in a non-league game back in December. This group matured and jelled quicker than most thought.

“I’m proud of how far we’ve gotten,” said Brown, who never envisioned such success as a freshman. “It’s one year at a time.”

Toro didn’t want to think much about 2010-11 after the game, though. He was too preoccupied with the thought that Ford had St. Mike’s on the ropes again, but let the Eagles get off and win the game. But then, all of a sudden, you could see a glimmer in his eye. Next year is coming quicker than he thought.

“The future is definitely bright,” said Toro, whose JV team won the city title. “You gotta look at us as a team to watch. Not to be cocky or anything, but I think next year we’re going to go all the way upstate.”