ALBANY – The game’s outcome was never in doubt for Aaliyah Jones once suspended Bishop Ford head coach Mike Toro walked into the Times Union Center Friday night.
Toro had not been on the bench or seen his team play since the school suspended him along with its two athletic directors as it investigated potential improper financial benefits to members of the girls basketball team. Toro, who sat in the stands behind the Ford bench, declined comment, but Jones said her teammates’ play made a statement about their devotion to their coach.
“We got a little extra boost of energy from our coach,” she said. “He’s here. We had to do it for him. We couldn’t lose with him in the gym.”
The Falcons ended up beating 15-time defending Public School Champion Murry Bergtraum 57–40 in the state Federation Class AA semifinals on Friday. The game was a quasi city final between the five boroughs’ two champions. Ford advanced to play University of Connecticut commit Saniya Chong and Ossining in the state title game on Saturday.
“We are right there,” St. John’s-bound guard Aaliyah Lewis said. “We are at the end of the tunnel right now just seeing the light. Now just one more game.”
Ford (25–7) got there with balanced scoring and a defense that caused 16 Bergtraum turnovers. Jones and Lewis scored 12 points each and combined for nine steals. Jill Conroy added 11 points and Brittany Henry had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“It doesn’t get better than that,” Ford assistant coach Mary Gillespie said of the balance. “It just shows how unselfish and cohesive they are as a team.”
Jones scored five straight points to close out the first half and give Ford a 35–24 lead at the break. Bergtraum (17–8), who was led by Jasmine Nwajei’s 19 points, got within 48–38 with 6:17 left in the game before the Falcons rattled off the next six points to put the game away.
Ford wasn’t satisfied with beating Bergtraum and reaching the final.
“We had to prove who was the best champion in New York [City],” Jones said. “Now we are No. 1 in New York [City]. Now we are going to come out No. 1 overall.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk
©2013 Community News Group
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