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Park Slope's Bishop Ford Falcons bring home 1st-ever state title

Aaliyah Lewis, Brittany Henry and Jill Conroy rejoice after capturing Bishop Ford's first-ever state championship in girls' basketball over the weekend in Albany. AP Photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Their top player, Aaliyah Lewis, was sidelined with severe foul trouble.

Their head coach, Mika Toro, was just a face in the crowd, serving out the last game of his month-long suspension.

Also, they just happened to be taking on one of the best teams in the state, led by University of Connecticut-bound Saniya Chong.

And through it all, they played like champions.

The Lady Falcons of Bishop Ford High School did Park Slope and all of Brooklyn proud last Saturday night, bringing home the school's first New York State AA Federation Basketball Championship with a convincing 75-60 victory over Westchester's Ossining High School at Albany's Times Union Center.

After picking up four first-half fouls, Lewis, who is headed to St. John's University, managed only six points just one night after helping the Falcons get past PSAL powerhouse Murray Bergtraum in the semifinals.

Fortunately for Ford, junior Aaliyah Jones stepped up with 25 points, eight big steals and seven assists to guide her team to a coveted state crown.

Toro, who remains under investigation by Ford for allegedly providing financial benefits to his players, could only sit behind the bench and watch as the Falcons staked their claim as the best basketball team in our borough, as well as the entire city and state.

“This is the best group of girls [coach Toro] ever had, so we had to do it for him,” Lewis said after celebrating with her teammates.

***

Though high school basketball is behind us, it's time to start counting down to Opening Day of the local high school baseball season.

Reigning Athletic Conference of Independent Schools champion Berkeley Carroll, fresh off its spring training trip to Florida, continued to gear up for what should be a challenging quest to repeat as ACIS champs and challenge for a state crown.

The Lions made the most of their first game back from the Sunshine State on Tuesday morning, besting Wardlaw Hartridge School, 11-1, behind the solid pitching of Chris Harper and Jake Udewitz and two RBIs apiece from Robert Graham, Anthony Spina and Chris Baumann.

Led by coach Walter Paller, BCS will finish up its remaining exhibition slate at Susan Wagner in Staten Island on Saturday before kicking off the regular season with a non-league clash against Bay Ridge Catholic School power Xaverian on Monday.

On April 8, the Lions will visit two-time defending state champion Poly Prep, which is spearheaded by ace pitcher Andrew Zapata.

Last year, BCS battled tooth-and-nail with Brooklyn Heights rival St. Ann's for the ACIS crown, taking home the championship on a bases-loaded walk in the title game at MCU Park.

The Lions and Steamers, coached by Peter Zerneck, both qualified for the NYSAISS Championships, but neither took home the state's ultimate prize. In 2011, Paller led BCS to the state title game, only to suffer a tough loss to Poly Prep, which is aiming for an historic three-peat behind Zapata's brilliant pitching this spring.

Also of local varsity baseball interest, the Blue Pride Panthers of Brooklyn Friends, who are coming off a stinging loss in the championship game of last year's Private School Athletic Association finals to Martin Luther. BFS will kick off its campaign against Nazareth on April 4 at Red Hook Field.

***

In other local sports news, Brooklyn's up-and-coming junior middleweight prospect Frank "Notorious" Galarza announced Wednesday that he has inked a new deal with manager A.J. Galante, who is actually a year younger than the 27-year-old, undefeated pugilist.

Galarza (9-0-1 with five knockouts) is fresh off pounding Guillermo Ibarra in a two-round knockout at the Barclays Center on March 9.

“I have had my eye on Frank for some time now” said the 26-year-old Galante. “He has it all. An exciting fan friendly boxing style, toughness, the looks, an inspiring life story, a great personality and most of all, he is a winner. I am honored that he has put his faith in me to help guide his career to the next level. I’m excited to watching him grow as a professional, and I believe we haven’t even scratched the surface of his boxing abilities and he surely will become a force to be reckoned with. My philosophy as a boxing manager is to stay active, and take on the toughest available competition, and Frank fits that mold, he has done it his whole career on his own thus far.”

Galarza, 27, will join forces with Galante to form one of the younger Boxer-Manager duos in the sport, but the energy between the two will surely make the up and coming management group Elite Boxing Enterprises team even stronger.

“To be elite is to be the best or most skilled member of a group, so it only makes sense to sign with Elite Boxing Enterprises” stated Galarza. ”Elite Boxing is a true team and we are establishing a group of elite boxers with a chip on their shoulder. This upcoming year and into the future, fans will continue to hear my name, and I want to spread my reputation further as a fighter who will work harder than anybody and accomplish what many think is impossible”

***

On the Downtown collegiate scene, Jamal Olasewere's record-setting career at LIU-Brooklyn came to an end with last Tuesday's First Four loss to James Madison in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

But the all-time leading scorer in Blackbirds history is still raking in accolades to go with his 2013 NEC Player of the Year Award and his First Team All-NEC Selection.

Olasewere this week was named one of 25 players from mid-majuor conference around the nation to earn a spot on legendary college hoops coach Lou Henson's annual All-America Team,

Olasewere became the second Blackbird in as many years to be honored with a spot on the Henson team, following fellow senior Julian Boyd, who received the distinction after leading LIU to the second of a record three straight NCAA Tournament bids in 2012.

The 2013 Northeast Conference Player of the Year, Olasewere picked up his game following the season-ending injury to Boyd eight games into the season. The 6-7 lefty averaged career highs in scoring (18.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg) in leading LIU to its unprecedented third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

Boyd, who missed the Blackbirds' run to March Madness this year due to a severe knee injury suffering in December, is actively seeking an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA in 2013-14. Unfortunately, Olasewere and NEC Tournament MVP C.J. Garner, both native of Silver Springs, Md., won't be back for a shot at a fourth straight NEC crown and yet another shot at LIU's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

***

Desperate for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, the Terriers of St. Francis Brooklyn are bringing in a champion to add to their blossoming roster.

Amdy Fall, a 6-foot-6 forward the College of Central Florida, will be with the Terriers for the 2013-14 season after helping the College of Central Florida grab the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship this month.

Fall, a native of Senegal, averaged 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Patriots, who beat Northwest Florida State College, 74-69, for the title on Saturday in Hutchinson, Kan.

With three years of eligibility remaining on Remsen Street beginning next season, Fall will enjoy a homecoming of sorts after playing at Wings Academy in the Bronxm, where his rebounding and adept shot-blocking helped the squad go undefeated in league play and reach the PSAL Class AA semifinals two years ago.

He averaged 12 points per game during the regular season and 14 in the playoffs.

The Terriers reached their third consecutive NEC Tournament this season under coach Glenn Braica, but were outsted in the opening round at top-seeded Robert Morris, which went on to lose in the semifinals but stunned defending national champion Kentucky in the first round of the NITs last week.

March 27, 2013 - 10:48am


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