Citing a desire to improve her grades, Michael, a 6-foot-3 senior center who was averaging 25.8 points and 16.5 rebounds for the Angels, left August Martin January 24 and enrolled in the Patterson School, a prep school in North Carolina.Although Ross was disappointed by Michael's departure, she took it in stride, choosing instead to focus on first round PSAL 'A' playoff opponent Curtis. She torched the 20th-seeded Warriors for a career-high 34 points Feb. 16 in a 77-59 win at home."I didn't think she was going to leave, but for months people had been talking about her leaving," Ross said. "If she leaves she leaves. I don't feel she abandoned us. It was her mother's choice. If it had been her choice, I know she would have stayed."Michael's absence caused No. 13 August Martin (18-2) to drop out of the borough championships at the beginning of the month. Her defection together with two girls who had to work and others who were injured left the Angels with only four players in uniform. Against Curtis, the Falcons fielded just seven players. When sophomore Shenese Major fouled out with 4:57 left in the game, Martin coach Joel Ascher, staring at his depleted bench, cautioned his team to loosen up defensively. Two other players, Shauntelle Nelson and Trina Payne, had four fouls each."We had to be careful," he said.August Martin trailed 16-10 after the first quarter. Following the game, players admitted that it had been awkward playing without Michael. The team easily defeated Townsend Harris February 2 without her, but that was against one of the doormats of the division. Curtis reached the finals of the PSAL 'A' city championship two years ago and would certainly be a stiffer test.The Falcons rediscovered themselves in the second quarter and outscored Curtis (9-3 Staten Island 'A') 20-10 to take a 30-26 halftime lead. Ross' 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining in the half gave Martin a 23-22 advantage, and the Warriors, appearing winded, went around five minutes without scoring. Curtis was led by Avery Josey's 14 points."We hit a dead zone in the first quarter," Ascher said. "Then we recovered. Ross had a great game. She did everything except do the (score) books and the clock."Before Michael left for prep school, Ross, a senior, was firmly entrenched as the team's second option, usually deferring to her teammate and friend in clutch situations. Against Curtis, Ross seized control of the game in the second half where she scored scored 22 of her points. Ross, who went 15-of-17 from the line, relentlessly drove to the basket, using a hesitation move that she said works because she knows exactly when to catch her defender off balance."I always watch their feet," she said. "When I see their feet go flat, that's when I go by them."August Martin, which advances to face No. 4 Grand Street Campus March 4 at New York City Tech, went on an 18-5 run from the end of the third quarter to the middle of the fourth that was capped by a dazzling baseline drive by Payne, a senior that made it 58-44 with 5:39 remaining. "We all knew we could win without her," said Payne, who finished with 8 points. "Today was a test to see what we could do without her."Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.
©2005 Community News Group
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