From a good-luck tie to a bad-karma T-shirt, it was a weekend of motivation and inspiration for Long Island Lutheran's basketball programs.
For the first time since 1982, the first year of a Federation tournament for boys and girls, a Long Island high school has produced two champions. This private institution located on the North Shore may draw students from all over the map, but today there is unity in the community. Brookville could be renamed Hoopville, Home of Champions.
The Crusaders' boys team turned a close game into a runaway with a 46-point second half against previously unbeaten St. Mary's on Saturday night to win the Class A title, 78-51.
"I didn't expect a 20-point game,'' Gaels coach Bill Harkins said. "They outplayed us in every way.''
The genesis of Lutheran's dominance may have come from a wardrobe malfunction by a well-meaning friend of St. Mary's program. After the Gaels won the state Catholic title March 12 by defeating Mount St. Michael, some of the players donned T-shirts that read "30-0 State Champs.'' Unfortunately, St. Mary's record at the time was 28-0.
"It was a mistake, a typo. Someone from a sporting goods store was trying to do us a favor,'' Harkins said. "It was supposed to have our record at the time. Believe me, the shirts didn't come from me. I don't need to give the other team fuel.''
But when the T-shirts showed up briefly on MSG Varsity's "A Quick: 60,'' the faux pas ignited the Crusaders. Coach John Buck had his laptop in the locker room before Saturday night's game. On the screen was a freeze frame of the T-shirt with the accidentally offensive "30-0'' imprint, the record St. Mary's would have if it beat Lutheran. Buck's ploy was effective.
"Everybody on the team thought that was disrespectful,'' Lutheran star Achraf Yacoubou said. "They should have waited until after the season to wear them.''
There's no reason to doubt Harkins' assertion that the T-shirts were a mistake, not a premature boast. But perhaps they should have been returned before the players had a chance to wear them in public. In this 24-7, information-streaming world, nothing stays a secret.
Lutheran girls coach Rich Slater didn't try to hide his superstitious nature. For Saturday's game against Irvington, he wore a tie given by the mother of guard Lauren "Boogie" Brozoski. It was black with red polka dots and "LuHi'' inscribed at the bottom. "School colors. I've been wearing it the last three games,'' Slater said. "It's my good-luck charm.''
The tie worked its magic. After the girls' Class B title-clincher, their first in school history, they threw down the gauntlet. "[Christina] Raiti saw us before our game and she yelled, 'Hey, guys. We won the championship!' '' Yacoubou said. "We took it as extra motivation.''
As if they needed anything more to fire them up.