The South Shore girls’ basketball team wasn’t just playing with nationally ranked St. Michael Academy. The Vikings were actually beating the Eagles.
There was 5:19 left in the third quarter, South Shore led by four and it looked like this match-up between two of New York City’s best teams would go right down to the wire.
Then the St. Mike’s defense clamped down hard and wouldn’t let go.
The quick and ridiculously long Eagles used a devastating halfcourt trap and the Vikings, after a Valerie Patterson jumper in the third quarter, didn’t have another field goal until there was 3:35 left in the game. St. Mike’s went on to win, 64-54, on Saturday night at the John F. Kennedy Girls’ Basketball Classic in the Bronx.
“It’s all about defense,” Eagles coach Apache Paschall said. “That’s the most important thing for us. Offense is going to be up and down.”
That St. Mike’s trap generated plenty of turnovers and many easy baskets. Paschall said he couldn’t use that defense as much in the first quarter, because his team is down to seven regular players due to injuries and he didn’t want his starters to get into foul trouble or get fatigued. Sophomores Brianna Sidney and Bra’Shey Ali are out for the season with torn ACLs and senior point guard Janine Davis (MCL) and freshman Jasmine Davis (ankle) are out for the next few weeks, too.
“We’re not used to seeing teams as long as that,” South Shore coach Anwar Gladden said.
Or as big. St. Mike’s (16-2), ranked No. 9 in the country by USA Today, dominated the glass the entire game. Leading the way down low was sophomore Taylor Ford. Normally known for doing the dirty work, the 10th grader, who is being courted by North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky, among others, had a team-high 18 points.
“Taylor is just an animal,” Paschall said. “She’ll dive out of bounds, hit her face on the concrete and come right back.”
Alyssa Rohlehr had 12 points, Brittany Webb and Tiffany Jones had nine and Jennifer O’Neil, who lists Illinois, California, Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan State among her suitors, added eight for St. Michael Academy. Sophomore Jasmine Odom had 20 points — “she’s gonna be a superstar,” Paschall said — and senior Baytania Newman had 18 for South Shore (14-4).
This was a game Gladden had wanted all season long and the St. Mike’s players were well aware of it.
“They were just talking, talking, talking,” Ford said. “We had to show them who’s better.”
Paschall said he chose to stay quiet.
“The most dangerous team is a team that has something to prove,” Paschall said.
Gladden says he wasn’t calling out St. Mike’s because he thought his team was better than the Eagles. He’s just all about giving his own team as many challenges as he can — and there are few teams in the area better than SMA.
“It’s absolutely not just about winning and losing,” Gladden said. “With our league schedule, you gotta wait two weeks to play a good team.”
He took a few positives from the game, but was most disappointed with his team’s rebounding, especially freshman Fannisha Price, who had strung together a number of good games recently.
“They played volleyball with us,” Gladden said. “We’re an undersized team, but I thought we were gonna do a better job.”
As for St. Mike’s, it should get the Davis sisters back in time for the CHSAA Class AA state tournament in March. That means Paschall can possibly bring that trapping defense out early and often — a scary thought.
“Nothing,” O’Neil said, “is gonna stop us from going upstate.”