New York High School: Stephen Tsai

Francis Lewis' Hamlet signs with Wagner

May, 11, 2012
As Wagner recruited Francis Lewis guard Jazmine Hamlet this spring, Hamlet noticed right away that there was a strong sense of family surrounding the program.

"Normally coaches during recruiting just talk to you, but they were talking to my mom and making sure everyone was comfortable," Hamlet said. "On my visit, they were great, they looked out for my interests. They just gave me that kind of vibe."

That vibe won over Hamlet as she signed her National Letter of Intent to play with the Seahawks last week. Hamlet averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists in league games for the Patriots this past season.

"It's very exciting, it's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Hamlet said. "I don't have to think about it anymore. I can now just focus on graduating and going to Wagner."

Hamlet had originally thought of attending a junior college as she didn't have any Division I scholarships offers. That changed, though, when she attended the Boo Williams showcase in late April. After the event, Wagner started talking together and everything came together.

The Patriots liked how Hamlet was a team leader and can to split the defense, and appreciated how she saw the floor and was a true point guard at heart. After taking her official visit to Wagner, it sealed the deal for Hamlet and she signed her NLI last Friday. The 5-7 guard likes that she'll be able to play close to home.

"My family is here in Manhattan and it's like I get away from home but I'm still close to home," Hamlet said. "It's not like I'm going to be hours away. If I want to come home, it will only be like an hour and I'll be able to see my mom."

Francis Lewis coach Stephen Tsai described Hamlet as "fearless" and was happy for Hamlet and her family. He said Hamlet, who lead Francis Lewis to the Public Schools Athletic League Class AA semifinals, never gave up on the court and is tenacious at both ends.

Hamlet is the first recruit for new Wagner coach Lisa Cermignano.

"She is certainly a capable scorer with a very quick first step that allows her to get to the rim and she can hit the open shot,” Cermignano said in a press release on Wagner's website. “Jazmine’s specialty, though, is making those around her better. She drops passes on a dime.

She added: “But what she really does is she leaves her heart on the floor. She plays 150 percent all the time and literally has a presence on the floor that makes other players better. She’s a true point guard who has the ability to move over to the two because she can score. She controls the game, she controls the tempo, controls her teammates. She’s a floor general.”

Bronx/Queens teams sweep Mayor's Cup

March, 30, 2012
The bragging rights in the Public Schools Athletic League will be in the Bronx and Queens for the year, as the Bronx/Queens teams defeated the Manhattan/Brooklyn/Staten Island squads in both the boys and girls game in the Mayor's Cup on Friday night at City College of New York. The Mayor's cup pits the best seniors in the PSAL against one another.

Girls: Bronx/Queens 65, Manhattan/Brooklyn/Staten Island 60: While JFK's Deaisia Acklin took home MVP honors, it was the play of Morrisania's Ogechukwu Uwanaka that had one of the team's coaches, Francis Lewis' Stephen Tsai, raving after the game.

"I have no idea how we win without her," Tsai said. "She had to play a majority of the time as she was our only legitimate size but she was quick enough to go against the other team's size as well. Deaisia also had to play a majority for us and while she won MVP, (Uwanaka) did so much for us in terms of rebounding, blocked shots, loose balls. It was so impressive."

The Bronx/Queens team fell in a 19-6 hole early but it pulled itself back into the game by using a zone defense and took the lead. The Manhattan/Brooklyn/Staten Island team made a late charge but Tsai said the Bronx/Queens team made some incredible shots that he would guess some of the girls didn't even expect to go in.

"The event was better than I expected," Tsai said. "The turnout was incredible, Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg was there and taking pictures with everybody, it turned out to be a great event and for the boys game it was even nicer. I was so impressed with how everything turned out. It was a great event and great to be a part of."

