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Friars, Crusaders win first day at JFK
Jay Mumford


A tune-up for a showdown? That’s one way of looking at the St. Anthony’s Friars and Long Island Lutheran Crusaders’ Saturday games in the JFK tournament before they face off on Sunday for the #1 spot in the Long Island rankings. But a tune-up isn’t always as simple as it sounds, and #2 St. Anthony’s had their hands full with a formidable St. Gill Bernard squad. Lutheran disposed of Eastside High, but had to overcome bouts of lackluster play that they can’t afford to put on display in their duel with the Friars. Nonetheless, both teams notched wins and will return unscathed.

Friars topple St. Gill Bernard, 71-62

Teams can easily get ahead of themselves (and the schedule) and overlook a current opponent for a future one (like Lutheran), but St. A’s Head Coach, Ken Parham, insists his Friars are taking things game by game.

“St. Gil Bernard is ranked in the MSG Top 20, we knew this would be a good game,” he said. “We’re taking things one game at a time.”

Although the Friars maintained control and a lead in the first half behind offense from  Symone Kelly (10 points), Chastity Taylor (21 points), and Rebecca Musgrove (a team-high 23 points), the New Jersey-based St. Gil Bernard Knights were never so far behind that they couldn’t pose a threat. In fact, the inside punch of talented sophomore wing, Taylor Rooks, was a force all afternoon, and it was only a matter of time before the Knights made it a game. After taking a 12 point deficit into the locker room at halftime, St. Gill Bernard began making noise in the third quarter. Solid team defense from St. A’s caused the Knights to cough up the ball, but rushed offensive possessions and poor free throw shooting kept the door open for a St. Gill run.

“We’re usually a good free throw shooting team, but we struggled today,” Coach Parham said. “And they hit some big shots.”

Dominique Vitalis chipped in to help Rooks with point production in the paint, but no shot was bigger than Samantha Graber’s three pointer from the parking lot to end the third quarter and make it a five point game, 57-52.

Rooks would continue to state her case on both sides of the ball and from the stripe, eventually bringing the Knights within as little as three points, 61-58, with 3:39 left. She sacrificed her body by taking a charge moments later in a show of toughness that boosted the morale of the New Jersey school’s crowd contingent, but St. Gill’s run would end there. The Friars defense took control of the game; and defense creates offense when offense isn’t flowing on its own.

“The key for us today is we were able to get stops,” Coach Parham said. Crucial stops allowed sophomore floor general, Tyla Parham, to be a speed demon in transition and get Musgrove and Taylor the ball in places they could score it. An 8-1 run opened the Friars’ lead back up, and a key block on Rooks by Johanna Impelizerri was the final stop needed to put the Knights away for good.

Rooks’ 24 points were the game high, while Vitalis added 15, and Graber, 11 for St. Gill Bernard.

Crusaders gritty, not pretty against Eastside, 48-33

When you only have 10 points at the end of the first quarter, you’re either in a defensive stand-off or are struggling to score. When your opponent hasn’t scored at all by the end of the first quarter, it’s obvious that neither team is raining down buckets. In a game rife with missed chip shots and turnovers, LuHi overcame early struggles and a brief burst of momentum from the Eastside Lady Ghosts to seal a convincing win in the second half of action.

Early on, the defense was there. The offense was not. Sloppiness from the Lady Ghosts meant they wouldn’t muster a bucket until the second quarter rolled around, but the Crusaders weren’t pouring it on, either. Save a quick burst of scoring from ankle-breaking point guard, Lauren “Boogie” Brozoski (who scored the first eight points of the game), LuHi couldn’t fully-exploit Eastside’s offensive woes. With travel calls and various turnovers being the bane of both squads in the second quarter, the Lady Ghosts rose from the dead with a spark from Taylor Brown (who scored a team-high 11 points). Although Brown's involvement was enough to get them off the donut, their defensive efforts kept LuHi’s lead in single digits for awhile, and they finally found some outside shooting (courtesy of Desirelle Salas who scored 6 points) it was not enough to be a launching pad for a serious Eastside run. By the time the Crusaders found their groove in the second half, the Lady Ghosts’ early point deficit had come back to haunt them.

The Crusaders, while not exactly clicking on all cylinders, did employ a zone that clogged Eastside’s passing lanes and caused the turnovers to mount. Additional pressure on the ball and noteworthy hustle and gritty scrap from forwards Yuni Sher (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Staci Barrett (9 points, 9 rebounds) made a world of difference for LuHi, as they expanded their lead to as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter before closing the New Jersey team out.

Brozoski’s 17 points were the game high, as were her 7 assists. Sade Gibbons added 6 points and 8 rebounds for the Crusaders.

LuHi and St. Anthony’s will face off at 5:30 PM on Sunday at John F. Kennedy HS in the Bronx, NY.

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