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March 16, 2013Tweet
NEW YORK, NY - When a team has won 14 straight PSAL championships, you could understand complacently setting in. Winning so often you would think could make a coach and his team maybe slack off.
That isn't the case though with Murry Bergtraum. The Lady Blazers and their coach Ed Grezinsky have such a history of winning, but they persevered and worked through some tough times this season, capping it off by capturing PSAL title #15 in a row by defeating South Shore on Saturday 48-43.
The season started off rocky for the Lady Blazers. They lost a home game to South Shore on a Friday in early December 54-46. It would devastate most coaches. It was right at that moment that South Shore coach Anwar Gladden knew that this Bergtraum team that many had counted out this season, was going to be for real.
"We just beat Bergtraum on a Friday and we have a tournament in Maryland we are playing in on Saturday. So Saturday morning I get to the gym and I look up in the bleachers and who is in the top row but none other than Ed. We just beat them and he drove 4+ hours to Maryland to watch us play. If we had just lost I'd be under the covers all day, but he is a scoutaholid and a great coach to do that." Gladden said.
It's just that kind if motivation that keeps Bergtraum on top. The desire to do anything necessary to learn to get better and improve and make adjustments.
That trip to Maryland for Grezinsky says it all. It's apart of the winning tradition, but getting past the Lady Vikings would be a tough, but that's what scouting is for. To make the adjustments necessary to fix the issues that caused them to lose to South Shore just over 3 months ago.
One adjustment was getting out quick. The first time they played, South Shore was able to jump out quickly, and Bergtraum sophomore Ashanae McLaughlin understood the importance to reverse that this time.
"It was important for us to hurt them early and not get a confidence. We wanted to get a lead and really get out to start." McLaughlin said.
That is exactly what happened. Grezinsky made a couple key adjustments. He doubled South Shore forward Brianna Fraser and made the perimeter players of the Lady Vikings try and beat them.
That plan worked as Fraser struggled to get position on the inside with Alexandra Smith and Kimberly Viafara doing an excellent job in the paint, and South Shore guards went just 2 for 13 in first half from behind the arc. That was a receipt for disaster.
McLaughlin was hot for Bergtraum early on as well showing excellent quickness getting into driving lanes and avoiding contact going in. Senior Jasmine Nwajei also came up big with a couple of nice finishes going inside, seemingly able to score at will getting to the rim early on as the Lady Blazers took a 29-13 lead at the break,
It was a tough first half for South Shore. The fact that they hadn't been in this spot before playing for the City title at MSG before was something that Gladden felt caused his team to be sluggish to start.
"We are a young team with only 2 seniors and I think we were a bit nervous to start. Not of playing Bergtraum, but more of the atmosphere and playing at the Garden. Once we settled down though in the 2nd half though, we were good to go." Gladden said.
They were definitely good to go as it seemed like they came out a different, more composed team. Shots that weren't falling early were now falling. It started right out of the gate with Lady Vikings sharpshooter Aliyah Cooley draining a 3 to open the 3rd. That seemed to spark the entire team as she would go on to hit another long 3 in the period, and Fraser, who struggled so much in the paint in the opening half, was able to use good footwork and spin out of double teams and finish in the paint. A once 16 point lead was whittled down to just 35-28 after 3.
It looked like Bergtraum had righted the ship though to start the 4th when Nwajei hit a tough runner driving down the right side while getting fouled. She hit the FT and the Lady Blazers lead was back up to 11 with 6:35 to go.
South Shore never quit though. Malika Chislom came up with a couple of big buckets from the midrange, and Fraser was really starting to dominate inside, and after she hit a lefty putback with just 1:50 to go, the Bergtraum lead was just 43-41.
Nwajei was fouled and went to the line for 2. She ended up missing both and gave South Shore a chance to tie or take the lead. They had 3 putback attempts off misses, but Fraser and Aurellia Cammock couldn't get the ball to drop. Nwajei ended up getting the rebounds and was fouled again with just under a minute to go. Not looking 100% confident as she stepped to the line, McLaughlin went in and gave her some words of advice.
"I basically said we have faith in you. You can make these. Sink them and we will win. You can do it." McLaughlin said.
The pep talk worked because Nwajei after just missing a pair, made both to up the lead to 45-41. That was followed by the defensive play of the game as McLaughlin pressured the ball and was able to poke the ball loose in the backcourt off the leg of Amanda Cruz and Bergtraum had the ball back with very little time left. The crowd could sense another Lady Blazers title, and they closed it out from the line for Championship #15 in a row, defeating South Shore, 48-43.
Nwajei led all scorers with 16 points, while McLaughlin, who was named Game MVP, and Joella Gibson, who had a big three in the 4th as well, added 15 a piece.
Fraser paced South Shore with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with Cooley adding 9.
The hard work for a long season paid off for another title for Bergtraum. While Grezinsky said this title meant just as much as all the others, he did take pride in knowing that he was able to prove many of his doubters wrong.
"A lot of people I saw to start the year were counting us out saying we wouldn't win. I love that. I wish they would keeping saying that because it motivates the kids and it makes me work even harder." Grezinsky said.
It's a long way from that early season lose to the very same South Shore team they best today, but that lose really helped the team gel and become better according to 4 year Gold Ball winner Viafara.
"That game got us going. It really helped us in the end. We played our hearts out to prove we were the best and the score says it. We worked hard and we got it." Viafara said.
It's not the end for Gladden and South Shore though. With the core of his team coming back next year, the coach, while understandably upset, believes the future for his program is bright.
"We have a ton of talent in our building coming back. Its hurts but it's not the end of the world. We're young and we will be back." Gladden said after the loss.
For this day though, Bergtraum once again reigns supreme in the PSAL, and Grezinsky is going to enjoy still being king of the league.
"We may have gotten a little lucky, maybe the basketball Gods were on our side today, but it feels great. I'm very proud of everyone. We all worked really hard and deserve this."
Hard work once again truly paid off with another city title for this girls basketball power.
New York NEWS