By Dylan Butler
Van Buren girls’ basketball coach Mike McClain was conflicted following the VeeBees’ 55-51 win over South Shore in the PSAL Class B semifinals Sunday at Lehman College.
The result, a win that sends Van Buren into its first girls’ basketball city championship game ever, was great.
But it was the way No. 10 Van Buren finished the game that had McClain perturbed.
The VeeBees nearly let a 22-point fourth-quarter lead — including a 20-point edge with 3:42 left — slip away as No. 6 South Shore went on a 17-2 run to get within five with 32.9 seconds left before its furious and unlikely rally fell just short.
“This is the type of game I don’t want to be in,” McClain said. “This is the kind of game you like to watch from the stands, but it is the kind of game you don’t want to be in when you’re sitting and coaching.”
It was an unlikely rally because of the way the Lady Vikings played in the third quarter. After falling behind 26-8 early and trailing 30-16 at halftime, South Shore (26-3) scored just five points in the third quarter — all in the final 1:15 — and entered the fourth quarter down by 21.
“That’s where those key possessions early in the game, those foul shots … early in the game come back to haunt you,” said South Shore coach Anwar Gladden.
Trailing 52-32 with 3:42 left, South Shore started its remarkable rally when 6-foot-1 Delise Johnson, who had 11 points and 17 rebounds and was nearly unstoppable in the paint despite a constant double team, fouled out with 3:15 left.
“It’s a relief,” said the Drexel-bound center. “We still got the ‘W.’”
A little more than a minute later, Van Buren point guard Jennaer Brown (16 points, six assists) fouled out as the VeeBees barely hung on in the final two minutes.
“My supporting cast didn’t quite come through today,” McClain said. “They gotta pick up the slack.”
Jasmin Sistrunk led South Shore with 16 points, while Lesia Wynn had 13 points and Sheniqua Echols added 11.
Van Buren faces No. 9 Brandeis in the PSAL ‘B’ final Friday at St. Francis College at 5 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs defeated fifth-seeded Van Arsdale, 51-35, in the other semifinal.
“Now we know when we go to St. Francis we know what we have to do,” Brown said. “And we have to tighten up that defense.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.