It’s hard enough going into a hostile environment like Bishop Loughlin. But last week, Bishop Ford had to do it without its main coaches.
Head man Mike Toro was at the wake of his stepfather, who died earlier this month of complications from heart surgery, and top assistant Anthony Rizzo was home with his family after his grandmother had fallen ill. In their place was athletic director Pete Goyco and boys coach Denis Nolan, the former girls coach. Assistant Mary Gillespie was the staff’s lone familiar face.
Instead of being affected by that unfamiliarity in a negative way, the Falcons used the absences to fuel them.
“We wanted to win the game not just for us, but to show them that we care and that we can be the team they think we are,” junior Brittany Lewis said. “They should still believe in us.”
After their performance, it would be hard not to.
Bishop Ford put together one of its most inspired performances in recent memory, pulling away from Loughlin in the second half of a 69-47 win in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls basketball in Fort Greene on Feb. 16. The Falcons led just 30-23 at halftime, but kept attacking. The largest lead of the game was the final score.
“We wanted to not so much outplay them, but more outlast them,” Goyco said. “We’re pretty deep as far as the team goes. If they can keep the tempo up and not turn the ball over and make layups, they would be able to outlast them.”
Ford, in its regular-season finale, put the game away at the end of the third quarter. Senior guard Diani Mason banked in a 3-pointer and junior guard Shanice Vaughan drained a 3 and converted a transition layup for an 8-0 run that gave the Falcons a 48-33 lead with 31 seconds left in the frame.
“Throughout the season, the third quarter has probably been our worst in every game,” Lewis said. “We definitely wanted to break that. We wanted to come out strong and keep the momentum up. That’s what we did.”
Vaughan played her best and most consistent game of the season, scoring in every way possible. The athletic guard finished with 28 points, four assists and four steals. After the game, Goyco came over to her and playfully shook her, asking if that woke her up.
“I think that was it,” Vaughan said. “That woke me up. He asked if that was gonna start a run for me. Yeah. We’re about to go into playoffs now. It’s big time.”
Lewis had 15 points and 12 rebounds and sophomore Aaliyah Lewis had nine points and seven assists, really setting the tone for Ford offensively with her distribution.
Aliyah Alston had 14 points, Jasmine Alston had seven points and Ayana Ratliff and Tiffany Benjamin each had six for Loughlin, which can still earn fourth place if its wins out and fifth place, the top Class A seed in the state tournament, if it just beats Molloy on Sunday. Coach Kasim Alston was impressed by Ford’s effort.
“I really think they stepped in to let Mike know they can handle it even though he wasn’t here,” Kasim Alton said. “They had leadership.”
That, a big game from Vaughan, rebounding from Brittany Lewis, patience on offense and little motivation with their coaches out did the trick.
“It was kind of strange, but everybody has to play hard,” Vaughan said. “We had to win for them two.”