By Jerry Del Priore
It was once thought by many NYC high school basketball insiders that the South Shore girls’ basketball team couldn’t win the big game after losing four previous times in the finals.
The notion was dismissed last year when the Lady Vikings captured the Class “AA” PSAL Championship and further put to bed recently as top-seeded South Shore routed No. 2 Francis Lewis, 55-39, Saturday at Madison Square Garden to claim back-to-back titles.
Known for his diligent, tireless work ethic, coaching philosophy and insisting his players work even harder in the classroom and on the hardwood as ways to help prepare for life, head coach Anwar Gladden wasn’t shocked South Shore repeated.
“I put in the work. I’m constantly on the kids, as far as their academics and basketball and just in their lives in making smart decisions,” the 14-year coach said at the press conference. “So, I’m not putting in that work not to win. I’m not putting in the work for these young ladies to not go off to college and not be successful. It feels good, but no, it’s not a surprise because we worked. I tell them hard work pays off.”
The Lady Vikings (13-0, 20-4) jumped out to an 11-6 first-quarter lead, but it was the second period that began to spell doom for the Lady Patriots. South Shore’s stalwart defense didn’t allow a single point in the quarter, as it swelled its advantage to 21-6 at the half.
While Francis Lewis (14-1, 21-3) bested the Lady Vikings, 15-14, in the third quarter, it wasn’t nearly enough for a comeback, as South Shore was ahead by 14 points at the end of the period.
The Lady Vikings dropped 20 points to the Lady Patriots’ 18 to lock up the tilt and title going away.
Sophomore forward/guard Earlette Scott earned the game’s MVP honor, posting 10 points, six rebounds and three assists while junior forward Selena Philoxy dropped 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Sophomore point guard Keyanna Glover and junior guard Tsahai Corbie scored seven points apiece, and sophomore point guard Destiny Philoxy dished out seven assists.
Asked if her MVP honor had sunk in yet, Scott replied, “No. It still feels like a dream.”
Additionally, Scott chalked up the victory to the Lady Vikings’ impressive defensive effort, in which they converted multiple Francis Lewis turnovers into 25 points.
“Defense is our key. If our defense isn’t on, our offense isn’t going,” Scott explained. “Once you get the defense going, then the offense will come. And that’s what happened.” In the second half, South Shore registered 34 of its 55 points.
The Lady Vikings travel to Albany for the New York State Federation tournament this weekend, and South Shore is primed and focused on redeeming itself after an early ousting last season.
“It was a bittersweet last year being that we had never been there before,” Gladden said. “But now we know what to expect, we know the competition, and we want to prove that we are the best team in New York State.”