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Francis Lewis girls set out to defend their city basketball championship

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Last year, Francis Lewis was a sleeper team that won its first girls city championship in basketball since 1979, the first by a school not named Murry Bergtraum in 15 years.

Since beating South Shore 65-57 and ending Bergtraum’s stranglehold on the championship, Patriots coach Steve Tsai knows what the next challenge is for his team as they try to repeat.

“I think if anything it might be a little harder this year because last year we might have been considered a sleeper team where this year we’re more of a target,” Tsai said. “So we have to be better prepared this year. It’s part of me being a better coach and making sure our girls are prepared for all different situations and for each of our girls making sure they’ve improved and not being the same team as last year.”

The Patriots were actually a target last season. That was because they had transfer center Chelsea Robinson and heard the constant talk about her being controversially cleared to play by the PSAL. Still, Robinson was not much of a factor in the title game due to foul trouble.
Instead it was some of those who are returning to the team this year, such as the junior guard trio of Sierra Green, Taliyah Brisco and Chi La Ba Bady.

“For us, since I’ve taken over, I’ve tried to make it as collective as possible,” Tsai said. “We’re definitely not a one-, two- or three-man show. For us to be successful, because we’re so small, we really have to band together. Everyone’s got to help each other out both offensively and defensively.

“We have a system that we run and it’s not going to be one person that is the reason why we win. It’s going to be that we do it as a collective group and it’s because we follow our system. For each of the girls they have to make sure we’re prepared. We can’t use the excuse that we’re underclassman because most of the girls are upperclassman so my expectations of them in terms of understanding what they’re supposed to do is a little bit higher.”

Last year Brisco and La Bady averaged 10 points. Green was even better, averaging 19 points and getting 21 in the title game, which earned her MVP honors.

Even with that trio, there are others Tsai is counting on. That includes Robin Francis, junior

Dominique Williams and sophomore forward Sabrina Clement, who is the only post player.
“It’s pretty much the same team,” Tsai said. “We lost Chelsea, she was the lone senior that graduated and then we have some freshman. For us we’ve always said we’re only going to be as good as our least experienced players. So it’s really important for them to catch up and it’s also important for each of our girls to constantly improve throughout the season, so they bring something more to the table. The only way our team is going to improve and be better than last year is if each of our girls take on the challenge of being better players.”

Taking on that challenge also means running whatever type of offense the Patriots employ in a specific game. Tsai said that the Patriots will be up-tempo, but also will be able to adjust to how the opponent is defending them. It also will be a team that emphasizes spacing and ball movement. For Tsai, the goal is to have players show improvement and play the game the right way.

“For me I want to make sure if the girls get the opportunity to play at the next level, they can say they were taught the right way,” Tsai said. “For me I don’t look at the end result. It’s great to win a championship, but the journey and process of getting better each day is so much more valuable.”

If that process of getting better every day manifests itself, perhaps the title will remain in Fresh Meadows.



Francis Lewis HS girls basketball team wins championship

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre


A magical season for the Francis Lewis Lady Patriots girls’ basketball team culminated with a fairy tale ending, as the team won its first PSAL Division AA championship.

For 15 consecutive years Murry Bergtraum High School won the city title, but Lewis knocked off the Manhattan team in a semifinal last week.

Then the Lady Patriots outlasted perennial powerhouse South Shore Lady Vikings in the city championship game on Saturday, March 8, and won 65-58.

“It’s a pretty great feeling knowing that we made it this far,” Lewis sophomore guard Sierra Green said. “This was our goal at the beginning of the year. And we succeeded.”

The team’s win and superb season was by and large a result of the efforts of Green. She led the Lady Patriots with a game-high 21 points, and was the recipient of the league’s MVP award.

By halftime Lewis led 27-18, and Green scored more than half of the team’s points with 14.

“Sierra is just one of those other girls. I always say she has no conscious,” Lady Patriots head coach Stephen Tsai said. “We could have no offense and she makes something happen.”

But the guard was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and the Lady Vikings, which had a 55-38 advantage on the boards, turned rebounds into scoring opportunities.

South Shore executed a late second half run, eventually cutting the lead to 51-47.

