ALBANY -- The Long Island Lutheran girls basketball team, clearly starved for competition after not playing a game since Feb. 23, staged its own version of "The Hunger Games" on Friday.
The Lady Crusaders began defense of their state Federation Class B title by devouring Scholars Academy, 72-44, in a semifinal at the Times Union Center. "It's a great feeling to come back and work together," forward Staci Barrett said.
Lutheran used a suffocating trap to ensnare Scholars Academy (16-4) early, and after a 12-0 first-quarter blitz that produced a 15-3 advantage, this one was never in doubt. Lutheran (18-5) led 28-8 after one period and used all 11 players.
The Lady Crusaders will face Irvington, which defeated Cardinal O'Hara, 74-57, for the Federation championship at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. It's the third straight title-game showdown between the two schools. Lutheran rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to win last year; Irvington won it 2010.
Boogie Brozoski scored seven of her nine points during the early run, turning two steals into layups and converting a three-point play with a clever scoop shot that drew a foul. Barrett owned the boards in the second quarter, scoring 11 of her 16 points. Christina Raiti shone in the third, draining three of her five three-pointers. She had 15 points.
"Everyone on the team has a role," Barrett said. "Boogie's is to be the best point guard she can. Christina is the shooter. My role is to get rebounds. My father [Rhett] has been telling me, 'Every ball that goes up is yours.' That's in my head."
Barrett grabbed eight rebounds, six offensive, in limited time. Sade Gibbons came off the bench to total 11 more, as Lutheran out-rebounded Scholars, 53-22. The Lady Crusaders also made 16 steals and forced 28 turnovers.
Paige Kriftcher may have been the hungriest of all the Lutheran girls. A key to last year's dramatic comeback in the state final, she tore her left MCL on Jan. 9. Except for a token appearance on senior night, she hasn't played in a game since the injury. "It felt a little weird, but OK," said Kriftcher, who shot 3-for-10, but had five assists and four steals. "Game speed is different from practice speed."
Kriftcher, a senior, scored six points, leaving her 13 shy of 1,000. That milestone wasn't on her mind. "I just want to repeat as state champion and have the same feeling I had last year," she said.
The hunger remains.