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August Martin bounced by Sheepshead Bay

Instead of focusing on how poorly his team played in the opening quarter, or how balanced Sheepshead Bay's scoring was, August Martin head coach Joel Ascher chose the minutes following the Angels 62-56 loss in the PSAL Class A semifinals at St. John's University on Sunday to lambaste the game's referees.

"That was the worst officiating I've ever seen in my life," he said. "Not that I want to criticize officiating, but in certain instances I feel I have to and that was very bad. It really takes away from the kids."

In particular, Ascher singled out Angela Gonzalez, who called an intentional foul on Martin's Ronniesha Lucas with 24.9 seconds left in the game and Sheepshead Bay leading by four, 60-56.

"The intentional foul was called by Ms. Gonzalez, who just happens to be related to [aunt of] Cindy Gonzalez who plays on Bergtraum," Ascher said. "It's very interesting how people are picked to officiate games like that."

The PSAL also drew Ascher's ire.

"I don't think we're playing on an even playing field, which is not unusual for the PSAL," Ascher said. "How come the referees are not rotated? Aren't there other officials who can ref the game? Why do certain people do all the games and that's the end of it?"

At the end of the game Ascher confronted PSAL Assistant Director Stephen J. Budihas about the officials. When asked if Budihas responded to his questions, Ascher said, "They never give answers. They just stand there and smile. I bet he didn't even know."

Budihas, however, refuted Ascher's claims that the same referees do all the games and also said he believed the crew working Sunday's semifinal game was "the cream of the crop."

"That's entirely untrue," he said. "We've been rotating and giving everybody a shot this year."

As for Gonzalez, Budihas said, "I think she did a great job, she's one of our finest referees."

The game's officials weren't even a topic of conversation early in the game. What was, though, was how much third-seeded Sheepshead Bay (25-1) dominated No. 2 August Martin.

With the Angels playing a diamond-and-two defense to concentrate on the Sheepshead Bay guard tandem of sisters Nastassia Boucicault and Katiuscia Boucicault, the Lady Sharks found a way to spread out its scoring among all five players.

Adebayo Akingba (11 points) scored from the right blocks, LaToya Steele nailed an 18-footer and Shanell Reliford (11 points) scored on a driving layup.

Of course the Boucicault sisters did their share of scoring as well. Nastassia, a junior point guard, hit a three from the right wing en route to 15 points, Katiuscia scored on a layup after a steal. The Lady Sharks opened up a 22-6 first quarter lead thanks mostly to a swarming full court press that wreaked havoc on August Martin (21-3).

"In the beginning, everyone was tense and happy," said Lucas, who scored a game-high 25 points. "I told them, don't get happy too soon because they're small and they can play defense and run."

Sheepshead Bay extended its lead to 23, 37-14, in the second quarter on a banked three- pointer by Katiuscia Boucicault (19 points). The Lady Sharks went into the break ahead, 39-21. How did Sheepshead Bay head coach Jeff Caspi feel about leading August Martin, winners of 12 of the last 17 PSAL championships, by 20?

"It was scary because momentum swings and I told them, 'They're going to come out with fire in their eyes and if you can just hold the tide down a little bit, maybe they'll think they won't win,'" Caspi said. "Unfortunately, they're a great team and they have great players and they came back."

Martin certainly did. The Angels went on a 19-6 run, capped by a steal and layup by Eboni Williams (16 points), to get within four, 60-56, with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter. Williams made up for two missed free throws with 1:34 to go.

Martin senior Tamika Cox had a chance to bring her team to within two, but she missed both free throws with 37 seconds remaining.

"Two girls missed two sets of foul shots at the end of the game, which really killed us," Ascher said.

After missing the front end of a one-and-one with 32 seconds left, Nastassia Boucicault picked up her own rebound and dribbled to midcourt where she was fouled by Lucas, who was called for the intentional foul.

Boucicault missed both free throws, but the referees ruled an August Martin player yelled on her second attempt, which resulted in another free throw, one Boucicault nailed to put the Lady Sharks ahead 61-56.

"How did he single out our girl on our team and nobody else?" Ascher asked. "It's really annoying."

Sheepshead Bay advances to the PSAL final at Madison Square Garden to take on No. 1 Murray Bergtraum, the defending city champions Sunday at 11 a.m.

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