South Shore put a heck of a scare into Murry Bergtraum with a second half comeback, but ultimately fell 48–43 in the Public School Athletic League Class AA girls basketball final at Madison Square Garden Saturday morning.
The Lady Blazers won their record 15th straight city title. South Shore, which was within 43–41 with 1:35 left in the game, is still looking for its first after crown after its third trip to the championship game in the last five years. The Vikings squad wasn’t able to wrestle the lead or the trophy from Bergtraum.
“You get the lead and it just gives you a different attitude, different energy,” said Vikings coach Anwar Gladden. “But we kept fighting.”
South Shore, which trailed by 16 at the half, rode sophomore forward Brianna Fraser after the break where she scored 10 of her 12 points. The Vikings struggled from the outside most of the game but finally got enough shooting from Aliyah Cooley and Ashley McDonald to loosen up Bergtraum’s tight defense in the paint.
“We kept our faith,” Cooley said. “What brought us back was [our] love [for each other].”
They fended off a shot-clock-beating trey from Bergtraum’s Joella Gibson (15 points) and pulled within two points late the game. South Shore (22–5) just couldn’t come up with the defensive rebound needed to give itself a chance to tie the score after two missed free throws by Jasmine Nwajei (16 points) and a missed layup from Ashanae McLoughlin (15 points). Nwajei made two free throws and the Vikings turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass.
“We played great defense and then just didn’t finish it,” Gladden said. “Even with the Gibson three.
Legendary Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky’s game plan worked to perfection in the first half. Bergtraum (24–2) triple-teamed Fraser and Aurellia Cammock in the paint. Bergtraum didn’t let Cooley get clean looks at jumpers and watched the remaining Vikings players miss from the outside. The Lady Blazers forced 18 first-half turnovers and 25 for the game.
“It was really tough at first [to score],” Cammock said. “Our shooting was off in the beginning. We just tried to tell them ‘keep shooting, keep shooting it will go in and open it up for us.’ ”
Gladden doesn’t believe the title window has closed for his program. South Shore graduates only two seniors this year. Fraser is just a sophomore and his junior varsity team just lost in city finals.
“We’re young,” Gladden said. “We’ll be back.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk