Grand Street is one step closer to the school’s first Class AA girls’ basketball city championship.
No. 3-seeded Grand Street shook off a rocky start to beat No. 2 Murry Bergtraum 52–47 in the Public School Athletic League semifinals at Lehman College last Saturday, besting the team that knocked the Wolves out of the playoffs in the last two seasons.
“It’s an amazing thing,” said Grand Street head coach Corey McFarlane. “We have freshmen and sophomores that played such a big role this year, and juniors and seniors who have been here three or four years and came up short. The way we did it in beating Bergtraum, a team that ended our season the last two years, it’s a really special feeling.”
Grand Street’s slow start was due in large part to Bergtraum’s senior center Alexandria Smith (18 points). The Middle Tennessee-bound Smith was a force down low in the paint in the first quarter as almost all of Bergtraum’s offense ran through her. With Smith off the court in the first quarter, Bergtraum was held scoreless, but with her they out-scored Grand Street 16–5, for a 16–11 first-quarter lead.
The Wolves’ jump shots started to fall in the second quarter and that opened the floor for the rest of the offense. Grand Street was also able to figure out how to capitalize on its speed to combat the size of Smith. Grand Street (18–8) outscored Bergtraum 16–11 and at halftime the score was tied at 27–27. Forward Shanique Edwards (12 points) came off the bench after missing Friday’s practice because of a funeral and made an immediate impact.
Going into the second half, Grand Street was at a huge advantage as Bergtraum senior guard Ashanae McLaughlin, who is headed to Seton Hall, committed her fourth foul just before the break.
That’s their go-to player,” Arelis Cora said of McLaughlin. “Once she got that fourth foul, we had to look at ourselves and make sure we could try and make her foul out.”
Grand Street came out on the attack with McLaughlin on the bench to start the third quarter. It opened the frame on a 10–2 run that was capped by a layup from Edwards with 3:33 left in the third. Grand Street would outscore Bergtraum 17–6 in the quarter for a 44-33 lead. Edwards and Cora each had 12 points to lead Grand Street. Smith paced Bergtraum (18–7) with a game-high 18 points.
Bergtraum went on a 10–2 run of its own to start the fourth quarter and trailed just 46–43 with 3:54 remaining in the regulation. That was as close as the Lady Blazers would get.
Grand Street was able to hold Bergtraum off in the final minutes and secure a spot in the city championship game against South Shore at 11 am on March 14 at Madison Square Garden — thrilling the players and silencing the doubters.
“Coming to Grand Street this is what I wanted to do — go to Madison Square Garden,” Cora said. “Everyone was doubting us and didn’t have faith in us.”