Lady Patriots junior guard Chi La Bady heated up in the second half. She scored 11 of her 19 points to help Lewis push back against the Lady Vikings’ charge.

“My teammates did step up,” Green said, “so I didn’t have to rush, not rush, I didn’t have to go that hard as I did earlier in the game.”




Some Queens students eligible for up to $1K in scholarships

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A total of up to $9,000 in scholarships is on the table for some community-minded Queens students.

School District 26 scholars, from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, have until March 28 to enter a contest to compete for $250 to $1,000 in prizes.

Elementary youngsters are asked to draw pictures of their favorite school activity, while high school students from Benjamin Cardozo, Francis Lewis, Bayside, Queens High School of Teaching and Martin Van Buren write essays, describing inspirational, fictional characters.

“Some of the essays that come in are really moving,” said Mary Vaccaro, the district’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative. “And in the elementary grades, we’ve seen some truly gifted people. We’ve seen some really amazing things.”

This is the eighth year of the contest, headed by the UFT and the (CSA). It is judged by a panel of 30 district parents, teachers and principals.

In the last two years, 1,450 students applied and $15,500 in scholarships were given away, Vaccaro said.

“When this started, we felt we really wanted to be involved in the community,” she said. “We thought it would be a good idea to honor those students who are really trying hard.”

Applications and rules can be found at http://www.uft.org/news/district-26-scholarship-application-available.

Those interested can also call 718-275-4400 for more information.

Checks will be distributed May 22 to winners, during the district’s annual scholarship dinner dance.



Francis Lewis HS tops Aussies on the court

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Australia came to Queens to play basketball, only to be blasted off the court by the Francis Lewis boys’ varsity team.

Melbourne’s Club Kilsyth Cobras arrived stateside Thursday and played the Francis Lewis High School Patriots (PSAL 5-1) Friday afternoon.

“It’s a good cultural experience for both teams,” said Gerard Ciarleglio, Francis Lewis’ head coach. “For them to come half way across the planet, the boys were excited. They [were] looking forward to representing New York.”

The Cobras raised $22,000 to make the trip, said coach Darren King. After playing Francis Lewis, they head to Charlotte and then to Los Angeles for games. In Melbourne, sports are played outside of school and the Cobra players train and play primarily on weekends.

When the noon game started on Friday, it was about 4 a.m. back home for the Aussies, King said.

Sophomore Jaheam Cornwall, the Patriots’ 15-year-old starting point guard, led both his team and the scoreboard, ending the game with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – the first triple-double Francis Lewis has seen in about three years, Ciarleglio said.

Cornwall achieved his goal of “being aggressive” right out the gate, faking and driving hard to the basket, making lay-up after lay-up throughout the game.

Guard Ashton Rosa seemed to be the always-open man, both hitting from the perimeter and going to the basket. He racked up 17 points and seven rebounds.

Despite the Cobras’ fast transition and quick offense, they were unable to see through the majority of their shots. The Patriots nearly tripled the international visitors’ score through all four quarters.

Francis Lewis maintained a good defense and grabbed rebounds from the Cobras’ failed shots. Center Quentin Williams followed Cornwall in rebounds, ending with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

Following the 84-30 victory, Ciarleglio said he wants his team to “keep playing hard,” and particularly work on executing offensive plays, passing and boxing out.

For the Cobras, the next move was getting some rest.

“They need some sleep,” King said.



Heejun Han to tour with “American Idol” this summer

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Fans clamoring for more Heejun Han, will have the chance when the “American Idol” tour rolls through New York this summer.

The “American Idol Live” concert tour — featuring the show’s top 10 performers — lands at Nassau Coliseum on August 22.

Han, a graduate of Francis Lewis High School, will be among Colton Dixon, DeAndre Brackensick, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips and Skylar Laine on the Uniondale stage.

The 45-city tour kicks off on July 6 in Detroit and lasts through September 11 when it finishes in Milwaukee.

The Flushing resident was sent home from “Idol” on March 29 after reaching the show’s top 9.

Season 11’s “American Idol” will be named on May 24.

To purchase tickets fans can visit ticketmaster.com.