Anwar Gladden isn’t interested in moral victories, but the South Shore girls basketball coach liked what he saw from his team despite a 63-37 loss to nationally-ranked Whitney Young (Ill.) in the third annual Under Armour Classic at St. John the Baptist Sunday.
“I liked their toughness,” he said. “I liked their will and I liked that we took advantage of their size early, but we’ve just got to become more efficient – free throw shooting, layups and not giving teams second chances are things we stress during practice.”
Those little things mean a lot against a stacked Whitney Young squad ranked No. 17 in the county by USA Today. The Dolphins feature a pair of Division I recruits in Alexis Lloyd (Virginia Tech) and Janee Thompson (Kentucky), the daughter of former NBA star Benoit Benjamin in 6-foot-5 sophomore Khaalia Hillsman and a junior superstar in Linnae Harper, a member of the USA 16U Olympic team.
“It’s a challenge because this team is tougher so we have to take a lot of hits,” South Shore freshman Brianna Fraser said. “But we have to finish in the end.”
Harper had no problem finishing for Whitney Young, scoring a game-high 34 points, while Thompson added 18 for the Dolphins, who beat North Babylon, 77-28, in the tournament Saturday.
Ranked No. 5 in New York City by MSG Varsity, South Shore (3-1) trailed 21-8 after one quarter and 31-17 at the half. The Lady Vikings tried to chip away at their deficit, but were done in by struggles at the foul line in the third quarter.
“Our free throw shooting was bad today. It cost us,” Gladden said. “Free throws are momentum changers and we gave them a couple of second chances early. Once we eliminated that, we hung a little better.”
South Shore didn’t stop playing and cut its deficit to 46-31 early in the fourth quarter on a layup by VCU-bound Janice Winter, who had a team-high 14 points. However, Whitney Young scored the final 10 points of the game.
“We’re just trying to get better every day and I think today we took a step in the right direction” Gladden said. “We didn’t close it out, we didn’t get the win, but the kids battled.”
The Lady Vikings return to league play to take on Grand Street Campus Monday and then it’s the highly anticipated showdown with Murry Bergtraum Friday at home, a rematch of last year’s PSAL Class AA final won by the Lady Blazers.
“We’re just taking one day at a time,” Winter said. “But I know everybody can’t wait for that game.”
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