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Cooper Francis leads Chaminade to CHSAA boys basketball title

Cooper Francis (holding plaque), sophomore David DeBusschere (left)

Cooper Francis (holding plaque), sophomore David DeBusschere (left) and teammates after Chaminade's 65-47 victory over St. Mary's in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA boys basketball championship at Chaminade on Monday, March 22, 2021. Credit: James Escher

You can’t beat Cooper Francis’ sense of timing.

The Chaminade senior was looking at the biggest moment in his high school basketball career. It was the Nassau/Suffolk CHSAA championship game against St. Mary’s. It was his last varsity basketball game. And it was a chance for the Flyers, who coughed up the regular-season title in their final game to get back on top.

All Francis did was deliver the best game he’s ever played. The 6-1 forward had 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists as Chaminade went wire-to-wire for a 65-47 victory at its Activity and Athletics Center. Chaminade (9-4) is the Diocesan champion for the 10th time and first since 2017. It gives coach Bob Paul four championships in his nine seasons.

"It was the best all-around game of his career, easily," Paul said. "He just allowed himself to be the best player, instead of worrying about proving it. And when he does that, he's very talented. He's irreplaceable when he does that."

"Cooper was going to leave everything on the floor tonight," sophomore Dave DeBusschere said. "It was his last game and he had to have it. It’s the right way to go out."

DeBusschere had 19 points, including five three-pointers, and junior Deepak Edmonds added 11 points for Chaminade. Jaedon Hutchinson had 13 points for St. Mary’s.

"Statistically and record-wise, this is not the best team we’ve had a Chaminade," Paul said. "But this is the best team we’ve ever had in the sense of how together they are, how connected they are and how much they took care of each other through a hard season."

DeBusschere had nine points in the first quarter to stake the Flyers to a 20-8 lead and Francis had nine of their 13 points in the second as it extended the margin to 13 at halftime. When DeBusschere made his fifth three-pointer, the lead was 52-32 with 6:19 to play.

"We all had an edge coming into this," Francis said. "Since the seniors have been at school, we lost a couple of championship games and we were all on the team that lost in the semifinals last year. That gave us the fire coming into this, the motivation to end the season right."

Chaminade’s defense also was exemplary, befuddling the Gaels by alternating a matchup zone with tough man-to-man. As Paul said "they all knew that one missed closeout or one missed assignment could be the season."

About 20 minutes after the team was done mobbing each other after the win, it returned from the locker room, put "One Shining Moment" on the AAC sound system and put up a ladder to cut down their net. They passed the championship trophy around and took selfies.

"Our season ended in the best way it could," Francis said. "It’s unforgettable."

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