GARDEN CITY, L.I. — Chaz Williams wanted to prove a point on Sunday. The Hofstra-bound senior wanted to show his Bishop Ford team deserved to be mentioned among the elite in New York City boys’ basketball this season.
And more than anything, though, the lightning quick guard was looking to avenge a season-ending loss to Long Island Lutheran in last year’s Class A state Federation semifinals in Glens Falls.
“I still have a feeling in my stomach because some people say we can’t play with the best of the best or that we aren’t good enough,” Williams said. “I just took all that into consideration and looked at as: I’m just going to come out and play hard and so is my team.”
Instead of revenge, the Falcons experienced a rerun, a near carbon copy of last year’s defeat in a 70-55 loss to the Crusaders in the main event of the sixth annual Crotty Classic at Adelphi University.
“This is a photocopy of last year’s game quite a bit,” Ford coach John Infortunio said.
After an even and entertaining first half, Long Island Lutheran (9-8) went on a devastating 19-4 run to transform a three-point lead to an 18-point advantage on a 3-pointer by Achraf Yacoubou midway through the second half.
“I think we ended up losing the game coming out at the half,” Infortunio said. “We gave up a lot of long-range bombs, which were killers and it really forced us into a couple of defensive match-ups we didn’t like.”
While highly touted junior Tobias Harris (18 points) made his second appearance since missing 12 games because of torn ligaments in his ankle, Yacoubou was the hero for LuHi for a second straight day against a New York City team.
On Saturday the 6-foot-3 sophomore swing scored the game-winning layup with 0.2 seconds left in overtime against All Hallows. Against Ford, Yacoubou scored a team-high 28 points in a variety of ways.
“We were so focused on Tobias that we couldn’t contain (Yacoubou) and that killed us,” Williams said.
Infortunio said he flashed back to last year’s Federation game when a similar player provided the dagger.
“He’s an inside-outside guy and those guys are lethal, a lot like the kid (Jeriel) Henriquez they had last year,” he said. “He could shoot anywhere in the gym and his range was the parking lot. They’re very well balanced, like they were last year.”
Bishop Ford (15-2) is considered a favorite to at least get back to the CHSAA Class A title game this year in part because it, too, has had balanced scoring. Sure, Williams is the star, but others, like Matt Hall and Kamari Murphy, have provided additional scoring.
On Sunday, Williams scored a game-high 31 points, but only Hall finished in double figures and he had 11.
“We needed that second and third guy to step today and we didn’t get it,” Infortunio said.
But even Williams, who played in front of future college coach Tom Pecora, wasn’t blameless. After misses and makes alike, Long Island Lutheran (9-8) pushed the ball up court, getting behind the Falcons for easy layups. That is usually what Ford does to opponents.
“We weren’t getting back on defense, we were lackadaisical getting back on defense,” Williams said. “I’m not going to lie, I caught myself a couple of times trailing defensively.”
The Falcons now have a week to lick their wounds and prepare for a Friday night meeting with St. Edmund and then a rematch of last year’s CHSAA Class A championship game against Iona Prep on Sunday in New Rochelle.
After a loss to defending state Federation ‘A’ champion Jamesville-Dewitt in the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic in Binghamton, Ford reeled off eight straight victories.
Perhaps a humbling loss to LuHi will serve as wake-up call, especially with the Gaels the ones hungry for revenge next Sunday.
“This is pretty good medicine,” Infortunio said.
Added Williams: “It’s going to help big-time because every time we take a loss we always bounce back stronger than ever. This loss should make us better.”