Spotlight bright on historic PSAL girls’ hoops final

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A Brooklyn boys’ basketball team will not compete for a Public School Athletic League Class AA city title for the first time since 1999, shifting the borough’s spotlight to intriguing and historic girls’ final.

When South Shore and Grand Street square off 11 am on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, it will ensure the first Brooklyn team to claim the crown since coach Barney Davis led Paul Robeson to the title in 1991 before August Martin and Murry Bergtraum each went on long title reigns. Both South Shore and Grand Street will be coming for their program’s first crown.

“Brooklyn is going to be in there deep,” South Shore coach Anwar Gladden said.

The two programs are in the same game but very different positions.

For Gladden and the Vikings, this is their fifth title game in seven years. The previous four ended in losses to Murry Bergtraum.

South Shore has been one of the premier programs in the city in recent years, producing Division I talent and now a McDonald’s All-American in Maryland-bound forward Brianna Fraser. This certainly isn’t Gladden’s most talented team, but it could be the one with the best shot to finally bring home the hardware. Fraser and senior guard Ashley McDonald have done a superb job nurturing a young supporting cast this season.

A loss to Grand Street on Saturday would be tougher to swallow than any to the Lady Blazers, because for the first time South Shore is the favorite heading into the game. The Vikings won the teams’ lone meeting this season 74–68 back on Dec. 1.

South Shore faces a hungry and veteran Grand Street squad making a name for itself by beating established programs on its way to a city title. Beating its borough rival would only make it sweeter. Reaching the final was expected for South Shore, but Grand Street made people into believers.

“There were so many doubters,” said Wolves senior guard Arelis Cora.

The pieces fell into place against the odds for the Wolves to make a run this year. Darieli Abreu came back healthy from major leg surgery. Cora was granted a fifth season of eligibility after missing nearly two seasons because of an ACL tear. Shanique Edwards, one of the best young bigs in the city, transferred in from Nazareth. Edwards didn’t know she was joining something so special.

“It’s taking me by surprise,” said Edwards of reaching the final.

The victors will etch their names in their school’s history forever. For South Shore, it is a chance to end a decade of frustration and finally grab the top spot in the league. The Wolves would send the seniors that took a chance on the school out with the crown they were told they could only get by going to more established programs — and put Grand Street in position to join South Shore, Francis Lewis and Bergtraum as a top-tier program for years to come. Expect a memorable battle either way it goes.

“We know that is going to be dogfight,” Gladden said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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