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Scholars headed to third-straight ‘B’ final

Scholars' Carmela Hopkins takes a foul shot during the semifinal game. Photo by Ken Maldonado
TimesLedger Newspapers

The Scholars Academy girls’ basketball team is heading to its third straight title game, but it is doing so without head Coach Janet Kleiner on the bench.

The school’s former boys’ hoops coach, John Coscia, and assistants Kerri Hubbard and Jeff Attard took over the club prior to the playoffs. Coscia and Attard would not comment on Kleiner’s absence following the top-seeded Scholars beating No. 13 East Harlem Pride 54-36 in the PSAL Class B semifinals Tuesday night at York College.

Kleiner, in her fourth season at the school, did not return a phone message left Tuesday night. The abrupt coaching change comes in a year that began with Hurricane Sandy forcing many of the players out of their Rockaway homes. The team was unable to play in the school’s damaged gym.

Now they can win a third consecutive title.

“It feels good after all we’ve been through,” Scholars point guard Taylor Gallagher said. “It feels good to get to the championship.”

She was a big reason they got there. East Harlem Pride pulled within 35-26 on a layup by Brashawanda Burrus (13 points) with 4:25 left in the third quarter. Gallagher then buried a three-pointer from the left corner and scored eight of her 16 points during a game-changing 13-2 run. Scholars led 48-28 with 1:11 remaining in the frame.

“When she gets going, she can go off for 20 points straight,” said Attard, who coached many of the Scholars players with the Lady Bulldogs travel team last summer.

Jessica Glaz scored 17 points and Emma Michaels had 15 for Scholars (27-0), which faces division rival and No. 18 Jamaica in the final at 11 a.m. Sunday at St. Francis College.

Berry leads Jamaica into final: Beavers guard Laquasia Berry said she’s waited her whole career for a chance to play for a championship. She wasn’t about to let it get away.

Berry scored a game-high 26 points and countless acrobatic drives to lead Jamaica to a 52-44 win over Info Tech in the PSAL Class B semifinals. It’s the program’s first championship game appearance, according to Coach Stephen Heiss.

“I’m excited,” Berry said, “after four years, senior year.”

She is part of a dangerous trio with forwards Core Valentine and Parvene Kissoon. Valentine, who scored 14 points, followed a Berry three-point play with a layup to put Jamaica up 40-34 after three quarters. The Beavers went on a 6-0 run to start the fourth that Berry capped with a jumper. Her putback with 2:35 left in the game made it 49-38.

“She plays with a lot of heart,” Heiss said.

The coach said Valentine and Kissoon (eight points) coming into their own this season has been a factor in the team’s success. He believes that despite two lopsided losses to two-time defending champ Scholars Academy during the regular season, his club is up for the challenge in the final.

“I think they are welcoming the opportunity, giving it another shot,” Heiss said.

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