The Bishop Ford girl’s basketball team chanted suspended head coach Mike Toro’s name during its customary pregame huddle before its championship game.
The players brought him and their school its first-ever diocesan title at the highest level by defeating Archbishop Molloy 51–45 in the Brooklyn-Queens Division I final at St. John’s Prep on Saturday. They later brought the trophy to Toro, who was not in attendance, and celebrated the historic victory.
“We mainly had to do it for him,” said senior Aaliyah Lewis, who scored 14 points. “It was just motivation having him out. We just knew everything was against us. We just came together as a family.”
The school suspended Toro and athletic directors Pete Goyco and Eileen Egan two weeks ago as it investigates potential improper financial benefits to members of the team. The players haven’t let it bother them.
Ford lost in last year’s title game to Christ the King. It missed out on the regular season crown this year by falling in a tiebreaker game to Molloy (20–7) without star Aaliyah Jones, who was suspended two games for getting into a fight with Nazareth’s Bianca Cuevas. At full strength they weren’t going to let another opportunity get away.
“Last season we were supposed to take it, but this season we had no choice but to take it,” Jones said. “We were not leaving this gym without taking a W.”
The Ford star made her presence felt despite being hampered by foul trouble and scored eight of her team-high 16 points in the game’s final minutes. Jones tied the score at 41–41 with 3:10 remaining and put Ford (21–7) head for good a 43–41 with 1:45 left to play. Falcons assistant coach Mary Gillespie was not surprised by Jones’ poise.
“I thinks she’s matured all season long,” Gillespie said. “She keeps getting better and better every game. She’s a money ball player.”
That showed when Jones did all that after heading to the bench with four fouls with 7:05 remaining in the game. She returned with just over four minutes left and didn’t let her foul trouble influence her attacking style of play.
“I just let all the fouls go and kept being aggressive, because if I was to get my fifth foul being aggressive, then at least I was aggressive,” she said.
The Falcons struggled to find an answer for Molloy’s Amani Tatum late as the James Madison-bound guard scored 24 points, including seven in the fourth. Ford held Stanners forward Carolyn Gallagher to just six points behind the defense of Brittney Henry, who grabbed 17 rebounds.
Ford earned the dioceses top-seed in the Catholic Class AA state playoffs where it takes on St. John the Baptist (L.I.) 7:30 pm at St. John Villa in the quarterfinals.Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk