Forest Hills girls stay in hunt for PSAL B title with victory

By Dylan Butler

While winning is certainly a good thing, sometimes a loss is even better for a team. Despite winning 18 straight games, Brigida Pezzulo felt her Forest Hills Rangers were getting a little stale.

So in preparation for Monday's PSAL 'B' quarterfinal game with Beach Channel, Forest Hills head coach Marc Zaretsky set up a scrimmage last Friday with PSAL 'A' powerhouse Brooklyn Tech. While neither team took score, Pezzulo knew the result.

“They kicked our butts and that was a wake-up call,” she said. “When you keep winning, you lose your edge. It made us hungry to come in here and play.”

Pezzulo and the Rangers returned to the court against the Dolphins with renewed vigor and, for the third time this season, defeated Beach Channel, 44-33, at Lehman College. No. 4 Forest Hills (21-2) will take on the defending city champions, Bryant, in the semifinals Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. John's University. The top-seeded Owls defeated Bronx Leadership, 57-44, in the second half of the doubleheader at Lehman.

Pezzulo led the way for the Rangers with 13 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Zakia Barnes had 11 points and Katherine Shea added 10 points, four assists and seven steals for Forest Hills.

“We knew this was the money game even though we won twice,” Zaretsky said. “I saw them come out with the same hunger like we had no wins in a row.”

No. 5 Beach Channel (14-7) turned the ball over on its first six possessions and Forest Hills extended an early 8-4 lead to 21-9. The Rangers went into the break ahead, 23-11.

The Dolphins came back and cut its deficit to 30-25 on a steal and layup by Quianna McBean to close the third quarter.

But, after almost five minutes of sloppy basketball on both ends, Shea extended the Rangers lead by slashing to the basket. Pezzulo scored from the inside and was also a presence low on the defensive side, swatting away numerous Dolphins attempts.

“We were a little shaken up because they were coming back,” Shea said. “But we got calm and focused and worked together.

“Some teams would just drop and fall but our team is different,” Pezzulo said. “We talk more, play more defense and score more. It's a great team because mentally we're very strong and that's what got us here.”

Shanna Hamilton led the way for Beach Channel, with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Bryant 57, Bronx Leadership 44. This one was not for the weak of heart. The Owls advanced to the semifinals after slugging through an ugly game. The two teams combined for 102 turnovers and ith 11 seconds left in the third quarter Bronx Leadership coach Anthony Jackson was ejected after picking up his second technical foul.

Shatyia Henderson led the way for Bryant with 21 points, 16 rebounds, four steals and one block. Donita Session was the leading scorer for Bronx Leadership Academy with 18 points.

John Adams 50, Jefferson 47. The sixth-seeded Spartans advance to the semifinals to face No. 7 Bushwick at St. John's University Sunday at 10 a.m.

Jennifer Porrazzo had 11 points and two crucial steals in the final four minutes as Adams (18-5) upset No. 3 Jefferson (21-4) at Elmcor Monday.

Alicia Fung led Adams with 13 points and 22 rebounds. Shakeema Hutcherson was the leading scorer for Jefferson with 21 points.