Bishop Ford girls basketball coach Mike Toro wasn’t on the bench with his team, but he was with his players in their hearts.
The school suspended Toro along with athletic directors Pete Goyco and Eileen Egan last week as it investigates possible improper financial benefits provided to members of the team, so he has not coached his club in any of its playoff games.
But his players haven’t forgotten him.
St. John’s-bound guard Aaliyah Lewis said the team is dedicating its post season run to its coach following a 64–50 win over Christ the King in the Brooklyn-Queens girls basketball semifinals on Thursday night at St. Francis Prep. The team called Toro after the game from the locker room to celebrate.
“Everything is for our coach right now,” Lewis said. “This is for Mike Toro.”
The senior ensured the Falcons advanced to a second straight diocesan final by scoring 15 of her 22 points in the second half and dishing out five assists. Lewis tallied eight straight points in the third quarter to push the Ford (20–7) lead to 42–35 with 2:47 left in the frame. It was the type of performance her coaches were looking for.
“We told her last week, ‘You’ve got to get in there, step up and take over the game,’ ” Falcons assistant coach Mary Gillespie said “She’s going to the Big East. She’s a natural leader.”
Christ the King (19–8) got within 54–43 with 1:27 left in the game, but never threatened again.
Junior Falcons guard Aaliyah Jones, in her first game back from a two-game suspension, scored all of her 11 points in the first half. She also did a great job frustrating Christ the King star Sierra Calhoun, who was double teamed on every drive. She scored just 16 points on four field goals and was shut out in the second quarter
“Jones first game back really stepped up,” Gillespie said. “She played a really smart game.”
The Falcons squad earned a third chance to win its first-ever Division I diocesan title when it faces Archbishop Molloy at 6 pm on Saturday at St. John’s Prep in the final.
The Stanners spoiled Ford’s hope at a regular season crown by beating them in a first-place, tie-breaker game last week, a day after Toro’s was suspended. Lewis is expecting a different ending for the playoffs.
“Losing my junior year in the championship, now coming back my senior year I’m trying to win it,” Lewis said.
Archbishop Molloy 69, Bishop Loughlin 58: Imani Tate scored a game-high 32 points for Loughlin (10–13)in the other semifinal. Jasmine Alston had 11 points and Keyanna Wilson added seven. Carolyn Gallagher paced Molloy (20–6) with 20 points and Alexa Dietrich chipped in 13. The Lions face St. Mary’s (L.I.) in the Catholic Class AA quarterfinals 5:45 pm on Sunday at St. Joseph Hill.Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk