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Lewis blown out by Bergtraum at Garden

After struggling mightily in the first half, the Francis Lewis girls basketball team had cut Murry Bergtraum's lead to six on Teresa Rozza’s touchdown pass to freshman Jasmin Lawrence for a layup. With 3:48 left in the third quarter, the Patriots crowd had come alive and it appeared the team had finally wrestled control of the game away from the mighty Blazers.

But Bergtraum wasn’t fazed. Lewis had just delivered its best shot and the Blazers didn’t blink, responding with a 24-0 run to cruise to a 72-36 win in the PSAL ‘A’ title game at Madison Square Garden Sunday. It is the Blazers’ third straight city crown.

“They’re a great basketball team,” said Francis Lewis coach Mike Eisenberg. “I’m not blowing smoke like I did during the week, they are the best basketball team I’ve seen in 10 years.”

Some of Francis Lewis’ troubles in the first half were magnified during the Blazers awesome rally. Bergtraum (27-0) dominated the glass, getting several easy second-chance buckets, while the Patriots (24-4) struggled to make the most out of a number of good looks.

Led by game MVP Kelli Ann Henry, who had 17 rebounds and 11 points, the Blazers outrebounded Lewis 64-33, including 26-16 on the offensive boards. Bergtraum outscored the Patriots 26-6 on second chance points.

“We talked about boxing-out and rebounding,” Eisenberg said. “[Bergtraum sophomore Crystal] McFadden is very tough underneath. We just couldn’t play with her — and their fourth best player was the MVP today.”

In the week leading up to the game, Eisenberg compared his team’s attempt to dethrone Bergtraum to the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s 1980 “Miracle on Ice” win over USSR, David vs. Goliath on the hardwood. But while they were missing easy baskets, it was clear early on that Lewis could play with the Blazers.

The daunting task of trying to beat unbeaten Bergtraum became even more difficult when Lewis senior Diane Ramirez, the team’s inspirational leader, went down with a knee injury 1:22 into the second quarter with the Patriots trailing 19-11.

Ramirez, a senior starting shooting guard who missed the 1997 title game at the Garden because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, stole the ball and went strong to the hole. But she missed the layup, colliding with a Bergtraum player before hitting the floor.

Ramirez immediately clutched her right knee. After several minutes she was taken off the floor in a wheelchair and brought to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. Preliminary reports indicate a torn ACL.

“Besides being our starting two guard and a senior, she motivates us,” Rozza said. “She could be having an off-game, but she is always there to cheer us on.”

Rozza — who wore Morales’ warm-up shirt at halftime — and several of her Patriots teammates dedicated the rest of the game to Morales.

After shooting 15.6 percent (5-for-32) from the field in the first half to trail 29-19, Lewis came out strong in the third quarter. Sophomore Maria Miaoulis, who was 0-for-8 from the field to that point, nailed a three-pointer and an 8-foot jumper to cut Lewis’ deficit to 32-24. Sophomore Alanna Adams, who was 0-for-5 at the break, canned a 10-footer to make it a six-point game, as Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky called a time-out.

McFadden (17 points, 16 rebounds) answered with a basket, drawing Morales’ fourth foul. But the sophomore missed the free throw and Rozza caught the Blazers sleeping on defense, firing a length of the court pass to Lawrence (team-high 14 points) for a layup to again cut its deficit to six.

But senior guard Cindy Gonzalez responded with back-to-back baskets. Henry added consecutive buckets, McFadden scored on a three-point play and Gonzalez drained a runner at the buzzer to give Bergtraum a 48-30 lead at the end of the third quarter.

“They took advantage of our disadvantage,” Rozza said. “We shot pretty bad in the beginning and I think I had a horrible game. They took advantage of the little things.”

Bergtraum wasn’t done there. After scoring the last 12 points of the third quarter, the Blazers scored the first 12 of the fourth quarter and on McFadden’s old-fashioned three-point play, the Blazers led comfortably, 60-32.

“In the beginning we were still nervous, we were still caught up in everything that was going on,” said Gonzalez, who scored a game-high 20 points. “In the second half we played better as a team and just came out and played like we usually do. I guess we were feeding off their faults.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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