Boys: Bronx/Queens 122, Manhattan/Brooklyn/Staten Island 121 (OT): The Bronx/Queens team capitalized on two missed free throws by arguably the best player in the league, Leroy "Truck" Fludd, and scored a late basket to squeak out the win in overtime and complete the sweep for the boroughs.

The Bronx/Queens team took a lead on a layup by JFK's Muhammed Ahmed following Fludd's misses, and the Manhattan/Brooklyn/Staten Island team had a chance to win the game late but couldn't connect.

Eagle Academy's Najee Senior was named MVP for scoring 15 points while Wadleigh's Basil Harley scored 26 in a losing effort. Senior scored all of his points in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

"It was a cool event," said Wings Academy coach Billy Turnage, who was part of the winning staff. "You got to see the AA players with the A players and B players. These guys never had the chance to play together before, and I had never seen some of them, and these lower level guys are talented and can ball out."

Wadleigh coach Mike Crump, who was on the losing staff, called it an "A1 event" and had a fun time meeting Mayor Bloomberg following the game.

"We took a picture with him and I was going to give him rabbit ears," Crump joked. "He had security detail there and I didn't want to spend a week in the pen so I ultimately didn't do it."

PSAL girls quarterfinals recap

March, 3, 2012
The Public Schools Athletic League is down to its final four teams in the girls Class AA tournament after the quarterfinals on Saturday. South Shore, Murry Bergtraum, McKee/SI Tech and Francis Lewis are the last four teams left after winning on Saturday at Hunter College. Here are the highlights from the game.

No. 1 South Shore 46, No. 9 Midwood 30: The top-seeded Lady Vikings received a scare from Midwood but used a 13-0 run in the final minutes to grab the 46-30 win. South Shore led 33-30 with about four minutes left before holding Midwood scoreless the rest of the way.

"We only gave up 30 points and clamped down at the end of the game but I thought we should have been much better on defense," South Shore coach Anwar Gladden said. "We have to get back and be better on the defensive end of the court."

Aaliyah Cooley led South Shore (21-5) with 21 points and had three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and five in the game. Midwood fell to (9-15) in the loss and South Shore will feet fourth-seeded McKee/SI Tech in the semifinals.

"We were having trouble scoring in the halfcourt and (Cooley) knocked down some big shots," Gladden said.

No. 2 Murry Bergtraum 60, No. 7 Lincoln 40: Murry Bergtraum started its quest for a 14th straight PSAL title on a great foot as it handled Lincoln. The Lady Blazers (16-7) were up 19-2 after the first quarter and never looked back against Lincoln (12-10).

"It was good to see them come out like that," head coach Ed Grezinsky said.

Murry Bergtraum received a big game from freshman Ashanae Mclaughlin, who had 16 points, while senior Shequana Harris added 12. Grezinsky said he needs someone to step up each game and today his freshman star was able to do that for him

The Lady Blazers now head to the semifinals where they will face Francis Lewis, a team that beat them last time out. The teams split the season series.

"They're a very good team and they're gelling," Grezinsky said. "They're a tough opponent and they will be a tough game for us."

No. 4 McKee/SI Tech 64, No. 5 JFK 51: McKee/SI Tech used an incredible performance from his backcourt of Kaityln Astel and Kelin Walsh as the two combined for 62 of his team's 64 points in the Seagulls' win. Walsh had 33 points while Astel had 29.

"They were unbelievable together, words can't even describe it," MSIT coach Peter LaMarca said. "Walsh had 15 points in the second quarter which was all of our points."

MSIT (24-2) led JFK (17-11) by about seven to 12 points for most of the game and JFK cut it to three late but MSIT held them off. The Seagulls now will meet top-seeded South Shore in the semifinals. The teams did not play each other this season.

"I've kind of always believed from the beginning we could be a very good team," LaMarca said. "We have strong senior leadership. Astel is a star and Walsh has come back from ACL surgery to be one of the best point guards in the city. I don't think we're sneaking up on people."

