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Francis Lewis girls upset by Curtis in semis, 66-63

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Jasmin Lawrence couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu as she and her teammates on the Francis Lewis girls’ basketball team huddled before overtime in a PSAL Class A semifinal against Curtis at St. John’s University Saturday.

She thought back to the last year’s quarterfinal round when the same Warriors pushed the Patriots to overtime before Lewis prevailed en route to its second straight trip to Madison Square Garden for the PSAL title game.

No. 2 Francis Lewis was confident, if not cocky, about the prospects of facing Murry Bergtraum for a third consecutive year, but it will be No. 3 Curtis making the trip to the World’s Most Famous Arena Sunday after shocking the Patriots, 66-63.

The Warriors, the first girls’ team ever from Staten Island to play in the PSAL title game, will take on four-time defending champion Murry Bergtraum in the city championship game Sunday at 11 a.m. The Lady Blazers easily defeated No. 5 Martin Luther King, 66-39, in the other semifinal at Alumni Hall.

“We knew Curtis would be tough, but we should have taken things one game at a time,” said Lawrence, who scored 7 points on just 2-of-18 shooting from the field. “We thought the Garden was our destiny. We didn’t play today like it would be our last game.”

Curtis’ Acasha Gordon also thought about last year’s game, when Francis Lewis barely held on for a 65-57 victory. The senior guard made up for last year’s disappointment by burying six free throws in the final 35.5 seconds of overtime to put the game away.

Gordon scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and was 8-for-10 from the foul line.

“I just tried to block out everything, take a deep breath and concentrate on the foul shots,” Gordon said. “We just played our hardest. Last year we knew we should have beaten them.”

“She was outstanding,” Curtis coach Dot Guerriero said of Gordon. “She was as cool as I’ve ever seen her on the foul line. She looked like she was at practice.”

Gordon and her teammates may have been the only ones at Alumni Hall who thought Curtis had a chance coming in, as many had already penciled in a Lewis vs. Bergtraum final.

But led by Meaghan Mallen, who knocked down three three-pointers in the opening stanza, Curtis (23-7) jumped ahead 20-14 at the end of the first quarter and then weathered a 12-0 Francis Lewis late in the second half to trail 32-30 at halftime.

Most other teams would have wilted at that point, but the Warriors fought back. With Francis Lewis switching from a 2-3 zone to a box-and-one in order to defend Talia Sutton, Curtis pushed the ball inside to Stacy Staniland, who scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half after struggling in the opening two quarters.

“In the second half she came up big,” Guerriero said of Staniland, who also had 12 rebounds. “She doesn’t want to disappoint; she’s a hard worker.”

Staniland’s basket put Curtis ahead 57-55 with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Maurita Reid answered with a baseline layup with 17 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Reid, who led Francis Lewis with 15 points, scored the first two points of overtime on a layup off of a turnover, but Gordon, who netted all nine of Curtis’ points in the extra session, slashed through the lane to tie the game at 59.

With Francis Lewis (29-2) trailing 64-63, Reid slipped before reaching half court and lost the ball out of bounds.

Following a pair of Gordon free throws with 11.1 seconds left, Reid again lost control of the ball near the top left of the arc.

Coppin-State-bound Sutton (10 points, 15 rebounds) dove on the floor and briefly had control of the ball, but Lewis senior Teresa Rozza (8 points, 4 steals) came up with the ball, although her desperation three-pointer at the buzzer came up short.

“I feel we played a good game but they wanted it,” Reid said. “We wanted it too but they came for it.”

“They’re a good team, very well coached that played very hard and they deserved to win,” added Francis Lewis coach Mike Eisenberg. “They just played tougher, smarter and harder.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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