Strong second half sends Truman past rival Spellman

All Dyona Davis could hear in her head after halftime was the booming voice of coach John Burke saying how unhappy he was with the club’s first half effort.

The Truman headman could live with the poor shooting, but not with a lack of rebounding, care for the ball and defensive intensity. Listening to his displeasure was enough to snap his team out of it in time.

“His yelling [helped],” Davis said. “’Ah, stop turnovers.’ We had a lot of bad passes so we had to know that we had to change it around.”

The Mustangs’ girls’ basketball team did a complete 180 in the second half thanks to its star backcourt getting hot and forward Brianna Alberga establishing herself in the paint. Truman was able to grab a five-point lead with 30 seconds remaining and hold on for a 54-49 victory over Cardinal Spellman on Feb. 8. The win gives the Mustangs bragging rights over their neighborhood rival.

“We felt that we are two of the best teams in the Bronx,” Davis said. “For us to battle each other it is the battle of Baychester.”

The sophomore guard was instrumental in the win after struggling to find her shooting stroke in the first half. Truman shot 7 of 37 from the field before the break. Davis scored 14 of her game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers over the third and fourth quarters. Aneisha Lyons had 14 of her 18 in the second half and chipped in seven assists.

“I think we are were we are because we have very good pieces to go around, but we have that excellent backcourt.” Burke said. “They do a lot and we need them to continue to do a lot.”

Spellman, which led 27-20 at the half, quickly saw the advantage evaporate. A trey by Davis put gave Truman (19-6) its first leads since the first quarter at 34-32 with 340 to play in the fame. Hey layup at the buzzer put the Mustangs up 38-37 going into the fourth.

The Pilots, the current CHSAA Bronx/Staten Island division leader, weren’t able to carry over the things they were successful in the first half. It was no longer dominating the paint, missed easy shots and were victims of poor decision making. Kerri Deans paced Spellman (15-3) with 13 points and Diamond Christian and Devyn Elliott each added 10.

Pilots coach Jane Morris said her team had similar stretches this season, but this time it came back to hurt them.

“Some bad habits really cost you when you are playing a good team,” Morris said. “I told them you got over a couple times. You have been doing this stuff and I keep telling you don’t do it.”

Still the Pilots made enough plays to be down just 44-43 after a three-pointer from the right side by Leah Pinili with 3:14 left in the game. Truman quickly responded with a conventional three-point play from Alberga and her put back with 30 seconds left put the Mustangs up 51-46. Lyons made a free throw and forced a turnover in the final 10 seconds to seal the win.

“It was up for grabs at the end and her and-1 put has back in the ascendency and that was great leadership,” Burke said.

Facing Spellman was just the start of a busy two weeks of games to prepare Truman for the post season, where it is the No. 3 seed in the PSAL Class AA tournament. The Mustangs face fell Bronx rival Friday and later Staten Island Academy, St. Mary’s (LI) and LuHi.

Truman sees this as its best opportunity to advance to it first ever semifinal and beyond.

“We are still humble,” Lyons said. “But we are still looking to achieve our goals.”

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