When Bishop Ford began its season with a 2-7 record it appeared like it was going to be a disappointing season for the Falcons. A big win against the two-time defending Catholic High School Athletic League (CHSAA) A Division champions Nazareth in January started to change things for the better though.
They needed a big win against Farrell without their seniors, who were away on a ski trip, just to get into the playoffs and overcame a 14-point deficit to pull it off. They continued to shock teams when they overcame another 14-point deficit, this time with just three minutes to play, to beat St. Joseph to advance to the semifinals. Once there, they upset Nazareth yet again to reach the finals.
Unfortunately, that is where Bishop Ford’s run ended as they were beaten in the CHSAA A Division finals by a hot shooting Xavier 83-68 at Fordham University in the Bronx on Monday night.
“These kids are the most resilient group of kids that I’ve ever coached,” Ford head coach Denis Nolan said. “They just had a never-say-die attitude. That’s the thing about this team is that everybody keeps going. Nobody stops.”
They showed that resiliency even in their loss to Xavier as they fell behind early when the Manhattan school opened the game on a 7-0 run and didn’t give up in the end despite a 25-6 run in the third quarter that would have demoralized other teams.
“We’ve been talking all year about the most important part of the game was the first four minutes of the third quarter,” Nolan said. “Tonight, we talked about it and Xavier executed it. They dominated those first four minutes, built the lead up and then we were just trying to play catch up the rest of the time.”
The problem was that Xavier didn’t miss many shots. It came out hot, shooting 48 percent in the first half, and kept getting hotter as the game went on. In the second half they shot 62.5 percent as Kevin Crockett and Liam Monaghan both finished with 19 points each and Ryan Kennedy had 15. That trio was a combined 7-for-15 from behind the three-point line.
“We started off the game sleeping, but we came out and we were only down by five at halftime,” Dior Dixon said. “We felt like, ‘Yeah we have this,’ but I have to give it up to Xavier because they are a good shooting team. Closing out on them and they’re still hitting jump shots. Then we have the press, but they’re still hitting jump shots. We tried and fought, but it wasn’t enough. We just have to come back stronger next year.”
Ford was thrilled to get to the city finals, but they certainly didn’t play like they were just happy to be there. They fought until the very end as Dixon scored 11 of his 18 points and Devin Dingle scored eight of his 20 in the fourth quarter. After the game, they were disappointed in the way they came out in the third quarter, but they were proud in the overall effort they gave and optimistic about the future of the team.
“That was really hard,” Dingle said of the season and playoff run. “Those are going to be memories that we’re going to talk about forever. We are going to try to thrive like that next year. Hopefully we don’t have to be in that predicament. It was good. We played as a family in all three of those games.”
Ford will be in a good position next year. Three of their top four players, Dixon, Dingle and Jonathan Murray, are returning next season. Meanwhile, at Nazareth, their biggest rivals, the Kingsmen are losing their two best players in Samson Usilo and Samson Akilo which should set up a transfer of power in the division.