Defense in big 4th quarter aids Lewis comeback

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To Ayana Duncanson, there was one main difference between the fourth quarter against Woonsocket (R.I.) and the rest of the game.

“Everyone realized the score,” the junior forward on the Francis Lewis girls’ basketball team said. “We couldn’t and we weren’t going to lose this game.”

Down 12 points at the start of the final quarter, the Patriots, led by an amped up defense, went on an absolute tear. A 13-0 run capped by a Duncanson jumper with 4:41 left got Francis Lewis back the lead and it would eventually win 58-47 Sunday night at the Big Apple Recruiting Christmas Classic at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn.

The Patriots played man-to-man defense for three quarters, before new coach Steve Tsai switched to a trapping 3-2 zone in the fourth. The adjustment, with junior point guard Kelly Robinson and sophomore guard Tatiana Wilson as the linchpins, caused countless turnovers and easy baskets for Francis Lewis (5-1), which outscored Woonsocket 27-6 in the fourth.

“ ‘We can’t lose this game,’ ” Robinson said she was thinking at the end of the third quarter. “We have to pick up the intensity. … I think we just wanted it more.”

Tsai, while thrilled with the comeback, wasn’t happy with his team’s performance. Since taking over for Mike Eisenberg two weeks ago, Tsai has preached defense first and there wasn’t a whole lot of it being played well by the Patriots early in the game.

“It shouldn’t have been like that,” he said of having to come back. … “We really didn’t play defense [until the fourth quarter]. It was atrocious.”

Robinson and 6-foot-3 junior Sabrina Jeridore were hampered by foul trouble, especially in the first half, but Wilson and Duncanson stepped up huge on the offensive end. Wilson had 15 points in a second straight excellent performance and Duncanson, most known for her defense, also had 15 — her highest point total this season since transferring from Elmont.

“My coach has been on working me being a better offensive player,” Duncanson said of Tsai.

Added Tsai: “She’s hyper; she has so much energy. We can use that offensively.”

Tsai was sort of thrown into the coaching job Dec. 15, three days after Eisenberg was relieved of his duties and reassigned out of Francis Lewis for allegedly verbally abusing a student in his gym class. Eisenberg, who led the team to six trips to the PSAL city championship game in 15 years, is being forced to report to a reassignment center every day pending a hearing.

His dismissal was certainly a blow to the players on the team, but they seem to be using adversity as motivation. As of Sunday, the Patriots were 2-0 since Tsai took over with a match-up scheduled for Monday against Bishop Ford back at the Big Apple Recruiting Christmas Classic next up.

It didn’t always look easy Sunday night. Lauren Masse had four three-pointers and 14 of her 20 points in the third quarter as Woonsocket (4-1) took a 41-31 lead. Ashley Dubois added nine points for the Villa Novans, who will play Mary Louis Tuesday at Ford.

But if Francis Lewis plays the same way it did in the fourth quarter for the rest of the season, it could be a very dangerous team.

“Yes, we have to,” Duncanson said. “There’s no exception. If we play like that, it’ll be easier. … I think we need a blowout to make everyone feel better.”

Posted 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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