Bergtraum in quest for 14th straight crown
Plenty of big names have played for legendary Murry Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky over the years and this season is no exception as freshman Ashanae McLaughlin could very well be the next big thing.
The 5-foot-7 guard has already made a name for herself in scrimmages, averaging 20 points per game and sliding into Bergtraum's starting rotation is certainly no easy task for any player, particularly a freshman.
"Ashanae is the first player we have starting as a freshman since Erica Morrow," Grezinsky said, referring to the former Syracuse standout who is the Orange's all-time leader in minutes. "I think's she's going to be very special. We're looking for big things out of her. How much can a freshman handle, that remains to be seen."
But McLaughlin isn't the only show in town as returning seniors Dionne Coe and UNC Charlotte commit Shaquana Harris will lead a young team going through a lot of turnover. Harris will be looked to guide a team with four starters graduated from last season.
"Shaquana will be the ringleader. Everyone knows what she can do and we will be leaning on her this season," Grezinsky said. "Our other senior guard, Dionne Coe, will be huge this year as well. We're looking for big things out of her."
Coming off a 13th consecutive PSAL Class AA title, the Lady Blazers are no strangers to success and will most assuredly find a way to make the new pieces fit. Their starting line-up is mostly set with Harris, Coe, and McLaughlin as the three-guard backcourt. Senior Widly Couloute will hold down the post.
The team is still reeling from the tragic death of Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy this summer and will have to cope with her loss on and off the court.
"It was, and will continue to be, a big emotional deal for our team. She was so much a part of the team, she was the leader of the team and she was going to be the captain that the kids would have reported to," Grezinsky said. "She was going to be a major player and we were going to build the team around her. To lose someone like that is a terrible tragedy. "
"I've never experienced anything like that and hopefully in the time that I have left as a coach, neither I nor my team have to go through something like that again," he added.
In addition to Murphy's death, Grezinsky thinks the Lady Blazers will face additional adversity from yet another unpredictable PSAL field.
"Every year is different. You have to have a very good team to win a championship and there's also a certain amount of luck involved as well. Everything has to fall in place," Grezinsky said. "The team has to gel and stay healthy. There's so many things about winning a championship. Everybody is out to get you."
Grezinsky is confident that his team has the tools needed to be successful. The Lady Blazers have already experienced two early-season loses that Grezinsky refers to growing pains. But with the emergence of McLaughlin and the leadership of Coe and Harris, he sees his team being in a good position to succeed.
"We don't have as many kids with much experience this year," Grezinsky said. "Now we're asking freshmen and sophomores to step up and play a major role. Our early losses show we have some work to do, but we're a very athletic team. We run very well and I think our ability to run and press will determine our success."