From the very beginning of the season, Anwar Gladden was nervous about one thing involving his team. It had nothing to do with South Shore’s talent, athleticism or depth – those were all golden. It was their mental psyche. He feared that if expectations got to their head, they might fold.
Gladden played a less high-profile schedule than normal to guard against that. He was difficult in interviews, not wanting to praise any players individually. The coach knew what he had and didn’t want it to get screwed up.
The Vikings were guarded against that buildup all year. But the last few days leading up to the Garden the talk was that South Shore was the team that was finally going to knock Murry Bergtraum off its throne. The hype train had left the station.
“I guess all the hype around us and the hype leading into the game motivated [Bergtraum] and we were worried about that as coaches,” Gladden said.
He had a right to be. It might not have been the reason that No. 2 South Shore fell to top-seed Murry Bergtraum, 56-48, in the PSAL Class AA city championship game Sunday morning. But it certainly drove the Lady Blazers, who admitted to feeling like the underdogs coming in despite having won the previous 12 titles.
“They played harder than us,” Gladden said. “That was the bottom line. They played like we were the 12-time champions and they were the underdog.”
Gladden didn’t like the officiating in the game. He said if he knew two of the referees were doing the game before late Saturday night, he would have objected. Angela Halasy, he said, gave him a technical foul two years ago when South Shore played Bergtraum at the Garden and he felt she could have been biased against him.
But to his credit Gladden didn’t blame the refs for his team’s loss. South Shore was down 41-40 after two Jasmine Odom free throws with 4:50 left in the game, but did not execute on offense down the stretch. Bergtraum’s Shequana Harris hit a dagger 3-pointer with 1:07 left to put Bergtraum up 52-46.
Odom and Fannisha Price, who was so good in the semis against Francis Lewis, fouled out late. The Vikings only showed spurts of the defense that frustrated the Patriots. They were uncharacteristically outrebounded 44-34.
This loss definitely stings. There was a chance for history.
“The season was set to win a city championship this year,” Gladden said. “We didn’t get it done.”
Odom had 12 points and Price and Tatiana Wilson each had 10 points for South Shore. Both Odom, Wilson and reserve forward Akiah Luceus graduate from this team, though the Vikings are expected to be a favorite again next year. Chances are you won’t hear Gladden or any of his players talking about that.
“That’s gonna be the approach,” Gladden said. “Just stay low key until it’s time to celebrate. That time wasn’t today.”