It was the most trying time of the season for Leon Goldstein. Its two best players were on the bench in the fourth quarter and Academy of American Studies was mounting a furious rally.
“Brittany [McDonough] hurts her leg, Chrissy [McKeever] fouling out, they’re trying to come back, it’s the championship game,” sophomore Nora Elbassiony said. “It was nervewracking.”
But she remained calm. So did guards Danielle Natoli and Brianna Rogers. No. 1 Goldstein slowed down the pace and held onto a 57-39 win against No. 14 Academy of American Studies in the PSAL Class B title game Saturday, March 20, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. It was the first championship of any kind for the decade-old school.
“I might not have had offensive firepower, but I had ballhandlers,” coach Adrian Buchhalter said. “But was I nervous? Yeah, I was nervous. I’m always nervous.”
Buchhalter could take a deep sigh of relief when the buzzer sounded. Goldstein (21-2) was the No. 1 seed last year, too, but fell to bitter rival Lafayette in the title game. The goal from the beginning this season was to win it all and anything else was going to be a disappointment.
“It’s awesome,” Buchhalter said. “It’s a two-year thing. This has been in our head for two years.”
It didn’t come easy last Saturday though. Academy of American Studies (19-4) tied the game on an Eni Lici layup with 2:42 left in the second quarter. But McKeever had a 3-pointer to start a 10-2 run to close the half. In the second half, the Dolphins went to a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap and it wore the Eagles out. Goldstein was up 46-28 after three.
“Usually, second halves we come out strong,” McKeever said.
McKeever was huge as the Dolphins pulled away. She had eight points in a key second quarter and finished with 18 for the game. She was awarded the game’s most valuable player honor. Elbassiony had 21 points and was a calming influence in the fourth quarter. Crystal James had 17 points and Kendle Alexander added eight for Academy of American Studies, which won the ‘B’ title two years ago.
McDonough had 10 points for Goldstein and was desperately trying to get back into the game late, but Buchhalter wouldn’t let her. After the game, the huge Goldstein contingent in Downtown Brooklyn chanted “Brittany! Brittany!” McDonough, who had 27 points and seven 3-pointers in the semifinals, was in tears – a combination of pain and joy. Instead of posing for the traditional picture at halfcourt, the Dolphins gathered around McDonough on the bench.
“She was crying,” McKeever said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘We just won.’”
Buchhalter said McDonough likely won’t play in the New York State Federation Class B semifinals against St. Mary’s (Lancaster), the CHSAA ‘B’ representative, this Friday, March 26, at 10 a.m. at Glens Falls Civic Center. But that’s OK with Goldstein.
“This is what we wanted,” Buchhalter said. “This is it.”
It was two years in the making.