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November 1, 2013
BAYSIDE, NY - When the playoff bracket for the Beacon 158 Back-to-School Classic came out a couple weeks ago, the matchup most got excited for was a possible semifinal game between Long Island Lutheran and Cardozo "A".
The playoffs played out according to the seeds, and on Thursday night the two teams squared off for the right to advance to Friday's championship game, and this one did not disappoint. There was a big game feel, as well as some surprises, before the Crusaders pulled out a 52-48 win.
The game got underway with both teams missing some key cogs. LuHi was without Chris Atkinson, who was still nursing a sprained ankle, and Tim Quashie, who injured his knee on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Cardozo was without Rashond "Ray" Salnave, who was it for in school disciplinary reasons. All three were on their teams benches though to take in this matchup of big time teams.
Without Salnave, the Judges were going to need to bring their A game to stay in it, and from the get go it was a junior point guard Jaquan McKennon who rose up and played with extra fire. He scored on a slash down the left wing to open the scoring, and he soon after popped a runner in the lane. He was beating the LuHi perimeter defense early on, and keeping Cardozo in the game.
Marvin Prochet was on his game early for the Crusaders though, hitting a wing three ball, and scoring on a nice baseline drive, showing good foot speed to outpace his defender to the paint.
It was a 10-8 game for LuHi with 8 minutes to go when Robyn Missa, Lutheran's big man, came up with a rebound and trying to clear space threw out his elbows. Cardozo head coach Ron Naclerio, who was watching from the baseline, did not like his elbows being thrown and started to chastise the referees about not blowing the whistle on the play. One referee ended up blowing his whistle soon after to tell the fired up Judges Coach to calm down, but that didn't slow Naclerio from lighting into the refs some more. Missa then began to walk towards Naclerio, clapping his hands at the coach, while staring at him the whole time. That incensed the longtime coach as he had to be restrained from charging the court. Naclerio had to be escorted out of the gym before the game resumed. All in all it was about a 5 minute stoppage, but the game resumed, and with the Judges head man no longer present, tempers calmed.
When Naclerio was escorted out, Salnave ended up leaving the Cardozo bench and headed out of the gym. About 2 minutes later he came back and was in uniform, ready to play. He was subbed in soon after with Cardozo down 5, and with the super sophomore now in, it was primed to be a whole new ball game.
Long Island Lutheran though continued to play the incredible man defense that they are known for, and on offense they were much more effective from the perimeter than they had been in the two playoff games they had played before Thursday.
Elijah Bailey and Losini Kamara each knocked down threes, Prochet was active scoring on the inside, and when Quaron Blount hit his own three with 1:24 to go in the half, LuHi had built up their largest lead of the game at 26-15.
McKennon rimmed in a three ball on the ensuing possession though, and at the half the Cardozo deficit was 26-18.
In LuHi's quarterfinal game against Boys and Girls, they were up 10 at the half, only to have the Kangaroos score the first 11 of the 2nd half to take the lead. This game ended up being a near mirror image at the start if the second half.
Armando Dunn got in good position inside, and he got fouled going up. He made both FT's, and LuHi was up just 6. Salnave then off a Crusaders turnover connected on a step through lay up against two defenders while getting fouled. He made the FT and it was just 26-23, and when Salnave scored in a put back off a Carl Balthazar miss, it was just a 1 point LuHi lead with 16:10 to go.
Rojaye Campbell stemmed the tide as he finished a put back inside to break up the Cardozo run. Salnave though looked as if he was going to will the Judges back in it, and after he hit a three from the left wing with 9:40 to go, the Judges had tied the game at 34.
Soon after, McKennon gave Cardozo a lead when he scored on a beautiful runner over Missa. Kristian Mondesir then banked in a midrange jumper from the left wing, and the Judges seemed to be hitting their stride, going up 42-39 with 5 minutes to play.
Bailey came back on the other end though and hit a FT line jumper to cut it back to a 1 point game, but McKennon and Salnave were doing something most teams failed to do against the Crusaders, attacking the basket and finishing against the bigs of LuHi. Cardozo maintained a 3 point lead, but with 2:45 go, Prochet stepped out and hit a big three to tie it back up at 46.
McKennon scored on a gorgeous reverse going left baseline to put Cardozo back up 48-46, but Long Island Lutheran soon tied it back up from the FT line. With the game approaching 1 minute to play, it was a matter of who would step up and hit the big shot, can't in the end, it proved to be a freshman who rose to the challenge.
Jordan Walker is a 5'9" point guard who hadn't even played in this game until there were 3 minutes left to play, but LuHi coach John Buck showed extreme confidence, and the young guard repaid him by knocking down an elbow jumper with 1:02 to go to give the Crusaders the 50-48 lead.
Cardozo came down on the other end, and McKennon dribbled past two defenders and took the ball into the lane, but the ball was eventually stolen and Walker once again was the man who got it, and he was fouled with 28 seconds to go.
Again the freshman came up huge knocking down both FT's to up the LuHi lead to 52-48. Salnave ended up getting the ball for Cardozo, but he missed a straightaway jumper, and Prochet got the rebound with 13 seconds left. He kicked the ball to Bailey, who dribbled it up the court, and he was surprisingly not fouled. The Crusaders ended up dribbling out the clock for the 4 point victory.
It was a fantastic game, and one that the fans in attendance will surely remember.
Long Island Lutheran was led by Prochet's 20 points in the win, with Bailey coming up with 16 big points as well.
McKennon paced Cardozo with 19 points in defeat, while Salnave came in and chipped in 17 of his own.
LuHi will now face Archbishop Molloy in the Beacon 158 Back-to-School Classic Championship game. The Stanners were set to face Wings Academy in the second semifinal, but Wings unfortunately could not make it, and Molloy was awarded the forfeit victory.
The Crusaders will meet the Stanners for the title, in a matchup of the top two seeds in the tournament, on Friday at 6pm.
New York NEWS