By Dylan Butler
GLENS FALLS — Unfinished business was the theme for the girls Class A state Federation championship game between PSAL powerhouse Murry Bergtraum and longtime CHSAA top dog Christ the King.
Even though they defeated the Royals last year in the semifinals, ending Christ the King’s 11-year reign as Class A state Federation champions, the Blazers left Glens Falls last year empty handed, losing to Colonie (Albany), 72-55, in the title game.
The Royals, meanwhile, thought the loss was a fluke and wanted to prove it Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center. But after Bergtraum’s solid 70-54 win, the Blazers not only bring home the first Federation crown for the PSAL since 1995, but also return to the city with a heaping tablespoon of respect.
“Last year wasn’t a fluke and this year wasn’t a fluke,” said Bergtraum head coach Ed Grezinsky. “[Christ the King] set the measuring stick in the city and state for a long time and we feel we can play with them. I think we’re on an even par with them.”
Four-time defending PSAL champion Bergtraum (28-2) became the first girls city public school team to win the Class A Federation title since August Martin in 1989 and the first PSAL team since Lincoln in 1995 to bring home a Federation title.
“This win was not only for us, but it was for the PSAL,” Grezinsky said. “The PSAL never gets any respect, but now we have the title to prove it.”
After Murry Bergtraum’s 66-59 semifinal win over Christ the King last year, the Blazers celebrated as if they had just won the crown.
They stayed at the Civic Center for the remainder of the games that day and found it hard to sleep that night. Bergtraum went home without the Federation title they thought they deserved and had again to fight the PSAL stereotype of playing sloppy, unorganized basketball.
“Last year, beating Christ the King was like our championship,” said Bergtraum junior forward Tracey Wright, who like teammate Chanel Moore, transferred to Bergtraum from Christ the King. “But when we lost people said we were like every PSAL team. That’s why they don’t respect us like other teams, but this title shows we can do it.”
This year the attitude was different. After defeating Central Catholic (Troy), 58-49, in the semifinals Friday, the Blazers left the Civic Center, ate dinner and went back to the hotel with lights out at 11.
“You can’t get caught up in the whole tournament, you have to take care of yourself,” Grezinsky said. “I was very confident that if we played our ‘A’ game we were going to win.”
In an extremely physical game, which featured a combined 50 fouls, Bergtraum was the aggressor. The Blazers dove on the floor for loose balls, wrestled for all jump balls and dominated the glass, outrebounding Christ the King, 41-26.
“It was a very physical game from start to finish and I think it played to their advantage,” said Christ the King coach Bob Mackey. “They definitely outworked us on the boards. That was the main difference. They outhustled us.”
Bergtraum led 37-32 at the half, thanks to Crystal McFadden’s buzzer-beating runner from beyond the arc. On Moore’s bucket from the right blocks, the Blazers capped a 10-2 run to take a 44-34 lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
But the Royals, who played without Hofstra-bound Cigi McCollin for a second straight game because of a sprained right ankle, cut Bergtraum’s lead to 48-44 early in the fourth quarter as Candice Lindsay scored seven of her team-high 11 points during a 10-2 run.
Shameena Felix (10 points) responded with five straight points, including a corner three-pointer to extend the Blazers’ lead to 53-44 with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter. Christ the King (24-3) couldn’t get within seven points, as Lindsay, Corinne Turner, Shay Doron and Toni Horvath all fouled out.
McFadden led Bergtraum with 18 points and 12 rebounds, including eight offensive boards, and was named the game’s MVP. Carmen Guzman scored a game-high 19, Wright had 14 and Moore added nine.
“They outplayed us, plain and simple,” Mackey said. “When it comes to March, the team that wants it more wins. They wanted it more. I thought we should have come out hungrier. I’m not used to saying that.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.