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Shequana Harris Leads Murry Bergtraum Past JFK in Girls Hoops

By DNAinfo Staff on January 19, 2012 10:50am

Murry Bergtraum stormed past rival John F. Kennedy on Jan. 18, 2012, with a 49-34 win.
Murry Bergtraum stormed past rival John F. Kennedy on Jan. 18, 2012, with a 49-34 win.
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DNAinfo/Matt Draper

By Matt Draper

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER EAST SIDE — Shequana Harris couldn't be stopped Wednesday night — not by the opponent's swarming defense or a stomach virus. 

The senior guard led Murry Bergtraum High School to its sixth straight victory with a 49-36 home win over rival John. F. Kennedy from the Bronx. The win put the Lady Blazers (8-2 PSAL /10-4 overall) atop the PSAL Bronx/Manhattan/Queens AA division.

It also snapped a four-game win streak for Kennedy, which dropped to 12-6 overall and 8-2 in the PSAL.

Though Harris never got into a shooting rhythm, she did everything else on target: penetrating through the Kennedy defense at will en route to posting game highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds to go along with four assists and three steals. She managed the impressive night despite fighting off a stomach virus.

“Leadership was what I needed from her and she did a great job,” said Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky. “She was a defensive stopper.”

Despite the 15-point victory margin, Kennedy kept it close until the final minutes. Fighting off poor shooting and lots of early turnovers forced by Bergtraum’s full-court press, the Lady Knights bounced back from a nine-point deficit to take the lead during a third-quarter run that included a 3-pointer from senior Joya McFarland and back-to-back buckets by fellow senior Leshauna Phinazee.

The teams traded scores for several minutes in the fourth quarter before Bergtraum, led by Harris and freshman sparkplug Ashanae McLaughlin, put the Lady Blazers ahead for good. McLaughlin came up with a steal before getting fouled and converting both free throws.

Harris later iced the game with a crossover dribble that allowed her to slide past a defender and zip a no-look pass to teammate Widly Couloute who hit lay up while getting fouled.  

McLaughlin added 11 points, five rebounds and five steals for Bergtraum while senior guard Dionne Coe scored nine points. Phinazee led Kennedy with nine points and junior Zakiya Mason added seven points.

Beyond division standings, Wednesday’s game built upon Bergtraum’s bragging rights in the rivalry: it won all three of its matchups against Kennedy last season, including a last-minute comeback win in the semifinals of last year’s PSAL AA championships. Harris hit two late, clutch free throws in that game to clinch the victory. 

“I wanted to play this game so bad,” said Harris, who has verbally committed to play college ball next year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “I was anxious yesterday. I was like, ‘I want to play today.’ I knew that they were on top of our conference and I knew we had to come out here and win this.”

Not that the opponent — or her general health — was easy to deal with.

“It was a physical game from the start,” continued Harris. “I’m tired and I’m banged up. But I had to suck it up.”

While Bergtraum remains a favorite to repeat as PSAL city champions, the season has been a struggle on and off the court for the Lady Blazers.

Prior to the season, one of Bergtraum’s top players, Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy, was shot and killed near her Harlem home. Murphy’s death was a blow to the entire team, and Harris in particular.

“We were counting on the two of them,” said coach Grezinsky. “That was going to be the backbone of the program. I think it affected [Harris] the most. Now she’s starting to get used to playing with the other kids and realizing that she’s got to be the one.“

Harris said it’s been a difficult adjustment not having her friend and teammate around.

“In the beginning it was very emotional,” she said. “There were times that I would break down and I’d step out and separate from the team. But I overcame that emotion and I know that if she was here, she’d want us to win for the team and for ourselves.” 

As for the team, the Lady Blazers are playing their best ball of the season. 

“We came together,” said Harris. “Our chemistry is there. Everybody is playing together."