No. 6 Francis Lewis 47, No. 3 Truman 34: Francis Lewis averaged two regular season losses to Truman by defeating the Lady Mustangs in the quarterfinals. The game was tied 17-17 at the half and Francis Lewis (14-9) took control in the second half to best Truman (20-7).

"Defensively, we were able to do more of what we wanted to do," coach Stephen Tsai said.

Tsai credited the play of Sherice Gayle, a senior forward/center who only started playing at the end of the year and had a big effect on Saturday's game. Francis Lewis now will meet Murry Bergtraum in the semifinals and the Lady Patriots won the last meeting between the two.

"Our girls had a lot of ups and downs this season," Tsai said. "We lost to Truman twice and I think the girls wanted to prove a point to get (to the semifinals)."

Girls coaches pleased with AA seeds

February, 12, 2012
The new scheduling procedures of the Public Schools Athletic League girls basketball Class AA league eased any worrying coach's mind about how the seeding would shake out for the Class AA tournament. By pitting all teams against each other this season, there was a basis for how teams would be ranked against one another.

"We knew that once we had a AA where everybody plays each other, there would be no controversy with the seeding," South Shore coach Anwar Gladden said.

After enduring years of seeding that left coaches scratching their heads, they had no problems with the seeding this year for the tournament, which begins on Feb. 29. Gladden's South Shore squad grabbed the No. 1 seed, followed by 13-time defending champion Murry Begtraum, Truman and McKee/Staten Island Tech.

The only aspect of the seeding that coaches were a little unsure about was the seeding of MSIT, which plays in Staten Island A and only played a few AA teams, but even the Seagulls' seeding did not draw any complaints.

"They took a very good step having everyone in the AA play each other," Truman coach John Burke said. "If you take Staten Island out of the equation, everyone knew where they would go with head-to-head games. With McKee, you could make the argument they would have been anywhere from a three to eight."

The PSAL created a three-division super league heading into this year to beef up competition and ensure that all the teams in the league played each other. It created a more balanced year and left nothing to question when it came to the seeds.

For example, top seed South Shore beat second-seed Murry Bergtraum, Bergtraum swept No. 3 Truman, Truman swept No. 5 JFK and JFK swept its games against No. 6 Francis Lewis. There was no way for any of those teams to make claims to be seeded head of another team.

The only question was MSIT's seed. Coach Peter LaMarca said he expected his team to be seeded anywhere from four to six, with JFK and Francis Lewis the teams he would be fighting for the seeds. Since he only played Manhattan Center, Midwood and Lincoln in the AA, there was no way to truly evaluate his squad against JFK and Francis Lewis.

The Seagulls were 22-2 on the year and went 14-0 in Staten Island Class A and did not lose a game to a New York City opponent all season. Ultimately, MSIT was seeded fourth by the committee and could meet JFK in the quarterfinals at a neutral court.

Francis Lewis coach Stephen Tsai said he believed that JFK should have received the four seed for its non-league and regular-season schedule, but did not have a problem with how it ended up. JFK coach O'Neill Glenn had no qualms with MSIT being ahead of him.

"I think it's right where it should be," Glenn said of his seed. "The four or five seed doesn't make a difference. It just means one wears a dark color, the other wears a light color. That's all that is."

Gladden remembers one year in the past where the seeding was changed several hours after it was released. Team wouldn't play each other and there would be questions up and down the seeds and coaches would be frustrated with the results. This year, there's none of that and the coaches are pleased.

South Shore's coach isn't sure the seeds will matter much anyway.

"With the way the AA has been going, the only thing the seeds determine is which team is going to wear the home uniform and which team will wear the away uniform," Gladden said. "There's no clear-cut favorites."
NEW YORK—Her team entangled in a tough battle against McKee/Staten Island Tech, Jazmine Hamlet took it upon herself to take over the action. There was no more time left the junior to be passive in the Public Schools Athletic League’s quarterfinals.

