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Early deficit dooms title hopes for Van Buren girls

It was a foreign scenario for the Van Buren girls’ basketball team.

The 10th-seeded VeeBees opened up huge first-half leads in playoffs wins over Beach Channel and South Shore, but found themselves in a 14-0 early hole and never recovered, falling to No. 9 Brandeis, 55-46, in the PSAL Class B championship game Friday at St. Francis College.

“They got off to a quick start and we just couldn’t get back in it,” said Van Buren coach Mike McClain. “Maybe we just weren’t used to trying to fight back. We were so used to trying to protect the lead at the end. We played a good team today.”

Game MVP Tiara Blizzard scored 19 points — including eight straight to open the fourth quarter after Van Buren got within seven — to give Vera Springer her first city championship in her 31 years coaching at Brandeis.

“I feel great,” said Springer, who lost in two previous trips to the city championship game, the last a blowout to August Martin in 1985. “I waited 31 years for this.”

Van Buren (26-7) trailed throughout but got within five on a layup by Teresa George midway through the third quarter.

But Nicole Matthews answered with four of her 19 points and Robin Smith scored a bucket to give Brandeis (25-3) a 39-28 lead.

“They took us out of our game,” said Van Buren senior center Delise Johnson, who scored a game-high 20 points. “It was hard (coming from behind). We tried. We didn’t succeed.”

Van Buren trailed 41-34 at the end of the third quarter, but that’s when Blizzard took over. The junior scored four straight layups to put the Lady Bulldogs in front, 49-34, with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter.

“I was feeling like I wasn’t doing much to help the team out,” Blizzard said. “I was mad in the first half, but then I came out and took it over.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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