By Dylan Butler
With five minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Van Buren girls’ basketball team’s 18-point lead slashed to just 10, Jennaer Brown’s thoughts drifted back to last year’s PSAL Class B quarterfinal game.
Last year the VeeBees self-destructed down the stretch, losing to Queens rival Bayside on the same Lehman College court.
But this year Van Buren took care of the ball. This year Van Buren weathered the storm. This year Van Buren advanced.
Drexel-bound Delise Johnson had 20 points and 17 rebounds and led a balanced attack for No. 10 Van Buren in a 60-45 win over second-seeded Beach Channel Sunday.
“We were very smart this year,” Brown said. “Last year everybody got a little nervous and let our nervousness get the best of us. This time we pulled it through.”
The VeeBees advance to the PSAL Class B semifinals for the first time in school history and will face No. 6 South Shore Saturday at St. John’s University. The Vikings beat third-seeded Bronx Leadership, 41-37, in one of four upsets Sunday at Lehman College.
No. 5 Van Arsdale beat fourth-seeded Norman Thomas, and No. 9 Brandeis defeated top-seeded Park West in the other ‘B’ quarterfinal games.
“We had a game plan and they did exactly what we asked of them,” Van Buren coach Mike McClain said. “We came out with the ‘W’ and it’s a good feeling, a good feeling for now.”
After leading for much of the game, Van Buren (22-6) was up 48-30 heading into the fourth quarter. But three minutes later, the VeeBees’ lead was just 10 and it looked like Beach Channel was about to take control of the game.
And then Van Buren went to its security blanket in 6-foot-1 Johnson, who was unstoppable down low.
“Every time we’re in trouble, coach says, ‘lob it into Delise and cut to the basket,’” Brown said. “Delise gets it right back to us or she takes it herself. That’s our key right there, Delise. We use her anytime we need her.”
In a game featuring a pair of marquee players in Johnson and Beach Channel’s Katreem Palmer, it was the Van Buren supporting cast that proved to be the difference.
Samantha Johnson (no relation) had 12 points; Brown, the team’s point guard and emotional leader, had nine points, nine assists and six steals; and Teresa George added eight points and 13 rebounds.
“It’s unbelievable,” Delise Johnson said. “Last year we were all disappointed but this year we actually made it through. There’s no words for it.”
Palmer, meanwhile, struggled throughout. The senior forward finished with 12 points, eight points below her playoff average. Chaquita Ivory had 13 points and Gina Giles added 11 for Beach Channel (21-3), which trailed 23-9 midway through the second quarter and never got within 10 in the second half.
Van Buren 56, John Bowne 43. Delise Johnson scored 21 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, Samantha Johnson had 15 points, and Brown added 11 points in the second round for the VeeBees Feb. 25.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.