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Scholars take two against Bedford

Scholars Academy celebrates its second-straight ‘B’ championship. Photo by An Rong Xu
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The pursuit of a second-straight title was just one of many things that motivated Scholars Academy.

The second-seeded Seawolves had a lot to play for in their 51-43 victory over top-seed Bedford Academy in the PSAL Class B girls’ basketball championship game Saturday at CCNY in Harlem. The victory notched Scholars its second title in its three-year history as a varsity program, its first coming in a blowout victory over Bedford Academy last season.

“I’m enormously proud of these girls,” Coach Janet Kleiner said. “Different things have motivated them this season.”

Scholars Academy, of Rockaway Park, was led by sophomore Jessica Glaz, who contributed a game-high 21 points and had 13 rebounds while playing with a broken knuckle on her shooting hand suffered in a second-round playoff game. Meanwhile, junior Taylor Gallagher put up 14 points and freshman Emma Michaels added nine points before a third quarter injury kept her on the sidelines.

“Jessica and Taylor, that’s the backbone,” Kleiner said. “I’ve coached 33 years, thousands of kids in different sports and by far [Glaz] is the most competitive student athlete I’ve ever coached.”

The Seawolves (17-2) marched out to an early 6-0 lead and took a commanding 32-11 lead into halftime, only allowing the Panthers to put up four points in the second quarter. Bedford (17-1) began to climb back into the game in the second half, having a fourth-quarter surge scoring 22 points before time ran out on them.

“We just came together as a group,” Glaz said. “We talked about keeping up the pressure because they were motivated in the second half to come out and beat us so we came together as a group and stayed strong and stayed aggressive.”

Bedford was paced by Eleasha Wiggins, who put up a team-high 11 points in the loss while Briana Perlmutter and Alexis Foster each added 10.

Glaz, Gallagher and Michaels led Scholars Academy for most of the game before Michaels hit her head on the floor while going after a loose ball and caught an elbow to the cheek sidelining her for the rest of the game. Glaz and Gallagher continued to dominate the scoreboard after the loss of Michaels.

Even though Scholars Academy lost four of five starters from last season, it was able to put together a solid, hard-working team to bring the school its second title in three years, handing Bedford its first loss of the year.

“Four out of the five starters [from last season] are gone, so now it’s a new group of girls winning the championship,” Glaz said. “We all have skill, so we put those skills together to win a championship and that’s what we did.”

One of the greatest motivators behind the Seawolves’ championship run came from former assistant Coach Claire Droesch, who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer and was in the stands for Scholars Academy, inspiring them to victory.

“She brings a lot of motivation to us,” Glaz said. “She’s great and very supportive and always there for us, especially with what she’s going through it gave us the motivation to win for her.”

Scholars Academy will now travel to Albany to play in the New York State Federation tournament semifinals Friday against Long Island Lutheran. Droesch will be in attendance for that game as she was Sunday.

“They’ve been supportive of me,” Droesch said. “So I felt I had to be here to support them.”

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