ARDSLEY, NY - Championship Sunday at the Ball by the Beach promised to be thrilling, with exciting matchups scheduled in each round.
The playoff games started a bit after 12pm, and things were looking good with 4 deserving teams making it to the semifinals, but a group decision ended the day earlier than anyone expected.
The matchups in the playoffs were very strong with most of the higher seeds advancing to the semifinals. The 9 seed, Deer Park, got a forfeit win over 8th seeded George Westinghouse, who couldn't make the game due to a prior commitment. The only "upset" was 11th seeded Brooklyn Law and Tech comfortably taking down 6th seeded Thomas Jefferson 67-41. The Orange Wave were without many players on Sunday that they had been playing with Friday and Saturday due to another commitment, but take nothing away from Law and Tech. Matt Scott, an athletic 6'3" wing scored 32 points in the win, proving he may be playing in the Brooklyn "A" league, but he is easily a "AA" talent.
The most interesting game though was the 2 vs. 15 game that pitted Mt. Vernon against Bedford Academy. Bedford looked primed to pull the upset against a Mt. Vernon team that looked locked on all cylinders leading into the game. Bedford was up 7 with 5 minutes to go, with Ian Roach burning the nets from behind the arc nailing 6 threes in the game, including 4 in the 2nd half. The Knights started to apply pressure and whittled the lead down to 46-44 in the closing seconds, when Devonte Banner hit on a reverse as time expired to tie the game and send it to overtime. The shot did look after the buzzer had sounded to most in attendance, including the Panthers coaching staff who were livid at the call. They held their own in the 1st overtime, needing a 2nd OT to settle it, but Brandon Martin was too much, scoring 6 in the overtime periods, and finishing with 23 in the game, using his ruggedness to control the game inside to fend off a scare from the Brooklyn "A" power.
Lincoln, the overall #1 seed got a huge scare from 16 seeded Scanlan, with Scanlan going up 14-1 very early on. The Railsplitters seemed far too content to settle for perimeter jump shots instead of pushing tempo against a team in Scanlan that was the last team to make the playoffs. That's not to say Scanlan wasn't playing great basketball. They got big shots from guard Peter Kiss, and Jonathan Nwankwo was dominating the inside early on, but when Lincoln started to push, the upped their game and looking extremely impressive. Isaiah Whitehead showed the range he is known for, and Desi Rodriguez and Elisha Boone was lightning quick up the floor, getting out in transition and helping the Railsplitters to a 9 point lead at the half.
Scanlan didn't go away though. They pounded the ball in the paint to Nwankwo and Emmanuel Chukwu and got the deficit to just 60-57 with 1:20 to go, but Lincoln, doing what they do, scored the last 6 points of the game, with Whitehead hitting a contested jumper fading away to ice it.
The quarterfinal matchups would be #1 Lincoln vs. #9 Deer Park, #2 Mt. Vernon vs. #7 St. Raymond, who overcame a valiant effort from a short handed Wings Academy team to move on, #3 South Shore vs. #11 Brooklyn Law and Tech, and #4 Brooklyn Collegiate vs. #5 Spring Valley.
The South Shore/Law and Tech game was not played because South Shore had to leave early, so Law and Tech, the 11 seed, was on through to the semifinals.
A game with a slightly surprising result was St. Ray's win over Mt. Vernon, but it wasn't the fact the Ravens won, it was the fact that they dominated the game from the late stages if the first half on. Tory Ferguson, who has moved over from the 2 to the 1 this year, hit a half court shot at the end of the half to give St. Ray's an 8 point halftime lead, and thru kept taking it to the Knights in the 2nd. Ravens big man Luis Santos, who is slimmed and in much better shape than at this point last year, was a dominant force in the 2nd half, scoring 12 of his game high 21 points, showing an array of moves in the paint, and finishing with relative ease on the inside, throwing it down with authority, while also showing a nice short hook shot. Martin, who played so well against Bedford, struggled to find his space on the inside against the bigger St. Raymond squad, and while the Knights cut the deficit to 8 a couple times late, St. Raymond was never in any danger and won it 65-54.
Lincoln was a clear favorite in their semi against Deer Park, but the Railsplitters decided to sit Whitehead, Rodriguez, and Elijah Davis in this one, which gave Deer Park a chance to take this one. Deer Park though struggled from the perimeter, only connecting on 4 threes in the game, and Deer Park showed this weekend that when they are on from deep, they are tough to beat, but when they struggle to connect from long range, they don't have the interior options to get them going inside, and they struggle some. Without their stars though, Lincoln struggled to get much going offensively as well. Boone was aggressive to the rim, and players like David Ivanov and A.J. Williams also took times to shine, and while they were only up 2 at the break, the Railsplitters went on a 15-2 run midway through the 2nd half, as Deer Park looked gassed, struggling against the press, and the number of games caught up to them. Aaren Edmead was a star this weekend though, and he did have 16 in this one, as they did try and climb back in it, but Lincoln was too tough taking this quarter, 63-55.
The final quarterfinal saw Spring Valley come back from a 3 point deficit with 9.6 seconds left against Brooklyn Collegiate, to shock the Lions 61-60. It was a back and forth contest with both teams trading the lead for much of the game. Davere Creighton, a 6'5" wing for Collegiate was hot early on, while tough power forward Kai Mitchell was a load to stop on the inside, helping carry Spring Valley for stretches. A couple of sloppy plays late for the Tigers helped Brooklyn Collegiate look to take a commanding lead in the final seconds. Up 60-57 with under 10 seconds left, Rickey McGill dribbled the ball up the floor for Spring Valley and he put up a crazy shot from beyond the arc, but he was fouled, giving the Tigers a chance to tie from the charity stripe. He missed the first, but made the next two to make it 60-59 for Brooklyn Collegiate. Creighton was fouled immediately, but he missed the front end of the one and one, Mitchell got the rebound and outletted the ball to Deyondre Downing who drove and was fouled going in with 4.2 seconds left. He calmly stepped up to the line and hit both FT's to put the a tigers up 61-60. Brooklyn Collegiate got one last look, and it was a good one too. Cheyenne Nettleton got the inbounds pass. And he took a couple dribbles and found Creighton at the top of the key, he heaved a shot at the buzzer, but it hit back rim, and Spring Valley took the 61-60 win.
So it would be Lincoln vs. Spring Valley in one semifinal, and St. Raymond vs. Brooklyn Law and Tech in the other. But after each of the teams had already played 6 games in under 3 days, the coaches of the four teams got together and decided that each had achieved what they wanted this weekend, which was to play in a high level tournament and get time on the court together for their players to develop even more against great completion, and as a group they decided to end the tournament with each of the teams declared co-champions of one of the best fields for a preseason H.S. tournament that you will find.
Congratulations go out to Lincoln, Spring Valley, St. Raymond, and Brooklyn Law and Tech for a job well done all weekend long, and proving that they will certainly be 4 teams to watch come the H.S. season in December.
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