By Laura Amato
It’s difficult to win if the ball doesn’t go in the hoop.
The third-seeded Springfield Gardens girls’ basketball team went cold at the least opportune time Saturday afternoon, struggling from the floor as the Lady Eagles fell 52-40 to No. 1 Holcombe Rucker in the PSAL “B” final at Baruch College.
“When they came out and pressed us, it kind of took a little momentum back,” said Springfield Gardens coach Adam Hershkowitz. “They got back into the game and combined with the foul issues that kind of swung it in their momentum.”
The first half was a game of runs as Springfield Gardens jumped out to an early lead in the opening minutes of play. The Lady Eagles pushed tempo from the opening tip, forcing 11 turnovers and grabbing an 11-point cushion after the first quarter.
“I told the team, let’s pretend that the game’s started again,” Hershkowitz said. “The second quarter is zero-zero, don’t let down and don’t let down the energy. Just try to keep the same tempo.”
The problem, however, was maintaining that control.
Springfield Gardens struggled to keep its grip on the lead in the second quarter and, suddenly, the Lady Eagles’ up-beat play forced them into quick shots and costly turnovers.
“Our offense comes from our defense,” Rucker center Jada Simon said. “So if we got the steal and the fast break, that’s how we were going to score. We got used to the game and knew how to control it. ”
Springfield Gardens missed 11 of its 22 free throw attempts in the first half and racked up double-digit turnovers in the first 16 minutes of play. The Lady Eagles were frustrated with the points they left on the floor – certain they could have pushed the lead heading in the waning minutes of the second quarter.
Still, there was a silver lining and Springfield Gardens’ five-point cushion at halftime was the focus of the discussion at the break.
It wasn’t easy, however, for Springfield Gardens to keep its focus in the second half.
The Lady Eagles were held scoreless for the first six minutes of the third quarter and sophomore point guard McKenzee Cummings was whistled for her fourth foul of the game with just over four minutes left in the period. The squad struggled to hold onto the ball, notching a handful of critical turnovers, and Rucker’s Traynise Delaney gave the Mavericks a 29-27 lead with 3:20 on the clock.
“I think fouls definitely played a factor in the game,” Hershkowitz said. “My point guard, once she had to sit and she sat most of the second half, that was a big reason why we couldn’t control the ball.”
Springfield Gardens didn’t connect on a single field goal in the third quarter and the Lady Eagles were never able to regain control in the waning minutes of the title tilt. The squad got as close as five with 7:06 left, but it was too little, too late.
It’s a disappointing ending for a senior-laden Springfield Gardens team that had its sights set on a championship, but the squad did its best to focus on the positives.
“This is the furthest the Springfield Gardens basketball team has ever made it in the girls’ basketball program,” Hershkowitz said. “So I just tell them someone has to lose a game like this and we’ll get back to work starting on next season.