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Gold standard: Dolphins get closer to Glens Falls glory

Most teenagers want to go to South Beach for spring break. Or Cancun. Or Las Vegas.

Not the players on the Leon Goldstein girls’ basketball team, though. They have another destination in mind for the last weekend in March: Glens Falls.

The upstate New York enclave, of course, is the site of the state Federation championships and getting there would mean the Dolphins won the PSAL Class B title. But it isn’t just about holding that trophy – and it would be the first in school history – for the girls. It’s about the road trip, too.

“I think they just want to go up there and hang out,” Goldstein coach Adrian Buchhalter said. “I think they all like each other.”

The tight-knit Dolphins got another step closer to their goal Tuesday night. Top-seeded Goldstein defeated No. 24 Franklin K. Lane, 63-51, in the quarterfinals at Hunter College in Manhattan to advance to its first-ever semifinals. Goldstein (18-1) will meet No. 29 East Harlem on March 18 at CCNY with a berth in the title game up for grabs.

Befitting its balanced attack, five players had eight or more points. Sophomore Chrissy McKeever had 19 points, junior Nicole McKeever, Chrissy’s sister, had 11 points and freshman Brittany McDonough had 10 points. Senior Alexa Segal and freshman Nourhan Elbassiony had eight points apiece.

“We all work together well,” Chrissy McKeever. “We all know how each other plays.”

Part of that comes from their chemistry off the court. They’re all close – “ we all just became instant friends,” Nicole McKeever said – and they spend time together as a team often. The McKeevers, McDonough and Elbassiony all played together prior to coming to Goldstein, too.

On the court, though, they have complementary pieces. McDonough is an excellent ballhandler and passer, Chrissy McKeever can get into the lane, draw defenders and distribute and Nicole McKeever can shoot the lights out. Elbassiony is young, but she’s strong with plenty of raw talent at guard and Segal, a star on the school’s girls’ soccer team, is the workhorse in the paint despite being undersized.

“There’s not one person on the team that can’t do something,” McDonough said. “We don’t win as individuals. We win as a team.”

There has been plenty of that winning this season. Since falling to Brooklyn B South rival Lafayette, 76-75, on Jan. 8, Goldstein has reeled off 12 straight PSAL victories and earned the No. 1 seed in the ‘B’ division playoffs.

Because his team is so deep and diverse, Buchhalter plays constant pressure defense – but never the same kind for more than a minute or two. He substitutes girls in and out “like a hockey game,” he says and everyone manages to stay fresh for the fourth quarter due to a 10-girl rotation. The other teams, usually thin on the ‘B’ level, get tired late in the game. Call it the girls’ basketball version of Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope.

“We wear you down,” the coach said. “Every girl gets a little rest. It’s like a boxing match.”

Goldstein didn’t knock out Lane (15-3) until the fourth. The tough-as-nails Knights were able to scratch and claw within 36-32 on a Lekeisha Prescott basket with 2:20 left in the third quarter. But, as Buchhalter hoped, Lane got worn down and couldn’t score consistently after that. Prescott had 19 points and Marlene Seaforth and Yakima Williams each had 11 for the Knights.

“A lot of these teams are physical,” Chrissy McKeever said. “We’re not really a physical team. It’s good for us to play them.”

With one goal in mind: the state Federation championship.

“We really want to go to Glens Falls,” McDonough said. “We want to go all the way.”

Who needs Cancun?

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