Big win boosts Manhattan Center's stock

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Coaches and players have said it before this season -- Murry Bergtraum (Manhattan) is beatable. Virginia-bound China Crosby and her Manhattan Center teammates knew it earlier this year, but weren't able to do it at home in January.

The odds certainly weren't in Manhattan Center's favor Wednesday, as the Blazers, sporting a 73-game win streak and a spotless home record since 1999, played host to their New York City public school league rivals. Add in the uncertainty of star point guard Crosby, who had injured her ankle four days prior, and it would have been hard to blame the Rams if they were overcome by nerves.

After gearing her teammates up to play with or without her come Bergtraum, Crosby readied herself on game day and came prepared to play. Once on the court, with a confident, calm Crosby running the point, the Rams upended Bergtraum, 61-54.

Manhattan Center became the first team to beat then-No. 5 Murry Bergtraum at home since 1999, when A.P. Randolph beat the Blazers. Bergtraum's last loss before the 73-game streak was to Christ the King in the 2006 state Federation Class 'AA' title game.

"We really made history," Crosby said by phone Monday. "It felt good, but it really didn't sink in as much as it did for some of the other girls. If we win it all, maybe then."

The win, Crosby's first against Bergtraum in her career, was a huge boost into the postseason for Manhattan Center, which, four days earlier, didn't know when, or if, Crosby would be able to return to the court. In Feb. 7's loss to Midwood, Crosby turned her right ankle and went down in agony in the final minutes.

"I knew it was bad," Crosby said. "I heard something crack. … But I did some physical therapy and constantly iced it, then the day of the Bergtraum game, I strapped up and started to play."

Not certain if her ankle would hold her for an entire game, and knowing Bergtraum would key in on herself and junior Aziza Patterson, Crosby and her teammates talked about sharing the ball. She made sure the other guards knew there were going to get looks -- and to take them.

Patterson led the way with 22 points, but fouled out in the final three minutes and was left to watch from the bench. Crosby added 15, while junior forward Nijah Lacourt added 10 for the Rams.

In early January, Center seemed poised to snap the Blazers' streak at 64, with a home-court advantage and no fear or intimidation from Bergtraum's history of 10 consecutive public school titles or nearly three-year winning streak. A late 15-4 run by the Blazers kept the streak alive, but the Rams were paying attention for February's rematch.

"We know Bergtraum is a fast-break, running team," Crosby said. "So we didn't pressure. If we missed a shot, we got back on defense immediately."

That took away some of Bergtraum's break-neck pace and let the Rams control, at least partially, the game's tempo. A four-point halftime lead swelled to 13 for a stretch during the second half before the final seven-point margin.

Bergtraum has plenty of time to bounce back from its first loss since 2006. The Blazers' next game is March 3 in the second round of the public school Class AA playoffs. Crosby also has plenty of time to rest her ankle, as Manhattan Center next plays the same day.

And one
In Colorado's 5A/4A Continental League, being the third-best team isn't a negative. Then-No. 47 ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) understands. The Grizzlies' crosstown rival, then-No. 50 Highlands Ranch, and No. 20 Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) battled for the 5A championship a year ago, with ThunderRidge advancing to the final four. Last week, the Grizzlies had a trial run at state, with Regis Jesuit Feb. 10 and Highlands Ranch Saturday. Despite losing both, ThunderRidge is still a favorite to make it far into the state tournament. With just two games remaining, Highlands Ranch has all but clinched the league crown, while Regis sits second and ThunderRidge is third.

The Marquee
The road doesn't get easier in Indiana. With regional championships decided Saturday, each team must play a morning game and the winners advance to that night's championship. For No. 2 Ben Davis (Indianapolis), a win against Lawrence North will likely mean a rematch with conference rival Carmel (Ind.). A year ago, this is where the road ended for the Giants, with a 56-45 Carmel win in the regional championship as the Greyhounds went on to claim the 4A state title.

Off the bounce
Heritage Christian (Indianapolis) coach Rick Risinger picked up career win No. 100 Saturday with the Eagles' 65-39 sectional title win against Park Tudor. In Risinger's four years, the Eagles are 100-8. … Sean Casey, coach at the Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.), won his 300th and 301st games during the weekend in the semifinal and championship of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League tournament. In his 16 years, Peddie is 301-87 and won 12 consecutive NJISAA Prep 'A' state titles. … Despite a bruised and slightly scarred right eye, Nebraska signee Lindsey Moore led Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) to its fourth consecutive South Puget Sound League championship Saturday with 15 points in a 68-50 win against Graham-Kapowsin. Moore picked up the injury during Feb. 10's practice, but said Saturday her sight is back and her eye looks worse than it is. … February is a now non-issue for No. 5 St. Michael Academy. St. Michael will rest until March 3, when it plays St. Peter's for the Archdiocesan Class AA championship. Freshman Caya Williams led Mt. Juliet (Tenn.) with 20 points Feb. 10 as the Golden Bears beat then-No. 38 Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.), 51-40.

A trio of teams join the FAB 50 this week, led by Indiana's defending 4A champion Carmel (Ind.). The Greyhounds won all three games in their sectional by at least 15 points, including bouncing Fishers Saturday, which had edged then-No. 46 Hamilton Southeastern the previous night. ... In at No. 49 is Manhattan Center (New York City), which handed Murry Bergtraum is first loss in nearly three years. ... Debuting at No. 50 is Ocean City (N.J.) after a three-point win against Christ the King.

Three teams make an exit from the FAB 50 this week. Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.) falls from the rankings after an early exit from Indiana's sectional round. With a 61-55 overtime loss Friday to rival Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern ends its season at 19-2. … ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), now 19-3, drops out after consecutive losses to then-No. 20 Regis Jesuit, 52-38 on Feb. 10, and then-No. 50 Highlands Ranch, 67-41 Friday. … Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) completes the trio, dropping to 15-7 with losses to then-No. 33 St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) and Ocean City (N.J.).

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Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at mindi@hoopgurlz.com.

Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.

Records through Feb. 15.