Bishop Ford wants to continue making history.
The Falcons girls basketball team is set to begin the final leg of its historic playoff run when it travels to Albany for the state Federation tournament this weekend. The team has already won the school’s first ever diocesan and Catholic state titles, and plans on winning two more games to finish the year as the best squad in the state of New York.
“It’s a big honor,” senior guard Aaliyah Lewis said. “Everyone wants to finish out strong in their last year. Having [us] make history and plus it’s my senior year, I want to go out leaving strong.”
Ford will get a tall task right away as it faces 15-time defending Public School Athletic League champion Murry Bergtraum in the Class AA semifinals at 5:30 pm on March 22 in the Times Union Center. The next day the winner takes on University of Connecticut commit Saniya Chong and Ossining in the final at 6:45 pm.
Bergtraum, which the Falcons scrimmaged earlier this season, is just another opponent it needs to beat in the players’ eyes.
“We don’t look at the teams, we don’t look at records, we just go out there to play,” junior guard Aaliyah Jones said. “We know some games are bigger than others, so we play harder.”
Assistant coaches Mary Gillespie and Eric Davis, who took over for suspended head coach Mike Toro, don’t believe this group will be distracted or overwhelmed by its first trip to the Federation tournament. The Bishop Ford team is tested by a non-league schedule that had them travel up and down the east coast and face six nationally ranked opponents.
“I just think that they are ready to handle business,” said Gillespie, who will retire after what is her 10th season at Ford.
She has called this the most cohesive group in her tenure throughout the playoffs and one that has seen multiple players mature. Jones has taken her game to another level during the post-season to form a deadly backcourt with Lewis and Jill Conroy. She’s become a big-time scorer and has shown an ability to make her teammates play better. The X-factor has been the play of senior forward Brittany Henry. She’s given the Falcons an inside presence it lacked early in the season.
“She’s been absolutely incredible,” Conroy said of fellow senior Henry.
Ford hopes it all adds up to bring home one more title to the Park Slope school and deliver a championship culmination of the careers of its five seniors who have waited four years for this opportunity.
“We always knew we had the potential to get up there and we finally did,” Conroy said. “It would be awesome to win and bring it home.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk