Bayside defies odds, stays alive in playoffs

By Joseph Staszewski

Ashley Mitchell called her Bayside team’s No. 38 seed “ridiculous” and recited a motto from head Coach Steve Piorkowski.

“He used to tell us, ‘We’re in charge of whether we win or not,’” the senior forward said.

Piorkowski is no longer on the bench, falling ill last month, but this team is still living by one of his sayings.

The Cinderella Commodores came away with their third straight playoff upset, knocking off No. 11 Lafayette 56-42 in PSAL Class A girls’ basketball second round Feb. 29 in Brooklyn.

“It’s surreal,” said Coach Steve Scharf, also the boys’ JV head man. “It’s crazy. The [No.] 3 seed and eight teams left. We just come into every gym and look at the other team and say, ‘We really have a shot.’”

On this night, they had the play of athletic senior forward Syndy Durugordon and her best performance of the postseason for Bayside (12-6). She dominated the paint, dropped in 34 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and collected three blocks. Durugordon had 13 first-quarter points and was 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Her only two missed came in the fourth quarter. Mitchell had 12 points.

“They weren’t guarding the paint as much as they should have,” Durugordon said. “My teammates with their passes. Sara [DeLuca] was amazing. She made it a lot easier.”

DeLuca was thrust into the point guard role for the first time this year in the absence of starter Jada Muza, who missed the game for personal reasons. She was a major factor in how smoothly the Bayside offense ran and in breaking Lafayette’s pressure.

The Patriots (13-4), who only led in the opening minutes, pulled within 19-14 with 5:19 left in the first half on two free throws from Jasley Mejia (14 points). Emina Dukanovic responded with five of her seven points, including a three-pointer from the right corner to help put Bayside up 26-18 at the half.

“As soon as we slowed it down to where we play it was so easy,” Mitchell said.

Durugordon finished off the charge by scoring eight points during a 10-2 run that upped her team’s lead to 36-19 with 4:04 remaining in the third. Lafayette Coach Kareem Benson said with his team trying to trap to get back in the game, it left Durugordon too open and his squad did not take Bayside for granted.

The Patriots, who got within 50-34 in the fourth, didn’t take enough advantage of the turnovers they created and struggled at the free throw lines. Takiyah Joseph and Vilmarys Quidgley added 10 points each.

“My kids didn’t come out with the passion I thought they would,” Benson said. “They started to hold their heads down early.”

Bayside’s heads and confidence couldn’t be higher right now. Scharf, fellow coaches, his good friends Joseph Capuana, the school’s athletic director, and football Coach Jason Levitt, dressed in matching shirts, all hugged at the end of the handshake line. The trio and Joe Corrado, the boys’ soccer and JV girls’ hoops coach, took the helm after Piorkowski became sick.

They and their players are looking forward to the challenge of playing Wings and keeping this magical ride going.

“Seeding doesn’t mean anything,” Scharf said. “We’re the 38. Take the number off. They are just another school and we will do our best.”

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