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December 9, 2013

St. Francis Prep ranked with St. Ray's win

FRESH MEADOW, NY - It has been a while since St. Francis Prep has had a basketball team that could compete with the best in the NYC.

Going into Sunday's game against St. Raymond, many people still didn't think this year's Terriers squad was all that special either, even though they were 2-0 in the league for the first time in quite a long time. To get the attention of everyone, they knew they needed to make a statement, and after Sunday you can consider that statement made with an impressive 73-62 upset victory over the Ravens. As a result of the win and a 4-0 overall record, SFP moved into the #10 spot in the NYCHoops.net Top Ten Team rankings for the first time.

Going into the season opener, Prep coach Tim Leary was at least confident that this year's team would be better, convinced this team would be his best in a number of years,

"The last few seasons we have struggled, but the kids have put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, and they looked good in scrimmages against some good teams, so I thought we would be solid," Leary said,

His goal he said is to get the program to where they were 7 or 8 years ago when they were a force in NYC. At one point, the Terriers were known for winning, and stars such as Rashad Bell, Drew Samuels, Kevin Fitzpatrick and Bryan Geffen, and getting back to that point has always been something everyone in the school has wanted.

Sunday gave them that chance to say to everyone that they can get there, and that this year's SFP team is the start of it.

The Terriers came out strong, beating the trap that was being applied by St. Ray's, and that led to a fastbreak layup by Shane Herrity while getting fouled to give SFP an early 15-9 lead.

The Ravens closed the first strong by getting the ball inside to freshman sensation Sidney Wilson, with the youngster being the spark to get St. Ray's back into it, scoring 6 straight points late in the quarter to cut the Prep lead to 17-15 after 1.

St. Raymond wasn't getting many good perimeter looks because of a stifling 2-3 zone that the Terriers were playing. Each of the defenders were moving all over the arc and never let the Ravens good shooters get solid looks. That was until Tory Ferguson got fouled on a 3 attempt with 5:30 to go in the 2nd. He drained 2 of the 3 free throws, and for the first time, St. Ray's had a lead, at 23-22.

Prep though never wilted under the pressure of the Ravens aggressive pressure defense though. They managed to move the ball up the floor well, and Connor Bacci hit a big three to stem the tide in what looked to be a point in the game where the Ravens could've taken over.

One player who was struggling in this one was St. Raymond's big man in the middle, junior Luis Santos. Prep would throw 2 bodies at him each time he touched the ball and he seemed to get flustered under the constant pressure he was feeling when he touched the ball. Even though they didn't seem like they were clicking on all cylinders, the Ravens still managed to take a 32-31 lead into the break.

It was a back and forth third quarter that saw the lead change hands a number of times, but one thing that Leary saw that kept him happy about where his team was, was the hustle on the glass. Even though outmanned on the inside, Leary was impressed with the work of his guards to help on the interior.

"We really came out in the 2nd half and attacked the glass with 5 guys. We may not have much size on the perimeter, but they are athletic, and they did a great job helping inside," Leary said.

Another solid performer was Brian Haggarty. The Prep big man was doing a great job maintaining Santos, as the Ravens big still only had 4 points through three quarters, and as the game wore on, you could sense a level of confidence growing in the Terriers, and after a late driving layup, Prep held a 48-45 lead after 3.

You thought going into the 4th that the Ravens would amp up the intensity, and the players with the bigger names would come through down the stretch, but that didn't happen. As a matter of fact, the opposite happened, and according to St. Raymond head coach Jorge Lopez, it was because one team worked harder for the win.

"Plain and simple they out worked us. In the 4th quarter they made better passes then us, took better shots then us, and did everything better," Lopez said,

The catalyst for the Terriers in the 4th was Michael Fields. The senior guard is asked to do a lot for SFP, and on Sunday he stepped up and did all he could to get a W. He connected on a slashing drive over Santos inside, and then a fall away turnaround jumper went home, he made a pair of beautiful passes in transition, and hit on 7 of 8 FT's late when the team needed them most.

Santos started to feel a rhythm late in the 4th quarter, but Prep had seized control and taken a lead as big as 11 points in the closing minutes. St. Ray's did close the gap to just 66-60 with 1:48 to go, but Fields and Herrity made big plays late, and St. Francis Prep got what could be their biggest win in 6 years, taking down St. Raymond, 73-62.

Fields led SFP with 19 points, 12 of which came in the important 4th quarter, while Bacci had 13, and Herrity added 12.

For the Ravens, Ferguson paced the way with 19 points, while Santos had 12, 8 of which came when the Terriers had taken control late, and Wilson chipped in 10.

There is no other way to say it other than it was a massive upset in the minds of many, but more importantly, it was a massive win for the culture of St. Francis Prep basketball, something Fields echoed.

"We are 3-0 in league now, which is 2 more league wins then we had all of last season. This is the start of something real good for us," Fields said after the win.

Herrity agreed saying that it's a big win to show that the Terrier are now a team to take seriously again.

"It's a big win to show, that unlike the past couple years, that we will be competing, and can compete with some of the best teams around like we did today," Herrity added on the win.

For St. Ray's, Lopez said he is going to chalk this up to a learning experience, and hopes that his kids use this loss as a wakeup call, but on the other end, Leary is left to ponder if this is truly the start if a special season.

"We talk about that all the time. We are very fragile, we don't have a lot of guys so we need to stay healthy, but once we saw how they handled good teams in scrimmages, they started to believe they had a chance to be better, and yes if they want to be, even special." Leary stated about his squad.

It may not be a special season yet for the Terriers, but at 3-0 in the league, and with a ton of confidence after a big win like this, this just might be the start of the resurgence of St. Francis Prep basketball.

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