Long Island Lutheran girls' Federation Class A championship is quite a feat
Boy, did the Long Island Lutheran girls basketball team look out of sorts.
There were players misinterpreting the rules and not following directions; the trash talk was persistent, and others griped about the officiating. In fact, a few of them looked as if they hadn't even played the game before.
"There were some exceptions -- Nani [Redford] did well, but some of them disappointed me," coach Rich Slater said. "It was a hot mess."
That, of course, was the kickball game the girls played a day before heading north for the state Federation championships.
As for the basketball stuff? The Crusaders dominated in Albany, capturing their second state title in three years, this time in the Class A bracket.
"We had a blast," star point guard Lauren "Boogie" Brozoski said. "It wasn't always pretty, but we came through in the end and won. I was pretty clutch, if I do say so myself."
She was talking about the kickball game.
After LuHi's last shootaround, Slater said that in lieu of running, he had the players split into teams for a "friendly" kickball game in the school gym.
"It really lightened the mood and brought us even closer," said Taylor Byrne, who eventually scored the winning run. "Even though it was all in fun, we're super-competitive people. So regardless of anything else, my team won."
Her actual team has done a lot of that in recent years. Lutheran finished this season ranked 25th in the country. The Crusaders (20-4) ran the gantlet with a grueling schedule and earned their coronation with a 62-45 win over Troy in the Federation Class A final.
"It's the same feeling for us, but I think people on the outside will respect an 'A' championship more," said Brozoski, who scored 14 points in the championship game a year after Lutheran lost in the "B" final. "We stepped up a level and won, so this meant a lot to us."
Katie Lavelle had 13 points, Staci Barrett added 12 points and 11 rebounds, Taylor Byrne (seven points) brought defense and hustle, and freshman Kaela Hilaire dished four assists.
"Being on a team with such high standards is awesome," said Byrne, a sophomore. "There's constant pressure to uphold the standard, but I thrive off it, and that makes it even more fun when you succeed."
The Crusaders beat Nazareth, 44-36, in the semifinal a day earlier after a layoff of nearly a month from the end of their regular season.
"It's the best thing ever because we know the work that went into it," said Barrett, a senior. "We started prepping for basketball in the second week of school."
Lutheran rebounded from a rough stretch in December that included three consecutive losses and finished by winning 14 straight. Late in the season, they were without Brozoski, who missed two weeks with a broken nose after taking an inadvertent elbow from a teammate.
The losses, Barrett said, forced the group to up its intensity. And the broken nose gave Brozoski "a chance to rest and recharge my whole body," she said.
It showed upstate.
And as it's been for this program, the destination remains beyond. The plan, Slater said, is for LuHi to eventually jump to Class AA, as its boys basketball team did.
"Five years ago, I wouldn't have thought we'd be where we are now," Slater said. "We've come a long way quickly, and we take huge pride in that."
You could say they get a kick out of it.