By Marc Raimondi and Joseph Staszewski
ALBANY — Jessica Glaz was fouled and landed hard hip first on the ball in the fourth quarter. She was on the ground for a minute, writhing in pain. But the Scholars Academy sophomore refused to come out of the game. Never mind that her team was facing an insurmountable deficit.
“You’re not gonna be able to keep her out of the game,” Scholars basketball Coach Janet Kleiner said after a 72-44 loss to Long Island Lutheran in the New York State Federation Class B semifinals Friday morning. “She is as mentally and physically tough as they come.”
Kleiner said the trainer looked at Glaz while she was on the ground and gave the coach the option to remove her from the game. Kleiner gave one look to Glaz and she refused to come off the Times Union Center court.
“I wanted to keep the motivation up,” Glaz said. “It doesn’t matter that we’re not gonna come back. We at least wanted to make the lead less.”
She finished with 21 points, including a 5-of-7 clip from three-point range. Kayla Nolan added nine points. It was Scholars Academy’s second-straight trip here in just its third varsity season. The two-time PSAL Class B champion did it this year with a vastly different group. Taylor Gallagher was the only returning starter.
“It was not expected at all this season,” Kleiner said.
After winning two in a row in the ‘B’ league, Kleiner said the Seawolves will petition the PSAL to move up to Class A next year. Glaz couldn’t be more excited about that opportunity.
“In the ‘B,’ we proved ourselves,” she said.
So did Glaz. Kleiner called her performance against one of the area’s top teams a “typically Jessie game. She’s always able to find a way.” Long Island Lutheran Coach Rich Slater was impressed by the Rockaway school’s star 10th-grader.
“She played hard, she competed,” Slater said. “She looked like she was having fun out there. She was one of the best shooters we saw this year.”
Loughlin seniors in search of college destination: Kasim Alston believes his two star seniors have shown they deserve better when it comes to recruiting. His daughter Nyree Alston and fellow guard Ayana Ratliff are still without a college scholarship offer as their Bishop Loughlin team is a victory away from winning the program’s first state Federation Class A crown.
“Somebody’s missing out,” the coach said.
He said the two know how to handle the ball and the pressure, play tough defense and make big shots when needed. The 5-foot-6 Ratliff is an athletic slasher and Alston, who is 5-foot-5, is a sure-handed point guard, who can knock down the 3. Ratliff scored 25 points in the Lions’ 70-58 state Federation Class A semifinal win over Rochester East Friday. She also had 30 points to help Loughlin beat Mary Louis for the CHSAA city title. Alston tallied 13 points, including four three-pointers versus Rochester East.
“We play against the toughest competition,” Kasim Alston said. “Other kids who are signed don’t play against this level and are signed to mid-majors or majors and can’t even compete and can’t even walk in those girls’ shoes.”
North Carolina A&T, Delaware State and North Carolina Central have shown interest in both, along with a host of Division II schools. Florida A&M has also shown interest in Ratliff. College coaches losing their jobs this time of year adds extra uncertainly, but Kasim Alston said he plans on touching base with schools in April and getting film out to them.
“I feel like that they should be getting scouted,” said point guard Jasmine Alston, the coach’s cousin. “Now it’s like who is the tallest, who jumps the highest. It’s not about the heart.”
Ratliff isn’t concerned as all, hoping everything will work out in the end.
“I think I’ve shown enough,” Ratliff said. “I’ll get some offers.”
Irvington eager for LuHi rematch: Marley Giddins called it one of the biggest games her Irvington team has played and not just because a second Class B state Federation title is on the line 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Times Union Center.
The Bulldogs face rival Long Island Lutheran in the final for the second straight year. It could have been possibly a third consecutive title had LuHi hot rallied from 14 points down in the fourth court to stun Irvington a year ago.
“We definitely want some revenge,” Giddins said. “We are going to go out no holding back.”
Irvington wasn’t sharp in the first half of an eventual 74-57 win over CHSAA champ Cardinal O’Hara (Buffalo) in the semifinal, up just four at the break. Irvington felt it tried to pick up the tempo too much, which forced mistakes.
“Long Island Lutheran played a lot better than we did today,” Irvingston Coach Gina Maher said. “Hopefully, we bring our ‘A’ game [today].”
Point guard Brittni Lai was able to settle things down en route to 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds for Irvington (26-1). Giddins, who had been stifled by O’Hara’s size inside early, rebounded to finish with 20 points and 10 boards. Alexis Martins scored 16 of her 23 points at the free throw line and added 16 rebounds. Leah McDonnell had 19 points and Aaron Shabazz chipped in 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks (22-5).
“We don’t need any motivation for [Saturday],” Lai said.