GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Although the Long Island Lutheran girls basketball team made it to the state Federation Class AA semifinals, the team may have just scratched the surface of its potential.
The Crusaders are a perennial powerhouse in Class AA, but they feature a number of young players in prominent roles in Jaida Patrick, Celeste Taylor and Cassidy Roberts, among others.
Throw those players into the mix with program staple Grace Stone and first-year transfer Amani Free, who will be seniors next year, and there’s a supremely talented core in place.
That youth certainly bodes well for the future of the program, but the Crusaders were unable to overcome the high-energy defense of South Shore in Friday’s state Federation semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center. They let a five-point halftime lead slip away in a 58-53 loss.
“We had a lot of new players this year, so I think we struggled with the chemistry and knowing where each other would be on the court,” said Stone, who expressed satisfaction in how well the unit took shape as the season progressed. “I think we definitely learned that this year. It took a little while. It definitely took longer than we thought, but I think we definitely got that.”
Stone had 14 points and five assists and acted as floor general against a defense with good instincts and quick hands. The defense forced the Crusaders into 15 turnovers, which gave South Shore several opportunities to score in transition.
The go-ahead basket came off a turnover, as Destiny Philoxy’s steal and lefthanded layup broke a tie at 30 with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter and gave South Shore the lead for good.
South Shore’s turnaround in the second half came from an increased willingness to drive to the basket. Free-throw shooting was a strength, as South Shore shot 79 percent (27-for-34) from the line.
Earlette Scott was a force at the line, making 16 of 18 attempts and scoring 12 of her 28 points off free throws in the fourth quarter.
Stone said the focus of the offseason will be to work together to continue building chemistry as a unit. With another year of experience, the Crusaders could come back stronger and more exciting than ever next season.
“You could just tell in the locker room — the upset faces, the crying — we’re all very competitive players and we always want to get better,” Stone said. “I think for us, what makes us so different, is that the summer is when we do that. I think that this has really taught us something, what we need to work on, where we need to go with this program.”
A program already known for sustained success has even more talent coming through the pipeline. The next few years could be exciting times at Long Island Lutheran.