ALBANY – Bishop Ford has added the final piece to its historic playoff run.
The Falcons outplayed Ossining, the state’s top-ranked team, 75–60, for Ford’s first state Federation Class AA girls basketball title at the Times Union Center on Saturday night.
Junior guard Aaliyah Jones, who scored 25 points and earned most valuable player honors, was still trying to take it all in moments after the final buzzer.
“It’s still shocking,” she said. “I still can’t believe I’m 16 and we are making history.”
The Falcons persevered through a trying post-season. Bishop Ford suspended head coach Mike Toro and its two athletic directors as it investigates potential improper benefits to members of team. His absence fueled the already talented club during it playoffs. The players wanted to win for him as much as for themselves. Toro watch the team’s triumph from the stands Saturday night.
After the victory, the players convinced Toro to come out of the stands to celebrate with them, and he patted them all on their backs before taking pictures with the team.
“We did it for him,” senior guard Aaliyah Lewis said. “He really deserves it. This is the best group of girls he’s ever had.”
The Falcons (26–7) earned the title by slowing down one of the most prolific scorers in state history — UConn-commit Saniya Chong. The trio of guards pressured her and trapped her into 12 turnovers and just 10 of 31 shooting that kept Chong well below her average 26 points. Ossining (22–5) shot an uncharacteristic 6-for-33 from 3-point range.
“We tried to mix it up and switch her around, get her to think about how she would play it,” Ford’s Jill Conroy said.
What made the win more impressive was that Ford overcame St. John’s-bound guard Aaliyah Lewis missing more than 14 minutes of game time after she picked up her fourth foul with 3:11 left in the second quarter. Freshman Giolibeth Perez came off he bench to score 11 points and grab five rebounds. Conroy chipped in 14 points and Brittany Henry pulled down 16 rebounds to go along with seven points.
Lewis unselfishly asked not to go back in because the team was playing so well.
“Thank you Jill, Aaliyah and G-Lo for stepping up,” Lewis said. “When I came in that fourth quarter I knew not to do too much, just pass the ball.”
Jones’s jumper started a 12-2 Ford run to close the third quarter, capped by a Perez 3-pointer and a Conroy layup to push the Falcons lead to 60-46 after three. Ossining pulled within 67-57 on a Chong trey with 3:25 left in the game, but Tanasia “Sweets” Blake had a basket and added a free throw to keep Ford in control.
The victory left assistant coach Mary Gillespie, who is retiring after nine years at the school, beaming with pride alongside fellow assistant Eric Davis. They talked about the poise and determination this team showed to be state champs.
“I just thought every time we stepped up a level everyone thought we were going to get knocked down in the next round,” Gillespie said. “They just kept winning and winning.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk
©2013 Community News Group
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