“I felt like it was my time to lead my team,” Hamlet said. “I didn’t want to lose and I knew my team didn’t want to lose and we were feeling down. I felt it was my job to help my team get back up and the best way to lead them was by scoring and passing the ball around and getting done what I need to get done.”

After failing to score in the first quarter, Hamlet exploded for 12 of her team’s 14 points in the second quarter and guided No. 3 Francis Lewis to a 51-43 win over No. 6 McKee/Staten Island Tech Saturday afternoon in the PSAL “AA” quarterfinals at Hunter College in Manhattan. Francis Lewis faces South Shore in the semifinals Tuesday.

“Our job was to get through this one and see South Shore ,” Hamlet said. “I had to lead my team. And we weren’t hitting our shots so I figured maybe let me try because I didn’t have enough shot attempts I felt in the first quarter.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Francis Lewis (18-6) led 11-8 after the first quarter before Hamlet became a one-girl wrecking crew. She scored her first basket on a 3-pointer to give the Patriots a 14-9 lead and later handed Francis Lewis it’s first double-digit lead of the game with another three-point shot. She netted nearly half of her team’s points in the first half as the Patriots led 25-15 with Hamlet contributing 12.

While Hamlet scored, the Seagulls (20-6) managed just three baskets in the first half, with nine of their points coming off free throws. After falling behind 33-18 early in the third quarter, though, McKee/Staten Island Tech managed to put a scare into the Patriots by cutting the lead to 41-35 with 4:22 left.

The Seagulls made it a four-point game with 47.7 seconds left, but the Patriots responded with a 3-point play that essentially booked their ticket to the semifinals.

“I think we had a 15-point lead and they started chipping away and all of a sudden it was like eight or six and typically that’s something when I’m starting to think are we going back to that way in the past,” said Francis Lewis head coach Stephen Tsai, who advanced to his first PSAL semifinals. “That’s the difference with this team, we have girls that are willing to not let us get down that road and fight through.”

TURNING POINT: The Seagulls sliced the lead to 46-42 with 47.7 seconds left and were looking for a defensive stop. After Theodora Alexandrou missed a shot, Francis Lewis forward Tyese Purvis pulled down the biggest rebound of the game and scored on a putback while being fouled and boosted the lead to 49-42 with 30.4 seconds left.

“I always tell them that there are so many other things you can do,” Tsai said. “I think Tyese finally understood you don’t have to put up a shot, you can go in get an offensive rebound and I thought that was a huge play. We don’t have to have a bunch of heroes shooting 3’s all the time.”

STAR OF THE GAME: Hamlet galvanized her team when it needed a spark with her 12 second quarter points. She showed good range, hitting three 3’s while mixing in layups and jump shots. She said a conversation she had with Tsai after defeating Boys & Girls on Feb. 11 about Hamlet’s potential and her performing at a higher level has helped her.

“We all play important roles and we all do what we have to do and some of them kind of depend on me I haven’t been showing them what I need to do,” Hamlet said. “I figured it’s about that time since we are in the postseason.”

BIGGEST SURPRISE: McKee/Staten Island Tech is usually a pretty good team from long range, but didn’t hit a single 3. Francis Lewis used a man-to-man defense while focusing on stopping Kaitlyn Astel, who led all scorers with 19 points.

“It was very big because we know they’re a great shooting team,” junior Jasmine Davis said. “When we scrimmaged them, they hit 3’s all day on us.”

QUOTE OF THE GAME: “It’s exciting to move on my with my team and possibly get a chance to get to (the finals at) the Garden. That’s what we want, especially for our seniors, Theo, Magdalena (Janczak) and Shea (Sherrice Marshall). We feel they deserve it so us as juniors we’re going to try to get our team there.”--Hamlet

UP NEXT: Francis Lewis will meet No. 2 South Shore in the semifinals Tuesday night at Hunter College. South Shore defeated No. 10 Midwood 62-41 in the quarterfinals.